It has been about a week since Umar Farouk Abdulmutalla, a Nigerian national, attempted to commit a terrorist act onboard a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. In the next two weeks, I will be blogging from Nigeria, sharing stories with you on different issues that plague this "giant" of Africa. In the last few days, I have tried to get the general feeling of the Nigerian people in the wake of this despicable act. I have not found one person who approves of the action. The terrorist's actions are condemned by the young, the old, Christians, Muslims, and African Traditional religionists. The people believe that his actions are an insult to the nation and are embarrassed when they hear the terrorist identified as a Nigerian national.
One of the recurring statements I have heard many people make is, "Nigerians love life and would never commit suicide bombing." I have probed further by asking the people why, then, this Nigerian national would attempt to commit such an act. One answer I have received is very illuminating. Umar's father said his son was being radicalized. The boy had become a religious fanatic who thought he could carry out this act.
I agree with this assessment. The very process of radicalization had a devastating effect on the otherwise good life and good upbringing this young man had enjoyed. We need only to look at his father's obvious pain to see that something went horribly wrong in Umar Farouk's life. Nigerians are people who love life, but some way, somehow, the extremists this young man met erased the very essence of his Nigerian identity and replaced it with something dark, oppressive, and murderous.
Nigerians do not die for money or for an ideology. Nigerian Muslims, like many Muslims around the world, are very devout. There are some radical Islamic sects, like the Maitasine and the Boko Haram sects, who have killed people, who do not share their religious beliefs, or whom they believe are not devout enough, but they are severely condemned by Islamic leaders. Although close to 50% of 164 million Nigerians have never experienced any documented act of suicide bombing reminiscent of places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, etc., there are Nigerian Muslims who are ready to fight for their faith, and have fought in the past against Nigerian Christians. However, their intention in these wars is not to die, but to conquer the infidel for Allah. Their intentions are no more different than those of a patriotic soldier who dies fighting for his country.
Nigerians do not pose any terrorist threat against the West or any country in the world. The embarrassment we as a people feel in the wake of this event is proof of our inherent desire to disassociate ourselves with the singular person responsible for bringing such unfortunate shame on our country. We, like most people from nations around the world, condemn this act and we ask our brothers and sisters around the world not to fear and despise us. We ask that Nigerian nationals not be treated differently than any other citizens of the world. Our desire, in this trying and tumultuous time and always, is to stand in solidarity with the people of the world working to protect the sanctity of life.