Confronting Jihadist Narratives and Islam-based Phobias in Nigeria

by | May 28, 2020

By Leo Igwe


While there has been much talk on insulting the prophet of Islam, there has not been enough focus on Islam-based phobias, that is, strands of hatred that draw from Islamic beliefs and practices, texts, and traditions. In this piece, I use the story of Gandoki and some verses from the Quran to highlight some jihadist narratives and phobias. At a time of heated debate over the alleged blasphemous Facebook posts of Mubarak Bala, I argue that imputations of insulting the prophet of Islam are being used to deflate attention and shield Islam-based hateful narratives from critical examination. Claims of making ‘denigrating’ and provoking comments about Islam and its prophet have been advanced to legitimize and sanctify violence and threats of violence from Muslim fanatics.

The Story of Gandoki

The story of Gandoki is in modules four, five, and seven of the Macmillan Primary English Course Book Five. This story has been read by generations of Nigerian school pupils. It is about a war chief, Gandoki who “loved fighting” and was “everywhere there was trouble.” Gandoki was a jihadist, and fought battles to promote and defend Islam. The story says that he “took part in every battle which Fulani fought against the unbelievers.” Fulani is one of the ethnic communities in Nigeria and most of them are Muslims. And in Module five, Gandoki told Hambana, his sons and townsmen, “If you follow Islam, I will let you go free. If you don’t follow Islam, I will cut off your heads.”

Now in the question and answer section of the book, the pupils are asked, “What did Gandoki say would happen to them if they didn’t follow Islam”? The children are expected to answer: “He would cut off their heads.” Now imagine, this is a narrative that children between the ages of 7 and 12 are expected to learn, memorize and of course emulate! Then why complain about Islamic fanaticism and bloodletting?

In Module seven, we are told that Gandoki traveled from place to place and taught people about Islam. He said: “I killed those who would not pray to (Allah) God.” That means he massacred Infidels-Christians, animists, humanists/atheists, etc. The story further states that when his life came under threat in “the land of Jinn,” Gandoki said he cried “God is great,” that is Allahu Akbar. My sword hung by my right hand, my spear was by my side. I went forward fearless.” Allah Akbar is an expression of praise to the Islamic God which Muslims chorus at local meetings and at mosques during prayers. Unfortunately, Allahu Akbar has assumed another meaning. It has become an emblem of a holy fight. It has become a war song, a holy war slogan! The story of Gandoki went as far as promoting cannibalism. In Module five, Gandoki narrated his meeting with Gurungun Hamabana: “When Hamabana saw me with my men, he called five of his sons “bring those men here,” he said, pointing towards us, “I will have them for my breakfast.” This Jihadist role model for school children asked that humans be brought to him for ‘breakfast’.

Hate and Violence in the Qur’an

In addition, one can identify some patterns of Qur’an based hate. First of all, there is irrational hatred for those who do not believe in the Islamic God, Allah, atheophobia. The Qur’an enjoins Muslims not to make friendship with Jews and Christians” (5:51). As in the Gandoki story, unbelievers are to follow Islam and be free or refuse to follow Islam and have their head chopped off. The Qur’an says, “kill disbelievers wherever we find them” (92:191); murder them and treat them harshly (9:123). The Qur’an further states “fight and slay the pagans, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (9:5). Atheophobia is the reason why apostasy is a crime under sharia. Apostasy is punishable by death. Islam condemns those who disbelieve to hell and describes them as filthy (5:10; 9:28). An Islam-based phobia is xenophobic, that is, it targets those who come from other faith, belief, or unbelief backgrounds including those who are the other because they draw attention to the other side of Islam and the prophet. There is a layer of Afrophobia in Islamic xenophobia because Islam is rooted in Arab culture and Kaffirizes the other, in this case, the African culture and religion, and the African way of life. That is why conversion to Islam for Africans is a form of Arabization. And Muslim clerics rail against the western lifestyle and the corrupting influence because for them the Arabic Islamic lifestyle is the model, Arabs not Jews are the chosen people. Furthermore, a strand of hatred embedded in Islamic religion targets those who question, criticize, and challenge Islamic dogmas and doctrines. Zeteticophobia or skepticophobia underlies the idea of blasphemy. Statements that are critical of Islam are framed as an offence and made punishable by death or imprisonment. Blasphemy is a weapon used in legitimizing skepticophobia. Zeteticophobia is more pervasive in the Islamic world and instances abound in these countries including Nigeria, Indonesia, Jordan where the state, as well as nonstate agents, killed or imprisoned those who made statements really or imagined to be blasphemous. Skepticophobes regard statements that are critical of Islam, the prophet or Allah as forms of insult. They take these statements personally and make it their duty to respond or avenge on Allah’s behalf. Meanwhile, Islam owes its spread and domination in Africa partly to denigrating African religions, and to faulting African cultural beliefs and practices. Muslim preachers promote Islam as a better faith or rather the true religion. They criticize other religions and faiths including Christianity. And as noted in the Gandoki story, Muslim jihadists have gone to the extent of killing those who refused to embrace Islam. A critical examination of Islamic beliefs, dogmas, and doctrines is necessary to highlight and expunge these hate-filled and violent narratives that have turned many young Muslims into merchants of hate, violence, death and destruction.

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican AtheistsAmerican Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

Photo by Adeboro Odunlami on Unsplash

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