A Professor of Christian Studies at the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), Kwara State, has issued an apology for his remarks against Islam on Facebook. What prompts this apology?
Before delving further, it is essential to clarify a misconception. Upon reviewing Professor Abioje’s Facebook comments and posts from the past year, I observed that he is not solely aligned with Christianity; rather, his roots in African Traditional Religion (ATR) run deeper. Consequently, his statements do not necessarily reflect his Christian affiliation or the subject he teaches.
Evidently, his resentment towards Islam is not recent, as per the evidence at my disposal. The recent controversy ensued when he critiqued someone’s choice of name, Ajagbemokeferi (One who yells, cautions an unbeliever), and in doing so, he made generalized derogatory remarks about Islam. Concerning the name Ajagbemokeferi, its interpretation as one who CAUTIONS an unbeliever holds merit. However, if interpreted in other contexts, such as yelling or shouting, these titles ought to be debated thoroughly within the local Muslim community.
While Abioje may have conveyed his submission constructively and objectively, his bias against Islam led him to define the religion as “Esin ipanle, Elesin Janduku, Elesin Jagidijagan, Elesin Paayanpaayan,” which loosely translates to a faith of unrest, trouble, violence, murder, and the like.
Had Abioje been working at Delta State University and residing there his entire life, one could attribute his ignorance to a lack of interaction with Muslims. However, for an elderly individual and a Professor no less, situated in a university and city predominantly Muslim, is his characterization of Islam and Muslims justifiable?
By virtue of Abioje’s assertion, he indirectly impugned his Muslim students, colleagues, neighbors, and the broader Muslim community in Ilorin, insinuating a predisposition towards violence and murder based on his limited interactions. This begs the question: is his assertion honest, given his age and experiences?
Apologies should transcend mere appeasement and should be rooted in sincerity. Why the necessity for an apology must be delineated. If Abioje indeed apologized, does this imply a change in his perspective on Islam from his previously voiced opinions? Or does he seek to “restore peace,” employing a cycle of attacking Islam and subsequently pacifying Muslims with apologies to perpetuate benefits he derives from the Muslim community?
Whether a name or title like “Ajagbemokeferi” should be subject to scrutiny by an advocate of a peace-promoting faith is a matter that should be deliberated among religious and linguistic scholars because the interpretation of caution instead of yelling seems okay to me. Abioje’s discourse serves as a diversionary tactic, masking his underlying resentment towards Islam. As a result, he disrespects his colleagues and the Muslim community in Ilorin at large.
Bashir Lucas Samson Lukman – KnowIslam Project