The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced that it has formed “an Islamic military alliance” with many Middle Eastern and African countries in an effort to fight terrorism. This coalition means Saudi Arabia has taken responsibility in the fight against Islamic extremism, after criticism that it has been silent in the fight against terrorism. Nations in the alliance are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Palestinians, Qatar, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The inclusion of Nigeria by Saudi is due to its ongoing war with Boko Haram, a home grown terrorist group who just like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared a caliphate in Nigeria. However, Nigeria’s inclusion in this “Islamic alliance” and the exclusion of high profile names like Syria, Iran and Iraq has analysts concerned and started raising questions, as to whether this is really an alliance against terrorism, or a coalition of allies against Shiite Muslims. Here are four reasons Nigeria should think twice about joining the coalition.
Nigeria is not an Islamic state
The population of Christians and Muslims are roughly the same (Christian population is about 50%), so thinking about Nigeria as an Islamic country is a bit flawed. Though the reason why the alliance was formed is to fight terrorism, the title “Islamic alliance” appears to suggest hidden intents, especially when many countries in this coalition are wholly Muslim while others are not at all. Is this a ploy on the part of Saudi to islamize these countries or is the term “Islamic alliance” just an oversight?
Opens the door to more attacks
It is a well known fact that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacks nations that provide aid to the fight against terrorism. Considering recent attacks in France and Russia, countries who have been bombing the IS for months now, this could lead to a rise in terrorist attacks in Nigeria. Though Boko Haram, affiliated itself with IS this year, Nigeria’s glaring presence in this list might be a clear reminder to IS that Nigeria is a part of this war too.
Have we gained anything from Saudi?
The recent Hajj deaths earlier this year seemed to reveal the kind of abhorrence the Arabians have for Africans, collectively. In the aftermath of the stampede that occurred during the Hajj this year, a Saudi prince was reported to have said, rather insensitively, that “some pilgrims with African nationalities” caused the stampede, despite the fact that over 70 Africans died as a result of this stampede as well. Saudi offered no apologies or sympathy to Nigeria or other countries involved. A country that does not respect racial equality seems like an unlikely ally.
Do we want to be part of the Sunni-Shiite dispute?
The exclusion of Iran, Iraq and Syria from this coalition – despite the fact that they face the most danger from terrorist threats – seems to send out a message that Shiite Muslims are not welcome. Saudi and most of its new allies, including Nigeria, are mostly Sunni and have a minor number of Shiite Muslims, who are usually discriminated against. Iran and Iraq, in contrast, are ruled by and are majorly Shiites. Due to the decade-old dispute between Shiites and Sunnis, it is understandable if they were excluded from Saudi’s coalition. However, recent occurrences in Nigeria, particularly the recent case involving the army and the Shiite sect in Nigeria and its inclusion in this alliance seems to suggest Nigeria is choosing sides in this dispute. We have to tackle our own battles, namely Boko Haram and a troubled economy. Do we really want to add this dispute to our list of problems?