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Nigerian Muslims urged to pray for Bush defeat


- Aminu Abubakar

(Monday, November 1, 2004)

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[ Mr Bush made Nigeria a key stop on his 2003 African tour, and US agencies have opened a library and sponsored a job creation scheme in Kano, the commercial centre of the mainly Muslim north. So far, however, the aid offensive would seem to have made little progress in winning hearts and minds. ]


Modern technology, a mounting tide of anti-Americanism and the religious fervour inspired by the holy month of Ramadan have come together in a Nigerian bid to seek divine intervention in the US presidential election.

Throughout the first two weeks of their annual month of prayer and fasting, Nigerian Muslims have been bombarded by mobile telephone text messages urging them to pray for US President George W. Bush's defeat. "A few days to US presidential elections, join us in praying for the defeat of Bush, an arrogant bigger evil and enemy of Islam and Muslims. Please pass to 10 others," one of the messages read.

It is a campaign more likely to boost the profits of Nigeria's South African-run mobile telephone networks than unduly worry White House strategists, but the response on the streets of the northern city of Kano underlines the depth of anti-American sentiment. Kano has recently been the target of US investment in educational and economic projects designed to win over Muslims and counter the effect of the anti-US sermons in the city's mosques. But, in attacking Mr Bush, the mystery authors of the texting frenzy have been preaching to the converted.

"Nobody needs to tell me to pray for Bush's defeat in the election in this holy season when prayers are most answered," said Nasiru Abdullahi, a 34-year-old tyre mechanic in the ancient trading city. "I have been praying for the defeat of Bush since Ramadan started and I will not stop until the elections are conducted. I am confident Allah will answer our prayers because it is a prayer against His enemy," he said. But, in attacking Mr Bush, the mystery authors of the texting frenzy have been preaching to the converted.

US policy makers have identified northern Nigeria as an area where poverty, unemployment and the increasing influence of hardline Islamic preachers have fed a mounting wave of potentially dangerous anti-American sentiment. Although the dark mood has yet to manifest itself as the kind of militancy seen in parts of the Middle East, the US administration has worked to improve America's image in a country which supplies 15 per cent of US oil imports.

Mr Bush made Nigeria a key stop on his 2003 African tour, and US agencies have opened a library and sponsored a job creation scheme in Kano, the commercial centre of the mainly Muslim north. So far, however, the aid offensive would seem to have made little progress in winning hearts and minds.

"I have received the text message four times, but the sender doesn't need to waste his time because I have included Bush's defeat in my list of requests to Allah this month," said 46-year-old textile trader Adnan Habibu. "It is among my five top requests to Allah which I recite day and night. I can't imagine the destruction Bush will bring to Muslims in his next four years as president."

While the opinion of Nigerian Muslims is probably far from the front of Mr Bush's mind as he fights to win a second term, he could take some comfort from the knowledge his opponent couldn't expect to be liked any better.

"Whether Bush wins or loses, nothing will change in the United States' policy toward Islam and Muslims, because the problem is not Bush per se, but the American mentality," said 31-year-old banker Sadiq Yunus. "(Senator John) Kerry may be right in his criticism of Bush's hawkish approach to global issues, but that doesn't mean he will be any better. Just let Kerry be at the White House and you see what will happen."

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