Global Perspective

Osama bin Laden and the Electoral Violence in the North: A Muslim’s perspective

Purported picture of Osama Bin Laden

The past actions of Osama Bin Laden before his reported death have been wrongly associated to Muslims even when his country, Saudia Arabia and Islamic leaders have continued to disown his so-called Jihad. Due to the attacks by his group, Al-Qaida on institutions and individuals Arab and Islamic world have being incessantly criticised for the action of few fanatics when in facts some of his victims include Muslims and Arabs.

This stereotype is similar to situation in Nigeria after violent demonstrations in the Northern part of the country over a Presidential election of April 16, 2011. Most commentators tend to generalise and attribute the unfortunate mob actions as either Northern Agenda or religiously-inspired. The views are obviously amplified in some sections of the media who would rather refer to the outcome of the Nigeria’s Presidential election as ‘Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South defeats Muhammad Buhari, a Muslim from the North.’ This typecast has generated bad bloods among friends, neighbours and colleagues from different faiths and backgrounds who now relate on perpetual mutual distrust.

I was recently alarmed, after the election, when a friend unconsciously though jokingly told me: “you are now defeated and no chance again for you.” I got the message. He knows I neither belong to any political party nor promote parochial agenda of any form. In a sense, he knows I am a Nigerian but at this time he rather mischievously grouped me as a loser because I am a Muslim by religious belief and a Northerner by place of birth in Nigeria.

I had course in the past through my writings to describe senseless attacks especially in the North as devilish antics of politicians, desperation of jobless youths and drug-induced actions of addicted miscreants. Apart from the unfortunate killings of innocent souls, the major victims of the recent attacks after the elections are northern elites including public officers, politicians, and traditional rulers.

I was an electoral monitor who personally witnessed the conduct of the last elections in the North, being a member of a Media and Information Committee on Emergency Management (MICEM), under the directives of Director General of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Muhammad Sani-Sidi. When the crises broke out I was assigned to accompany emergency workers for on-the-spot assessment and for distributions of relief materials to displaced people in Kano, Kaduna and Bauchi. The task gave me the privilege of coming to term with the indescribable destructions.

We moved with security escorts from one town to the other and in different Internally Displaced People’s camps with truckloads of relief materials. There were gory tales and sites everywhere we visited. There are sad stories of members of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) killed during the demonstrations. There is this pathetic story of a Christian corper killed in a Police station and also nauseating picture of a Muslim corper burnt to ashes in a mosque. The maddening mobs in their fury did not spare mosques, churches, houses, markets and business premises from their annihilation. A whole settlement was completely razed. In the presence of emergency workers, pregnant women delivered babies in the camps. These are not exaggeration but tragic realities.

While crook politicians and undesirable elements could be behind the senseless carnage in the North, I must on behalf of other peace-loving Muslims correct the erroneous impression that it was inspired by religion. Nigeria though a secular state is a religious nation where majority of the citizens are either Muslims or Christians with theological differences in each faith. They nevertheless share belief in God Almighty; belief in the Holy Books and the Holy prophets; and they are aware of moral code of brotherhood and the faith in the life hereafter.

Since this writing is from a Muslim’s perspective, my Holy Book, the Quran invites Muslims and Christians to come to common terms that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him in His powers and divine attributes… (Imran;3:64). Similarly even when we should dialogue on the basis of faith, the same Quran warns us against hostile disposition and abusive languages but advises that we should ‘Invite (all) to the way of Lord with wisdom and beautiful exhortation, and argue in ways that are best.’ (Nahl; 16,125).

The Holy Quran also emphatically encourages Muslims to be tolerant towards others, warning that we should not force or intimidate others to our faith when it states that ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (Baqarah; 2:256).Even in the face of provocation and aggression, Muslims are enjoined for calmness but can only take self-defence when it suggests “Fight it, the cause of God those who fight you, but commit no aggression; for God loves not transgressors.” (Baqarah; 2:190). In another chapter in the Quran it reveals that ‘Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for [your] Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just. (Mumtahinah; 60:8)

As a Muslim not only do I rely on the Quran, I also take the prophetic words and actions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him who in various Hadith had enjoined Muslims to accord respect to the people of the books, the Christians and even Jews. In a handwritten Charter of Privileges to the monk of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai, one of the oldest monasteries still standing today, the Holy Prophet of Islam wrote thus:

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
“No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

“No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

“Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

This charter has been honoured by Muslims since then and as of today the same monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world together with the Monastery of Saint Anthony situated across the Red Sea in the desert south of Cairo.

With the foregoing, those who allow themselves to be carried away by emotion with combatant outbursts should rethink as actions of misguided elements should not be attributed to Islam and other Muslims, whether by Osama bin Laden group or local thugs. We should understand and respect one another and avoid those tendencies that corrupt our characters and souls. As Nigerians we should be wary of politicians who could use any trick tribal, religious and sectional sentiments to instigate acrimony among us for their selfish interest. As much as we crave for good governance and the dividend of democracy, while Nigerian politicians have their way we should not lose our senses of good judgement.

This article by Yushau A. Shuaib has appeared in May 2011 in some print media including People’s Daily, Vanguard, National Mirror, The Sun, Daily Champion, Daily Independent, Leadership and Sunday Tribune.


About the author

Yushau Shuaib


  • I doubt if the picture is that of the Osama Bin Laden. Muslims need to purge fanatics from giving their religion bad names

    • are you Christian?then could you “purge” the fanatics of your religion?saying is it easy.doing it is otherwise.

  • Believers must unite and face the challenges of modern society instead of fighting themselves arbitrary. whether Christian, Jew or Muslim and pagan, we are all human being and should relate mutually

  • creating awareness and sensitization will go a very long way in promoting peaceful coexistence

  • I read that islamic scholars criticize bin Laden’s sea burial.According to Associated Press Muslim clerics said that Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea was a violation of Islamic tradition that may further provoke militant calls for revenge attacks against American targets. Although there appears to be some room for debate over the burial — as with many issues within the faith — a wide range of senior Islamic scholars interpreted it as a humiliating disregard for the standard Muslim practice of placing the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca. Would it matters where ever he was buried considering the way he used his gang to deny his victims befitting burials?

  • More Nigerians are more fanatical than Arabs. It is high time the American forces beam searchlight on Northern Nigeria to root out suspected fanatics like the killers of youth corps members

    • There is an error to this statement, Pastor. It is true that there should be more efforts to stop fanatical attacks on people. However, you’ve fallen into the trap that this article is speaking about. You immediately said “Northern Nigeria”, implying that Muslims are the only fanatics in the world. There are equal numbers of Christian Fanatics out there as well. Better to simply say Fanaticism itself is an evil that must be stopped.

  • Thank you so much Yusha’u for this very interesting and thought provoking piece. I must tell you that as a muslim and a northerner, I suffer similar attacks from people who ought to know me better. As a matter of fact, I have decided to delist most of my contacts from e-mail addresses, Facebook and telephone. The most surprising thing usually come from those supposedly enlightened and educated ones among us. Often a times you hear such things like ‘your people’, as if you came from the moon. Such lazy and blanket categorisation like ‘christian south’ and ‘muslim north’ are fast becoming a trend even among Nigerian journalists and others. My question is, what is the best thing to do?

  • that’s stupid he was not Muslim but was black sheep in name of Muslim. he don’t deserve respect from human race or place on earth and there is no place for him in universe. I my self is Muslim but according to me he should torture enough before his dead so make him understand what pain really is!or torture his family in his present to give him that feeling what it like to see love one in pain

    • If you are Muslim, you should really let Allah be his judge now, believe in Allah and the last Day….and there is no way I would take the death of anyone lightly! Im I glad he’s gone? of course, but now I would move on and not talk about torture! Beacuase what would that make me?

  • I am glad to read this article in national media so far. This shows some sense of patriotism and desire to promote our oneness as humanity or citizens of a country. That is the American spirit

  • What a good write up. The content of this masterpiece is surely touching.many innocent lives,properties are lost.whats the outcome now??? It is time for the two religous to preach for peace and unity .we should also take cognisance of the verses you qoute for the intrest of those that are non muslim. Islam means PEACE. Lets not involve politics with religion.finally i want to profusely thank u for this school of thought.

  • I am a Christian from the north. I grew up among muslims. I remember how we used to eat, play and sleep together. Its unfortunate that such relationship doesn’t exist any longer. The killings and burning of places of worship in the north have triggered so much distrust among friends that I find it very difficult to allow my children to keep muslim friends. It is unbelievable. I pray our muslim brothers will and indeed all nIgerian s will be more tolerant and accommodating

  • The killing of Osama and his life are past tense. Electoral violence in Northern Nigeria may occur in other regions soon. The government and religious leaders should know what they are doing

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