Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the Muslim community to condemn the violent activities of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.
His call Saturday came after a surge of deadly suicide bombings in Nigeria's Borno state since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Sheikh Abdullahi Bala Lau, national chairman of the prominent Muslim Group JIBWIS, welcomed Buhari’s call, saying the clerics would not be deterred from denouncing the violence carried out by Boko Haram militants.
He said Nigerian clerics have called on Muslims to follow the nonviolent teachings of the Quran.
“Once you are a Muslim you are entirely controlled by the Quran and Sunna [teachings] of the holy prophet, and there is no terrorism in Islam. … And you should live in peace and harmony with your fellow Muslims and even the non-Muslim alike,” said Lau.
“So with preaching … we are trying our possible best to see that our teaching is in line with the doctrine of the Quran and that of the Sunna of the holy prophet and we cannot go beyond that.”
Critics say prominent Muslim clerics have largely failed to condemn Boko Haram during its six years of attacks in Nigeria and in neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
Lau disagrees with that accusation.
“We have said it is not Islamic. What you are doing if you want to teach people or you want to tell them about the goodness of Islam, [violence] is not the way you present Islam, then you are giving Islam a bad name,” he said.
“So we have been saying if you want to present Islam to the Muslim world or to non-Muslim, then you cannot present Islam with [violence] or the way they are presenting it.”
The Nigerian army has made significant gains against the militants this year, seizing areas they previously controlled in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. But Lau said the military option alone would not be able to resolve the security threats Boko Haram poses.
He called on the government to hold talks with the militants in a bid to end the violence. Lau said the clerics were ready to play a role in the negotiations.
“Let them bring them out to a table for discussion so that other people will not accept their way of teaching. But if you sit with them on a table to discuss with them and understand what their mission is, then bring the Islamic scholars to tell them that what they are doing is un-Islamic,” he said.