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Wole Soyinka: 'Islam is not in danger'

The Nigerian Nobel laureate discusses Boko Haram, organised religion, and the current state of his country.

Last updated: 12 Jul 2014 18:07
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He is often called Nigeria's national conscience and Africa's most compelling literary force - Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian poet, playwright and activist. He was the first black African to be honoured with the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986.

Soyinka turns 80 this week and continues to express his views as one of the most controversial writers of his generation. Deeply committed to social justice and the arts, Soyinka has been a thorn in the side of many Nigerian dictators - his outspoken activism landing him in jail and eventually forcing him into exile.

Organised religion in my view is more a curse than a blessing. I believe that religion should be very, very personal.

Wole Soyinka

Many of Soyinka's writings have been concerned with the tensions between tradition and progress, his disillusionment with African authoritarian leadership and with Nigerian society as a whole.

In a time when Nigeria is facing its toughest security crisis in decades, he discusses the issues surrounding Boko Haram:

"Those who unleashed Boko Haram on the nation are not poverty stricken. They are politicians .... desperate for power, intelligent enough or perceptive enough to recognise that the cocktail of politics and religious fundamentalism can only yield them dividends. They think they have nothing to lose. But the foot soldiers have been indoctrinated for years, from childhood. And they believe that their religion [Islam] is in danger ... But Islam is not in danger. It is the pervert followers who are being used and who use others and proclaim that they are fighting for Islam ....

"Look at the histories of the world: Boko Haram, if not contained and eradicated, will be found in the heart of Lagos before you know it."

Talk to Al Jazeera speaks to Professor Wole Soyinka, one of Nigeria's most prominent voices, about Boko Haram, religion, politics and the state of Nigeria today.

Talk to Al Jazeera  can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430 and 1930; Sunday: 1930; Monday: 1430.   

Watch more Talk to Al Jazeera  

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Al Jazeera
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