Before religion derails OAU
Nigeria is a secular country going by the constitution, which gives every citizen the right to belong to any religion. Also, religion generally is founded on the values of love, tolerance, peaceful co-existence, forgiveness and compassion. It is, therefore, not a platform for the expression of hatred and violence. Hence, many religious perspectives have value for human life, moral responsibility and creativity, for which free will is often regarded as a requirement. This may account for why free will and religion are closely intertwined; but should not be seen as a licence for irresponsibility. Ipso facto, religion should not be used to explain how the world’s evils are compatible with the existence of God; nor used to explain any form of religious crisis or fundamentalism, which of recent has been an entry point to extremism that is now creeping into even the university system. This is unfortunate.
Recently, in a bid to prevent a religious crisis from degeneration, the management of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife locked up two mosques located around the halls of residence on campus over a crisis rocking the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN).
Furthermore, the university suspended all religious activities in all its halls of residence. This is a pointer that stories relating to religion and crises are beginning to rear their ugly heads into the university.
Religious teachings admonish faithful to “love your neighbour as yourself.” And so why are people in crisis in the name of religion? Therefore, it is a sad commentary that religious devotees are practising the opposite of what is being preached. More worrisome is the fact that in the universities, where we are supposed to be training future leaders is where religion is leading to a crisis.
Thus, the activities of MSSN at OAU has future implications, because it appears that we are training people who are narrow minded and may become easy prey for international terrorists. Again, that religious intolerance is happening in the ivory tower shows that we have lost the culture of the academia, which promotes philosophy, research and empirical evidence where things are proven. Does it mean that critical thinking has been jettisoned for primordial sentiments? Having crisis on a campus because of religion is not in the tenets of the academia and seminal thinking. Certainly, this is destroying the culture of the ivory towers! Thus, the MSSN crisis at OAU may signal a new kind of reality that universities are now being infiltrated by non-university interest under the guise of religion. In addition, it is a demonstration of low emotional intelligence among any people.
The question that may arise at this juncture is: what is responsible for religious crisis?
Religious intolerance usually is occasioned by the perception that one religion is superior to the others. Thus when they are faced with opposition, they resort to violence, which is often fatal. This perception can either be intra-religious (between the same religious sects) or inter-religious (between different religious sects).
So, crisis pertaining to religion can be attributed to over exaggeration of a particular religion. It is usually planted and watered by teaching of wrong doctrine, ignorance, misinformation and hatred. Again, religion is now increasingly becoming a source of conflict because of bigotry. Religious bigotry is ugly and defeats the essence of religion, which is based on belief and conviction; not imposition. Therefore, the inability of an individual to accept or accommodate other people’s different religious beliefs is a deadly social disease. All these result in a faceoff or religion-related crises that may lead to death. Haven’t we already lost enough innocent souls from politically motivated crises, militancy and insurgency in Nigeria? Do we also have to lose people for religious intolerance?
Obviously, if this is not tackled, religion may become one of the tragedies that will befall the larger society in disguise, and may take several lives, which will cause pains. As such, the universities should be above board and watchful because university students compelling people to conform to a particular sect could be an entry point to extremism and so should not be allowed to creep into our universities. As the university environment is liberal, and should be used for critical thinking and engagement for informed decision-making and national cohesion. So, school authorities, religious leaders, as well as law enforcement agencies should be vigilant and resourceful at this juncture to nip this in the bud.
Religious leaders should sensitise their followers on the doctrines that promote spiritual, social and moral health of the society. And school authorities and law enforcement agencies should fish out those that show signs of intolerance, try them and if found guilty punish them accordingly to serve as a deterrent to others.
Peace is all we need now!