Boko Haram insurgents yesterday returned 104 out of the 110 girls abducted on 19th February, 2018. Five of them had reportedly died while one, Leah Sherubu, was not released. According to Khadija Grema, one of the freed girls, Leah was not released because she is a Christian and she refused to put on hijab or convert. The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) condemns Boko Haram’s attempt to compel Leah to use hijab.
Equally reprehensible is the attempt to force her to convert to Islam. We reiterate for the umpteenth time that Boko Haram’s doctrine is heretical and its methods stand in contradistinction to those of pristine Islam.
The Glorious Qur’an asserts that there is no compulsion in Islam (2:256). It says Allah himself could have made the whole mankind Muslims if He had wished (11:118). It forbids forceful conversion or punishment of non-Muslims by Muslims and limits the role of Muslims to admonitions alone (lasta alayhinm bimusaytirin 88: 21 – 24). Furthermore, it declares that each shall have the right to follow his or her religion (lakunm diinukunm wa liya diin 109:1 – 6).
Once again we reject Boko Haram as an Islamic group. We urge the leadership and members of the group to re-examine its ideological base. Leah Sherubu must be set free because the basis for holding her after setting her schoolmates free is faulty and unIslamic. We invite the Federal Government (FG) to widen the scope of dialogue with Boko Haram by incorporating doctrinal issues. Islamic scholars should be involved in such discussions with the insurgents. This process is sine qua non for the deradicalisation of Boko Haram.
Military defeat of Boko Haram alone amounts to a pyrrhic victory without ideological re-engineering. We charge (FG) to go back to the negotiation table in order to secure the release of the only Christian girl among the Dapchi girls who is being held back by the insurgents.
Nigerians have been united in their prayers for the release of the Dapchi girls. FG should note that Boko Haram is not as daft as many people think. By withholding the Christian girl, they seek to divide Nigerians once again along religious lines. MURIC expresses solidarity with the parents of Leah Sherubu, the Christian girl in captivity. Our hearts are heavy with grief over her plight. We salute her courage. Shame on Boko Haram for oppressing a lone, vulnerable and helpless girl. Shame on all those who suppress freedom of worship.
We appeal to Nigerians to invoke special prayers in the mosques and churches for this Christian girl who had the courage to stare her oppressors in the face. We should also continue to pray for the remaining Chibok girls. As we round up, we repeat our exhortation to the Nigerian authorities: to set Leah Sherubu free is a task that must be done.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)