According to an interesting survey recently conducted by CNN the population of the Muslims in the world is now just over 1.6 billion. The survey also showed that there are 3 times the number of Muslims in Asia than there are in the Middle East. Again it showed that only 18% of the Muslims in the world live in the Middle East. This survey clearly shows the power and appeal of Islam and proves the assertion that Islam is a global religion which is second only to Christianity in terms of numbers.
Christianity has about 2.5 billion adherents worldwide. We must do everything in our power to foster good relations between these two great monotheic faiths of Christianity and Islam because the greatest challenge facing the world today is the deterioration of relations and obvious misconceptions and misunderstandings that have taken place between the adherents of these two faiths since the aftermath of 9:11. Once we can build bridges between the two and get rid of these misconceptions the world will certainly be a better and safer place for us all. In this respect Nigeria is not only a shining example but she is also something of a role model to the rest of the world. Why? Because we have the largest population of both Muslims and Christians on the African continent living within our borders and both living peacefully side by side. We have well over 50 million Muslims and well over 50 million Christians in Nigeria, not only peacefully living with one another but also, in most communities, they are fully integrated. This is truly a blessing and a source of tremendous strength for us all and in this respect we have proved something to the rest of the world: that people of different faiths can live together peacefully if they try hard enough and if they are ready to treat each other with mutual respect, dignity, decency, sensitivity and understanding. In this respect we have managed to achieve what very few other countries have managed to do and for this reason I am v proud of Nigeria and I am proud to be a Nigerian.
But why is Islam such a bloodthirsty and aggressive religion? The Muslims are always killing and attacking Christians and Jews and yet we Christians never kill and attack them. That is why we are so uncomfortable with them- they like blood. Why are they like that?
Thanks but you are completely wrong: Islam is not a religion of bloodshed any more than Christianity or Judaism is and I will tell you why I say so. There are some historical facts that I will share with you here which have never ceased to amaze me and which disprove your assertion and theory about Muslims. In as much as some non- Muslims like to describe Islam as being an extremist and bloodthirsty religion, they are wrong. That is just stereotyping and the mistake that we often make is that we equate the vicious and unacceptable acts of a few misguided Islamic fundamentalists as being representative of the desires and thinking of most Muslims and this is simply not true. Islamic fundamentalists and Islamists who no doubt certainly do things that are bloodthirsty, extreme and irrational only represent a tiny percentage of Muslims throughout the world (7%) and it could be argued that this small percentage are not even true Muslims at all. Again they are as hostile and violent to the ordinary moderate and mainstream Muslim population as they are to non-muslims.
The truth is that one of the greatest acts of compassion in human history was carried out by not only a Muslim but a great Muslim warrior and king by the name of Salahudeen(or Saladin as he was known in Europe). At the same time what I would describe as the two most wicked and barbaric acts of human history were both perpetuated by so-called Christians: the first was the gassing to death of 6 million Jews by Adolf Hitler who was actively supported by the Pope and the catholic church at the time and the other was carried out by “Christian” America when she dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the second world war and thereby slaughtered close to a million Japanese men, women and children in one fell swoop. And the truth is that the bombing of the two cities was totally and completely unnecessary because the Japanese were already on their knees and the war had already virtually been won. The truth is that the Americans simply wanted to test their weapons of mass destruction and at the same time they wanted to send the communist leadership of the Soviet Union (Stalin) a strong message of warning that if pushed to the wall and in the event of a later confrontation between the two of them, they (the Americans) had the political will to use nuclear weapons if forced to do so. Generations of Japanese, till today, are still suffering deformities etc as a consequence of the dropping of those two atomic bombs and this is the only time in human history that such evil weapons have ever been used.
Now to Salahudeen and the Muslims. During the time of the crusades in the middle ages the “Christian” crusaders from Europe laid siege and eventually took the city of Jerusalem. After doing so they slaughtered every single Muslim man, woman and child that they found in the city. The streets of Jerusalem apparently “flowed day and night with Muslim blood” for days after the city was taken and “the cries of the innocents as they were being slaughtered could be heard for miles around”. This was one of the most brutal acts of mass murder carried out in human history and the truth is that, again, it was totally unnecessary. The crusaders simply had an insatiable blood lust and at that time a bloodthirsty and vicious leadership (quite unlike in King Richard the Lionheart’s time). After that they appointed a Christian king in Jerusalem and they ruled there for a hundred years. Then came Salahudeen from Syria. He gathered a massive Muslim army and they marched on Jerusalem. The thinking then was that this was the time to retake the city and avenge the massacre of the Muslim innocents which had been carried out by the Christian crusaders 100 years earlier. Salahudeen took Jerusalem after a v long siege but what did he then do? Rather than allow the Muslim armies to avenge the earlier massacre, he not only spared the Christian population but he also granted them safe passage out of the city. That was compassion and kindness and it came from one of the most devout yet tolerant Muslims that has ever lived and that history has ever known. Salahudeen proved to the world that Islam is not a religion of evil and bloodthirsty men but rather it is as accommodating and compassionate a faith as any other when properly practised. I think that we should all bear this in mind when we make our comments about Islam.
The bible tells us that the Arabs and Muslims are descended from Ishmael and that they are the children of Hagar. It says that they were born in the desert and that they were destined to always be aggressive and hostile to all those around them. Is this why they like killing and bombing people? Is that why they are so aggressive and hostile to others?
I am very familiar with the biblical accounts that you have referred to here and the scriptures that you are alluding to but the truth is that we Christians have committed as many atrocities and displayed as much aggression in world history and in the name of our religion as anyone else. And of course we have perpetrated these horrific acts against one another and against non-christians too including Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Jews. Hitler was a Christian but he did not represent me or you when he was committing his atrocities. Osama Bin Laden is a Muslim but he does not represent my Muslim friend Aliyu when he says he wants to kill every non Muslim and Islamise the world. The Serbian Christians that butchered and slaughtered Muslim women and children in Bosnia and Kosovo did not represent me as a Christian and neither did the Christian militia in Lebanon when they butchered the Muslim women and children in the refugee camps of Shatilla and Sabra. Boko Haram did not represent Bala who is my Muslim friend and neither did the Turkish Muslims that wiped out 1.5 million Christian Armenians and displaced three quarters of the population of the Armenian nation at the end of the first world war represent my Muslim brother Uba Sanni when they were doing so. My point is that human beings of all faiths can be essentially cruel and wicked and they will use religion to justify all manner of atrocities. Just look at what happened in Irish and English history between the protestant English and the catholic Irish over the last 500 years and particularly in the time of the “troubles” in Northern Ireland.
Again the whole concept of the secular state had to be introduced into Europe and the Christian world in order to protect people from the brutal excesses, killings and persecutions of particularly the church and particularly the Catholic Church. Do you remember the atrocities that were committed by the Spanish Inquistion and the Jesuit order? Please don’t get me wrong because I can also catalogue a long list of atrocities that were committed by Muslims throughout world history as well both against their own fellow Muslims and against non Muslims too (for example look at what the Islamist Algerian FIS militia did to their own moderate Muslim brothers throughout the 90’s or at what the Janjaweed Arab Muslims of the Sudan are doing to their own black African Muslims brothers in Darfur) but such behaviour is a human failing borne out of bigotry, fear and ignorance and it is not meant to be encouraged or accepted by any of the great monotheic faiths of Christianity, Islam or Judaism. And neither is it peculiar to one faith. In any case the bible tells us that we must love others and treat them as we would ourselves regardless of their faith and it also says that “for God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten son”. God’s love extends to the whole of humanity and not just to those of us that are Christians. Jesus died for us all, including the Muslims and Jews and He provided us with a choice: it is now left for us as individuals to decide which path we want to tread in terms of our choice of faith and whether we wish to accept Him as our Lord and our Saviour or not. But the most important point to appreciate is that we have far more in common with each other as Christians and Muslims than differences. Our common humanity alone should bring us closer together and our respective faiths and reverence for one almighty and ever-loving God should bind us together in love rather than divide us.