By BosNewsLife Special Correspondent Paul Jongas reporting from Nigeria
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)– An Angry Muslim crowd torched a church and attacked a school in northern Nigeria during a protest against alleged blasphemy of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad by a schoolteacher, local media reported Tuesday, April 1.
Nigeria’s respected This Day newspaper, citing police, said “fundamentalists” burnt the unnamed church in the town of Funtua in Katsina state, after destroying classrooms of the nearby Ideal International School.
There were no reports of injuries, but Monday’s violence was the climax of a crisis that apparently began last Friday, March 28. Pupils reportedly protested against a teacher who allegedly asked an offensive question about Prophet Muhammad and his mother.
No more details about the question were immediately released, but a spokesman for Katsina State Police, Aminu Abubakar Saddiq, reportedly confirmed the violence.
It came as a setback for security personnel, who had been able to repel angry crowds on Sunday, March 30, Nigerian media said.
This Day quoted local sources, speaking apparently on condition of anonymity, that tensions were “aggravated” by last Friday sermons “of some Islamic clerics” who demanded that the government punishes the teacher accused of blasphemy.
Another attempt by a mob to destroy what remained of the school was reportedly resisted later Monday, March 31, by Nigerian security forces.
Eyewitnesses reportedly said however angry Muslims later relocated to lit bonfires on major roads in the town.
Local officials, including the district head of Funtua, Alhaji Idris Sambo Idris, have urged residents “to eschew violence and allow peace to reign” while promising that the government would resolve the issue.
The incident follows several attacks against churches and Christian homes in several areas of Nigeria, in which at least 150 people died last month.
Many incidents have been linked to Muslim Fulani herdsmen and the group Boko Haram, or ‘Western education is a sin’, which fights for a harsh Islamic state and has urged Christians to leave especially northern areas of the African nation.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, has come under local and international pressure to improve protection of Christians and other groups targeted in several areas of the African nation amid perceived rising Islamic extremism.
Jonathan has pledged to increase security meassures. The government “will not relent in its ongoing efforts to end the scourge of terrorism,” his spokesman Reuben Abati said in a recent statement.
Security forces would persist “until the dark cloud of mass murder and destruction of lives and property is permanently removed from our horizon,” he added.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation with almost 170 million people, split roughly equally between religious Christians and Muslims, while observers say there are also some 250 different ethnic groups who mostly live peacefully side-by-side. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos and BosNewsLife Research).