Fred Williams, Christian Concern’s Video Producer, has experienced the effects of radical Islamism first hand in northern Nigeria. Here, he offers some thoughts on the recent Woolwich (London) attack from his perspective:
I have watched and listened carefully to people in the UK respond to the brutal killing of a soldier by two suspected Islamists. Some of the comments I have found to be quite bewildering. Our Prime Minister said ‘’There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”
People like me who have seen the violence first hand in Nigeria know that for certain such statements are simply untrue. Many say Islam is a religion of peace but I dare say radical Islam is definitely not. I agree that demonising Islam or Muslims won’t help but also denying the global threat of Islamic radicalization that is fast reinforcing itself within our society is a tactical error with grave consequences.
For many years in Nigeria, we refused to accept our people were being infected with dangerous ideologies of global terror and we misdiagnosed the issue as mere local politics and tribal sentiments, trying hard not to offend people until it was too late. It happened so many times that we got used to it. While Islamists were attacking us in Plateau State in the central city of Jos, international media claimed Christian and Muslim gangs were fighting. The mosques around my area in a place called Bauchi Road were announcing Jihad instructions over loud speakers to spare women and children but that men and all unbelievers should be killed. Hundreds lost their lives. People were maimed and those that survived lost their properties and livelihood because they were burnt down.
I have lived among peace loving Muslims in Jos for over 20 years but when the attacks began, things changed. Islamic killings and beheadings are now very common in Nigeria. I know of many Christians who have been killed that way. We tried to get help from the government but they denied the fact that Islamic radicalization was taking place. I remember the President going on air claiming Nigerians love themselves too much to get involved in terrorism. He has been proven wrong as the country is on the verge of splitting because we refused to face up to the dangers of Radical Islam.
I cannot help but be amazed by the fact that this kind of response is what has led to the situation in Nigeria where militants take on the military and security agents in an all-out battle resulting in massive casualties in the citizenry. The killing of a British soldier in London in such a calculated way has set a dangerous precedent that will inspire other misguided home grown radical Islamists. We should never underestimate the collective resolve of a group of persons willing to die for what they believe. We are dealing with a corrosive but systematic and intelligent belief system that requires a robust confrontation from the grassroots. There is no doubt that we have a major challenge with our youth in the UK. My fear is that radical Islam is taking hold of young British folk and exploiting their frustrations by redirecting their passions under a cloak of religious indoctrination. Political pragmatism and correctness may score a goal with certain communities but only strengthens the resolve of orchestrating this process. We should stop using terms like ‘’Self-radicalisation’’ and start engaging the channels and communities in which these trends are secretly celebrated. I have been told on several occasions by wealthy and influential Muslims that what the radical Islamist will do to them will be worse than what they will do to others if they are not careful, so even Muslims themselves are victims of the radicalization process.
Fred runs a charity called LoveJos which promotes justice and peace in Jos, Nigeria, one of the areas worst affected by radical Islamism.