I first noted the issue that would form the main point of this piece during the time that the Nigerian anti homosexuality bill was passed into law. I was in the midst of a discussion about the law and the 14 year imprisonment term for anybody caught violating it. I expressed my thoughts that the law was unjust and made absolutely no sense given the fact that even if homosexuality is against the tenets of religion, it should not be made a criminal offence. One of the people there asked me “Are you gay?” when I replied in the negative, his next question was “So why are you being this vehement in your opposition to a law that is designed to safeguard the likes of you?”
I felt there was no correlation between my stance on homosexuality and my sexuality orientation and I had to marvel at the fellow’s wilful ignorance. However I noticed the same trend whenever any discussion came up on religion and terrorism especially on Boko Haram and ISIS, whenever anybody as much as suggests on social media that the terrorists who perpetrate unspeakable evil through Boko Haram and ISIS are Muslims, they would get plenty of attacks from Muslims and non Muslims alike for being a religious bigot who doesn’t understand how Islam works. Where I am going with all these illustrations is that I am trying to point out that the reason why we keep having these back and forth arguments where we come to blows and nobody comes out any wiser or smarter, is that we have learnt how to make issues and arguments about beliefs instead of about people and about issues.
The problem with making arguments about beliefs is that man is a social being and he will congregate with people of similar thought patterns. Thus any attack on an individual within the belief circle becomes an attack on the belief circle itself. The human being by nature will get hot under the collar when something he/she deeply identifies with is being attacked and disrespected. This reminds me of an article by Graeme Wood that I read on the Atlantic about what Ihttp:// www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/SIS really wants. What Wood essentially does in that piece is to try and argue that the majority of Muslims might not have any affiliation with ISIS, but the members of ISIS are all Muslims. Needless to the say the piece got a massive amount of attention, with a lot of Muslim writers writing rejoinders to attack him for his religious bigotry. In this scenario Wood was pointing out that ISIS members are terrible people, but the Muslims who wrote in to attack him wrongly or rightly felt he was attacking the Islamic faith.
For me anyone, whether Christian or Muslim or Satanist or Atheist who thinks it is proper to marry an eleven year old or a twelve year old is a terrible person and he should be called out as such. However one thing terrible people are quite adept at doing is to play the belief systems card, whenever they are called out for their misdemeanours because they know that their fellow believers will rise up in arms to defend them accordingly. This is the reason why part of the issues that activists raised against the homosexuality law at its formation is that Nigerian lawmakers were using it distract the populace from other pressing problems that were confronting the nation at the time. A lot of Nigerians don’t have much a personal beef against homosexuality, the reason why they are so vehement in their condemnation of LGBTI rights is that it goes against their religion.
Sir Elton John’s Candle in the Wind, tribute song to Diana the Princess of Wales has been described as one of the most moving tributes of all time. Whether Sir Elton is a homosexual or an atheist is immaterial. It would be extremely crass to condemn a mind that can express such heartfelt love and grief for a fellow human being with such beautiful music because the vessel it contains does not have the same kind of sex that you do, or that He doesn’t believe in the same god(s) that you do.
To end with an example closer to home, Professor Attahiru Jega who is one of the heroes of the 2015 elections did not do the things he did because he is a Muslim or because of he is an academic, he did what he did because of his own integrity and moral compass. Group belief is group belief, but the will to make a difference for right or for wrong is personal. In other words there are no believers or unbelievers there are only good people and terrible people.