This Is What it Means to Be a Yorùbá Nigerian and Practising Muslim, or, Refusing this Biased Shahada of Cancel Culture

by Habeebullahi Muhammed Yunusa (Baṣọ̀run)

ereyesterday, i updated my facebook
profile & poured my complex identity
into a bio of two nominal phrases:
yorùbá nigerian & practising muslim,
all cases lowered as though to
stifle the soundtrack of sobs
mapping the topography of all the
humiliations osmosing through every
follicle on my skin to the
epicentre of my mental health.

i've lost count of how many times the
screen of my gionee m12 has insulted
the labour of our heroes past: sorry
this [ ] is not available for you-
r country! does this mean the internet
collages me from all the 419ers
this nation has ever exported? when
the only inheritances from your
brothers' reputation is a (cyber)prison
& a raffle ticket to xenophobia, you
begin redrawing your family tree.

i don't know which compatriots to
call my brothers any more. last month
while in kaduna, i hid my àbàjà tribal
marks under a concealer of pretence
by which i mean i camouflaged my
tongue to avoid becoming the next big
sallah ram. in this country, we convert
patriotism to ethnic chauvinism, &
measure its depth by how much our
blind bullets or knives or cudgels
recognise our own kinspeople.

in the inaugural communion of a poetry
group i just joined, i introduced
myself as habeebullahi, told them
it means God's beloved. someone asked
if the [A]llah suffixed to my name
hailed from sokoto, & when i'd lynch
blasphemy off the next deborah.
another queried if i've ever considered
the alchemistry of transfiguring
my abrahamic brethren to soot a shortcut
to my harem of 72 virgins in jannat.

down south, in the dawn of the recent
religious skirmishes up north, mike, my
best friend since primary school drilled
a hole in the ship of our relations: he
unfriended me over my bio, said in his
eyes, my bearded profile photo next
to the bio has started slideshowing
the faces of muslim murderers of his
christian brethren. i forgave his choice
of faith over familiar friendship, but i
don't get the mathematics of how
someone who nicknamed me dove
suggested my addition to the list
of sleeper boko haramists. i'm still
trying to dissect the psychology of the
transfer of hatred & hostility—how
the mob actions of an unknown people
subtract the history of positives shared
between pals, till it zeroes to negatives.

on most days, i wish to bowdlerise these
stereotypic nominals & adjectivals
from my psyche & proclaim : i am!,
or i want to be! — meaning, i am a victim
of my brothers' errors; meaning, for
once, i want to be a holidayer in a
foreign identity, free to live outside
of mine. i've started erecting a barrier
between my individuality & the devils
these people are trying to lump me with.
i'm saying even when i wear my identity
on my head like the abetí ajá cap,
i refuse to make a credendum this
biased shahada of cancel culture.

©Habeebullahi Muhammed Yunusa (Baṣọ̀run), 2023