OPINION: JAILED FOR EATING DURING RAMADAN IN TUNISIA: MUCH ADO ABOUT RADICAL ISLAM IN THE WEST

Why are western nations taking responsibility for the radicalisation of Muslims when the problem is not confined to these countries? Why are these countries buying into this lame narrative that ascribes blame for Islamic extremism to western foreign policy? Obvious such a position discounts the hateful and inciting doctrines that are propagated in mosques, and other Islamic centers worldwide.

Bearing in mind similar manifestations of muslim extremist ideology in other non-western countries, it is difficult to hold that western foreign policy or the internet is the main reason behind current manifestations of radical islam in the West.

Look at the recent case in Tunisia. This North Africa nation has often portrayed as a beacon of ‘moderate Islam’. But this may not actually be the case. From what is going on in the country, Tunisia is far from being moderate. Evidence of homegrown radical Islam abound.

Radical Islam resonates in the recent decision of a court that jailed people for eating during the month of Ramadan. The prosecution spokesperson said they were convicted for “a provocative act” of eating and smoking during the fasting period.

Now, how is this ruling in agreement with the so-called moderate Islam in Tunisia? Is this ruling a marker of liberal and tolerant Islam? Not at all. How is this sentencing in compliant with the oft-referred provision in the Quran that there is no compulsion in religion?

If people should not be compelled to practice religion, in this case, Islam, why should persons, muslims or not, be penalized for eating during the month of Ramadan?

Why was the act of eating or smoking during the month of Ramadan described as provocative? Was it provocative to who? To those who were fasting?

What does it mean to provoke those who were fasting? If they were provoked and so what? Would they be provoked to do what? To eat or smoke? Definitely not. To attack those who eat? Most probably. So this sentencing was surely a way to appease the radicals, the jihadists lest they unleash mayhem. It is an affirmation of the power, influence and presence of extreme Islamic ideology in Tunisia.

So it is pertinent to state that radical Islam is not a new phenomenon or a western creation. Radical Islam has existed and been in full force before the advent of the Internet and in spite of the online media. Islamism is rooted somewhere beyond and besides the websites. The fear of radical muslims drive policies and decisions in muslim majority states and communities even if it means putting innocent people behind bars. Thus there is no basis to continue attributing radical Islam to online and internet facilities when islamist narratives are codified in legislations that prevail in muslim majority countries such as Pakistan,  Nigeria and Indonesia.

Written by Leo Igwe.

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