Friday, March 19, 2004

Reuters - Irate Muslims Burn Four Churches in North Nigeria

Another timely reminder of why I'm not as sanguine as some about the influence of Islamic extremists in West Africa. What possible legitimate grievances could there be to address here? What "root causes" should one be looking for? What diplomatic initiative should one expect to have any impact on such people?

LAGOS, March 18 (Reuters) - Islamic militants burnt down four churches and a hotel in the northern Nigerian town of Dutse after a magistrate denied bail to a Muslim youth charged with setting another church on fire, police said on Thursday.

Police in the predominantly Muslim state of Jigawa said irate youths went on the rampage late on Wednesday in the provincial capital, southeast of Kano -- Nigeria's second largest city where hundreds have died in religious clashes in the past three years.

"The miscreants were angered by the court ruling, they went around the town and burnt down four churches and one hotel," a senior officer told Reuters by phone from Dutse.

The officer said the town was calm and that the police were investigating the violence, the second in the state in the last five months. He said no arrests have yet been made.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in religious violence in northern Nigeria in the past four years since the introduction of strict Islamic sharia penal code in 12 states.

It's understandable that some people should doubt that the appropriate response to Islamic extremism is force - one should always look for peaceful ways of settling disputes where feasible. Nevertheless, though such a sentiment may be understandable, it strikes me as gravely mistaken. These people want to kill or intimidate those who don't agree that their way is the only way, and with such people there's no reasoning or debating to be done. All too common incidents of Islamist thuggery like this one are the reason why I'll always scoff at anyone mouthing empty platitudes of the sort Spain's prime-minister elect has been engaging in; only someone who hasn't lived in proximity to such religious extremism can subscribe to that sort of fluffy rhetoric.