Cartoons Not the Only Cause of Nigeria Violence
The news headline "cartoon violence" does not quite capture the realities of the latest round of religious violence in Nigeria, at least not according to Nigeria's online media.
The Daily Champion says the attacks in the city of Onitsha that killed 22 people today and in Bauchi on Monday were "separate religious crises" and does not link either to the Danish cartoon controversy.
"The Bauchi crisis erupted Monday over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran by a female teacher in a public secondary school in the state," the Lagos-based news site said. "The attack in Onitsha was reportedly in response to violence against the Igbo in some parts of Northern states."
It is true that the attacks on the Igbo, a mostly Christian ethnic group, originated in Muslim protests against the cartoons last weekend. But in the context of ongoing, often violent tensions between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, Nigerian news reporters do not identify the Danish cartoons as the cause of the latest clashes.
Onitisha experienced "an orgy of sectarian violence as youth went on a rampage at the sight of dead bodies" of Christians killed earlier in the week, said the Guardian, another Lagos news site.
The Daily Independent described today's violence as "reprisal attacks" and did not make mention of Danish cartoons. In reporting the imposition of martial law in the afflicted area, This Day made no mention of the cartoons. Nor did the riot story in Vanguard.
For the Nigerian online media, the cause of the latest outbursts is less the Danish cartoons than the legacy of Muslim-Christian tensions that began long before the European cartoonists caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.
The complexity of the Nigeria violence wasn't lost on one Reuters correspondent filing from Abuja who noted, "Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, rumours of a Koran desecration and opposition to constitutional change provided the catalysts for four days of fighting between Muslims and Christians in predominantly Muslim northern cities. Then there were revenge attacks in one mainly Christian southern city. But in Africa's most populous country the underlying causes of sectarian clashes are often political and observers say this round of violence is no exception."
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