In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks over a decade ago and the coming into the limelight of Osama bin Laden and his infamous terror squad Al-Qaida – Ghana did not miss out on the global uproar against Al-Qaida and terrorism. However, on the flipside, the name Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida became synonymous with gangsterism, violence, etc. such that when someone wanted to show that he was a desperado, so to speak, he would call himself Osama or al-Qaida. There were even youth groups that adopted the name Al-Qaida for their clubs. In fact, there’s even a dance style called Al-Qaida – Ghanaians and our sense of humour is not new.
Devotion to Religion is quite ubiquitous and it is not unique to Islam or Christianity. However, we should not make a fundamental error by equating religious absolutism with extremism. A Muslim’s duty is to uphold the principles, laws and dictates of the Quran to its absolute extent, failing that makes him fall short of his submission to God. We may also say the same thing about a Christian and the Bible. Therefore to hold firm beliefs about a religion and be prepared to associate with likeminded individuals or groups is very much natural. Extremists however are those who go beyond absolutism to claim, impose, defy and hurt; doing so systematically and violently. There are so many good Muslims with strong religious convictions who for lack of proper information and understanding align their views with those of Islamic extremists such as Al-Qaida, Boko Haram, ISIS, etc. This is not new in Ghana, sometimes it even takes on a comic dimension like in the case of Boko Haram.
Few days ago, DAILY GUIDE published an item on a 25 year old Nazir Nortei Alema, a graduate of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology who per their publication has joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The crust of the report is that; Nasir is a Muslim who has been discovered to associate with extremist views through social media by his father and brother. After his 6-month National Service in Accra, he phoned his parents to tell them he was going to the Western Region. After that, he was unheard of and when he finally made contact, it was in the form of text messages telling his father he was going to join ISIS. Based on this alone, the report has thrown the entire country but particularly the media into a frenzy, all through speculation.
Without due diligence, some media outlets especially websites have shifted the commentary and narrative to suggest that there’s confirmation of the report by the Daily Guide. So-called security and terrorism experts who have been interviewed and zealous journalists have oiled the rumour mill so well with exaggerations and wrong assessments. There’s not yet a reliable source or any authority in this regard which has confirmed the report. Some reports talk of how Ghana is now a fertile ground for breeding terrorists and that, there are a lot of Muslims with extremist tendencies. These are all conjecture and personal opinions which are not based in any iota of fact.
Some months back there was a similar uproar about a Boko Haram cell operating in Ghana and as usual the media did justice to the story only for authorities to debunk the story later, saying the purported group was not terrorist but rather a youth club who just called themselves boko haram. Is the story behind Nasir Nortei Alema not just another crying wolf?
Other variables are being introduced into the story, a friend of Nasir is also reported to have said that Nasir tried to have him join ISIS. Nasir’s friends are also been said to be disappearing – giving the impression that Nasir is not the only one who joined ISIS. The questions which I feel are most pertinent here are; how can we be sure of any of this? Is Ghana so eager to attract the attention of ISIS, thanks to its media? Why hasn’t the government issued a statement, even if to say they are investigating?
The circumstances as narrated by Nasir’s family are quite akin to those of many people who have joined ISIS. I.e. social media, exhibition of extremism, disassociation, etc. but until there’s strong confirmation presented with facts we may as well discount this report as a hoax. If only there was an ISIS enquiry desk somewhere that we could write to and ask if indeed a Ghanaian by the name of Nasir Nortei Alema has joined them, I believe the matter would have been more easily dealt with. Nasir should be treated as a missing person and be searched for and when he is found, all the dust will settle.