As Islamic State dies, what happens here?
The Middle East has a disproportionate influence on the rest of the world. For emotional reasons more than anything. In Nigeria, this influence is even magnified. I have, so many times in traffic in Lagos, seen people flying the Saudi flag, or the Israeli flag. This, not minding the fact that the Arab is as likely to call you, an African, abeed, or not minding the fact that Israel has a rotten track record against black Africans. This outsourcing of loyalty though, is something we cannot ignore, and for a simple reason — there is a lot happening within Islam, and whether we like it or not, it will all have an effect here.
The Islamic State, a product of the perfect storm of Western hypocrisy and Arab culture wars, is in rapid decline. It’s only a matter of time now, and this cancer will be gone. But like any cancer, it will leave residue that will take time to heal. And as any such, what you do after the main manifestation of the disease is gone, will determine whether there will be a relapse, and a more malignant form will emerge.
Unfortunately, I am not very optimistic about what will happen in the Middle East following the inevitable demise of IS. You see, another I — Iran, and another S — Saudi, are involved in a struggle, and they are sparing no punches. I do not believe that either country will engage in open warfare against the other, there’s just too much at stake, but, that will be my preferred option. You see, with open warfare, it will blow over in relatively quick time. With the proxy warfare that both are currently engaging in, we will watch a slow burn that could easily go on for decades, and this is where Nigeria comes in.
Like the distinction between Nigeria’s Christian and Muslim populations often played out in the Western media, the distinction between the Shia and the Sunni is a bit more complicated than just Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both groups have sects, some who are more moderate than others. And some, moreso among the Sunni, diametrically opposed to the others. This complex ideological struggle has in the past few decades spilled over into our continent, and is manifesting in for example, a rise in intolerance of dissenting opinions even amongst Muslims. There seems to me, a turning away from the traditions of such names as Umar ibn Al-Tabari, Al-Fazari, Yaqut Al-Hamawi, and such other great scholars who preserved the works of ancient Greece and Rome at a time when Europe tore itself to shreds in an era called the Dark Ages.
When the rhetoric gets worse, there will be more violence. The sad part is, it is being funded externally, and I fear that rather than wisely keep away from it, such as the Turks are doing, Nigeria’s leadership is inserting itself into it. This does not bode well for us. But what can we do, but study what is happening in the Middle East, then pray.