When religious radicalism becomes a fashion statement

To address elements of religious radicalism in Africa, governments must keep an eye on religious leaders because when religious radicalism becomes a fashion statement, as it is now in most African countries, social and economic development is twisted, and security becomes unpredictable.


By Malcolm Rice


Like in the 60s when Africa was preoccupied with dictatorial governments, coup d’états and tribal conflicts, present day Africa is again being threatened with similar situations, compounded with religious radicalism, which is fast taking over the continent.

UN Food

A displaced woman walks in a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Wau town, South Sudan. (File) Photo: OCHA/Guiomar Pau Sole

It is strange to think that despite the ongoing destruction of lives and properties by elements of groups of people in the guise of religion, ignorant young people in the continent are hoodwinked by religious leaders in their communities to believe in the actions of the perpetrators.

To address elements of religious radicalism in Africa, governments must keep an eye on religious leaders because when religious radicalism becomes a fashion statement, as it is now in most African countries, social and economic development is twisted, and security becomes unpredictable.

In 2015, the United Nations called on the international community “in the name of our shared humanity to unite in courage and resolve” against intolerance at a critical time when people, communities and nations are grappling with disparity and radicalism.

“There is no justification for such attacks. We must condemn all manifestations of intolerance, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism,” and all other forms of prejudice, harassment or violence.” General Assembly President Sam Kutesa.

Boko

Boko Haram terrorizing villages, women and children

Africa has too much in the plate to contend with and cannot cope with a problem fueled by the convictions of groups of people bent on destabilising the continent. Time and again measures are being taken by governments, the African Union (AU), and the International Community, to address the spates of crises plaguing the continent’s economic drive, unfortunately, the vicious circle continues while innocent lives are slaughtered every day and millions of people displaced.

For Afric to address the problem, efforts must now be made by the governments to address the pinpricks in their backyards. The roles and functions of spiritual leaders should be taken into perspective while addressing security concerns.

South-Sudan-children_D200-0630-18_469412-1The majority of people in Africa are closer to their religious and spiritual leaders whom they look up to for counselling and support. This relationship, built on a blind trust, due to the high level of illiteracy and poverty, creates a breeding ground for nefarious people who use the opportunity to indoctrinate poor minds to commit horrendous crimes in society.

Therefore, while the AU and international stakeholders work on modalities to neutralise growing radicalization in the continent efforts should also be directed at the local spiritual leaders whose messages to their congregations are sometimes seditious.

It is now time for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to look at some of these spiritual leaders and the messages they preach so that they can account for their deeds if found culpable of making rabble-rousing messages against others in society.

Religion is about peace, love and harmony and not be used as a tool to perpetrate hatred.

Perpetrations being committed by Al-Shabaab in Somalia and neighbouring countries; The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon; and others, are causing enormous calamities.

In my view, considering the many options being taken to address spates of religious radicalism and perpetration of heinous crimes, governments in Africa should engage local spiritual leaders in all sectors of society and make them understand the importance of the message they preach and the impact to national security and development.

 

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Categories: Opinion, Security

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