World Bulletin / News Desk
The Muslim community in Ivory Coast would back a government decision to send troops to join the regional fight against Nigeria's Boko Haram armed group, the head of the country's Islamic council has said.
"We must not stay away with our arms crossed and say 'this is not our concern'," Cisse Djiguiba, spokesman for Ivory Coast's Higher Council of Imams and rector of the Grand Mosque of Abidjan, told in an interview.
Djiguiba said that Boko Haram may not currently be a source of concern for Ivory Coast, but the threat could one day become real.
"I do not know when and by what means the authorities intend to fight Boko Haram, but I think our leaders should do what is necessary to ensure our security," he added.
Djiguiba's assertions came after President Alassane Ouattara said last month that his country was considering sending troops to join the ongoing regional fight against Boko Haram.
"We will hold a joint summit between the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Accra on April 8 to support the Lake Chad basin countries in the war against the Nigerian armed group," Ouattara said.
Yet he did not provide details on the number of troops to be deployed against Boko Haram or the date of their deployment.
Djiguiba asserted that there were "no seeds of extremism" in the country, which prevented the emergence of any homegrown Boko Haram-like groups.
"We do not find any extremism, either in our practice or in our reading of Quranic texts and teachings of the prophet, or anything that leads us to go to war," he said.
Muslims are estimated to account for 38 percent of Ivory Coast's population of 20 million, while Christians account for 32 percent. The remainder is composed of non-religious people or those who adhere to indigenous beliefs.
"Islam has been present in Ivory Coast since the 10th and 11th centuries. We never saw any conflict based on religion, and we do not have ambitions that might create conflicts," he said.
Djiguiba admitted, however, that ethnic and political conflicts can take on a religious dimension, as has been the case in the Central African Republic, where a sectarian conflict followed a political crisis.
Yet, he said, Muslim imams had played a pivotal role in preventing the situation from deteriorating further after two political crises rocked the country in 2000 and 2011.
"It is we who appealed not to react when mosques were attacked with grenades in Grand-Bassam [a town on the outskirts of Abidjan]. It is we who told the young people not to respond to the provocation," he said.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the ensuing violence, according to UN data.
"Since 2000 until the civil war in 2010 and 2011, at least 25 imams were killed after having been abducted from mosques. Did we hold press conferences with pictures to back our claims? No," he said, "Because we wanted peace for Ivory Coast."
The council's position does not contradict the values of the Muslim faith, Djiguiba asserted.
"Islam calls for saving human life and preserving peace, which is a prerequisite for development," the Muslim leader said.
"In our sermons, we preach the importance of education and peace, how to be consistent with oneself, to be a good citizen. We make sure that what we say is reflected in Muslims' behavior," he asserted.
"We explain to people that we have an interest in peacemaking," he added, "because we would never want to see Ivory Coast at war."Last Mod: 07 Nisan 2015, 15:58