“Unto you, your religion. Unto me, mine”

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I beg you to withdraw these false accusations upon me. I have not committed the sins you said I did. I do not support Boko Haram. But charge me for the crime of granting license to Boko Haram to define me, and I will plea guilty. I am guilty of watching them silently as they continue to destroy the reputation of everything that defines me: A Muslim Nigerian Northerner.

When I moved to the Southwest state of Lagos in 2005, no one cared whether I was Muslim, or Christian, or if I had no religion. My friends were all Christians, and from every other part of Nigeria but the north. In the boarding school I attended, I ate, laughed and lived with Christians. When the Boko Haram regime started four years later, teachers asked me to “speak to my brothers” and “ask them to stop.” I apparently shared blood with terrorists because I am from the North and because I am Muslim. Church on Sundays and Friday fellowship were not options for us- they were simply compulsory. The house mistresses locked the rooms before breakfast, and while the Christians prayed royally under the roof of the air conditioned common room, the Muslims were told to pray right outside the bathroom, where the shower bags and towels were left to dry. The idea behind ‘Islamic banking’ was rejected because people thought the government was trying to impose Islam on them. That was when my chemistry teacher told me to convert to Christianity.

I said nothing.

I attended Islamic school every summer with my siblings, where we were taught how to read The Qur’an and told the stories of the late Prophets. I go to Saudi Arabia, where my father interprets perplexing aspects of The Qur’an. Every year, I fast thirty days during the holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast to empathize with people that spend hours without having anything to eat or drink. Boko Haram claimed to be fighting for an Islamic cause. To the typical Lagosians I had encountered, Boko Haram members were my brothers, flesh and blood, because they were Muslims based in Northern Nigeria. To the Hausa northerners, Boko Haram members were a ruthless group that found joy in killing innocent souls without thinking twice. To Boko Haram, a Mosque is no different from a Church; they kill people irrespective of their backgrounds, race or culture. Terrorism knows no religion.

Boko Haram operates under false identities: Islamic militants, northerners. They are forgetting that they are nothing but barbaric extremists. They use mindsets to control people who have successfully convinced themselves that Muslims are oppressors who should be oppressed. But here I am, clean from the stains of your accusations. I have erased the words by which you used to define me. I will write against Boko Haram, crumble them piece after piece.

I still raise my head high and I am never ashamed to refer to myself as a Muslim. Obstacles may come, terror may approach me, violence may reach my way, but I will proudly stand tall and smile, as I will die a Muslim.

 

This was written in September 2014.

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