Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | nigeria | president | muhammadu buhari | muslim | sharia | isis

Is Nigeria's New President an Islamist?

By    |   Tuesday, 31 March 2015 06:31 PM

The newly elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is a former military dictator who is a self-described "born-again democrat," but should his Muslim faith and previous commitment to Sharia law be a concern for the large Christian population of Nigeria and the region?

Buhari won the presidential race against the current President Goodluck Jonathan in what is considered a "stunning upset," Time magazine is reporting.

But it won't be the first time Buhari has run the north African country. Buhari came to power in Nigeria in 1983 as the result of a military coup, only to be thrown from office 20 months later as the result of another military coup, CNN is reporting.

This is the fourth time he has run for high office since 1985.

His tenure at the post is described as the "War Against Indiscipline," and there are allegations that the regime was guilty of human rights abuses.

Buhari ran his campaign as a born-again democrat in an effort to alleviate any fears that may exist that he will run a strict military regime. However, some contend that his military background may be part of why he won.

Nigeria has been plagued by the terrorist group Boko Haram, which recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), and is reportedly responsible for the deaths of 1,000 civilians in the country.

Documentary filmmaker and African affairs expert Ayo Johnson told CNN about a month ago that Nigerians would likely pick the candidate they felt would bring security to this challenge.

"Many Nigerians will not forget [Buhari] was a military leader, during a dictatorship," Johnson said. "Or maybe they will feel that they need a military leader to address fundamental problems such as terrorism."

Buhari said during the course of the campaign that, "it's a question of security. Whether I was a former military officer or a politician through and through, when there is insecurity of this scale in the country, that takes the priority."

However, Buhari is a Sunni Muslim from the northern part of the country, compared to Jonathan, who is a Christian from the more developed south.

The newly elected Nigerian president did work to try to alleviate any concern during the course of his campaign over how he would treat non-Muslims in the country, which makes up almost half of Nigeria's population.

In January, after visiting several cities in the southern Christian part of the country known as Imo state, a blogpost was published on Buhari's campaign titled "Buhari will never Islamise Nigeria." 

The blogpost cites Imo's governor, who said at a campaign stop that he "dismissed suggestions of plans by Muhammadu Buhari to 'Islamize' Nigeria," adding that his cook and driver were both Christians and "his last daughter is married to a Christian."

In addition, according to The Wall Street Journal, Buhari chose a Christian pastor as his running mate. In the same vein, Jonathan chose a Muslim vice president. 

However, there is still some concern about what role his Muslim faith will play in his administration.

Pamela Geller, who is the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and the Stop Islamization of America, founder of AtlasShrugs.com and author of books on Islam in America, has called Buhari a "savage jihad[ist]" and a "ruthless dictator."
She contends that "Buhari supports imposing Sharia, Islamic law. And [the Peoples Democratic Party] members have questioned why Buhari was picked by Boko Haram as part of the team to have talks with government of Nigeria in Saudi Arabia" in 2012.

Richard Grenell, former spokesman for four U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Times on March 19, voicing concerns about a Buhari win.

According to Grenell, "General Buhari wants Sharia law throughout Nigeria. In fact, he wants it everywhere."

He cited Buhari, who has said, "I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria. God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country.”

Grenell questions if by "agitation" he means that "Buhari supports violence because the end goal of the terrorist attacks throughout Nigeria and Africa is an Islamic state."

In addition, the former spokesman for the ambassadors said that "Buhari has also spoken sympathetically about members of the terrorist group Boko Haram, has cautioned against a rush to judgment on its members and has personally been selected by the terrorist group to lead its negotiations with the Government of Nigeria."

He concluded that if Buhari was elected, it "would be a disaster for Africa."

There have also been questions about why the political consulting firm founded by David Axelrod, former senior adviser and chief strategist for Obama's presidential campaigns, worked to help get Buhari elected. 

Accuracy in Media issued a report on March 24 explaining Obama's record in helping Nigeria fight Boko Haram.

While first lady Michelle Obama was vocal in having the 278 school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram returned to their families, Accuracy in Media says that what was going on "behind the scenes" was quite different.

"The Obama administration was undermining Nigeria’s efforts to take the battle to the terrorists. Obama refused to sell Nigeria arms and supplies critical to the fight, and stepped in to block other Western allies from doing so," Accuracy in Media reported. "The administration also denied Nigeria intelligence on Boko Haram from drones operating in the area."

The report adds that "while Boko Haram was kidnapping school girls, the U.S. cut petroleum purchases from Nigeria to zero, plunging the nation’s economy into turmoil and raising concerns about its ability to fund its battle against the terrorists.

"Nigeria responded by canceling a military training agreement between the two countries."

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The newly elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is a former military dictator who is a self-described "born-again democrat," but should his Muslim faith and previous commitment to Sharia law be a concern for the large Christian population of Nigeria and the region?
nigeria, president, muhammadu buhari, muslim, sharia, isis
Tuesday, 31 March 2015 06:31 PM
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