Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Outbreak of Religious Violence In Nigeria

The New York Times now has a brief piece, in which they report that estimates on the toll "ranged from 30 to more than 400 deaths." Meanwhile Bloomberg is citing Shehu Sani, president of Nigeria's Civil Rights Congress, who puts the death toll at "more than 400".

[Original Post]:
As discussed previously in this blog, religious violence has been a pervasive feature of Nigerian society for decades.

The BBC is now reporting that human rights groups in Nigeria say that at least 200 people have died in a new outbreak of violence between Christians and Muslims in the city of Jos. Another report states that "136 bodies have been counted", while yet another source places the death toll at nearly 500.

Little or nothing is known about what sparked this latest violence in Jos, which has been the scene of similar large-scale bloodshed in that past.

As has also been discussed recently in this blog, this ongoing religious violence in Nigeria raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the December 2009 Pew Forum report on "Global Restriction on Religion". A major feature of that report was supposed to have been an objective assessment of religious "social hostilities" in different countries.

The whole point of Pew's so-called "social hostilities index" (SHI) was supposed to be that it would shine a light precisely on nations like Nigeria, where the government does not officially restrict religion, but where there are still widespread "acts of violence and intimidation by private individuals, organizations or social groups."

And yet Pew cynically manipulated their use of the SHI in order to present a grotesquely distorted Orwellian version of the state of religious freedom in the world today. Nigeria, a nation where religious violence is endemic, is given a relatively middling score in terms of "social hostilities", whereas India, a nation with an exemplary track records with respect to religious tolerance, is rated as among the very worst places on earth when it comes to "religious restrictions". (While China, a totalitarian state with no pretense of religious freedom whatsoever, gets a pass!)

But perhaps now that a Nigerian Jihadist has come so close to carrying out a terrorist attack aimed at the West, more people will appreciate the fact that the issue of religious freedom is far too important to be cynically used as a club to attack Hinduism with. It's a shame if that is what it takes. The facts have been there all along.