Islam like other religions, does not encourage inter social and inter ethnic marriages. In its fundamental form, it abhors music and dancing; it condemns to death any Moslem marrying outside the religion.
Much of the above could be contradicted by many Muslim sects. Many Muslim countries have sexy belly dancers – do they regard this as an aberration of Islamic standards or a Turkish embellishment, adopted widely by Arabic nations?
When we talk about Islam do we mean Arabic or attitudes that go far beyond Arabic as the Islamic religion which exist in many countries far removed from Arabia – Serbia, China, Pakistani, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, etc.
This is the knob of the confusion of dealing with Islam. It is never clear when one is dealing with Islam that in reality you are dealing with Arab/Moors. (There are millions of Arab Christians – Egypt, Lebanon, Syria). Nevertheless the Arab Moslems seem to be united in their suspicion of Westernization. This is ironic because it was the West that created most of the countries of the Middle East: the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Iraq as recent ago as the 1930s. Is this then the explanation for their hatred of the West?
No peace-makers; very many war makers – a maxim true of Moslems today.
The centrality of the doctrine of love (same as in Islam?) but in Christianity goes further; it becomes the role of Christ coming to sacrifice himself out of love for humanity. That doctrine is the basis of the tolerance and equality – concepts that find fine expression not only in democracy but in respect for human lives and ultimately equality and freedom.
The stress of equal human rights is the basis of the end of all discrimination, colonialism, neo-imperialism and what ironically gives Moslem people the support, so necessary, when they are perceived to have been discriminated against by the West. I do not find a corresponding ethos in Islam for downtrodden people who are not Moslems. Nor do I find a corresponding revulsion felt and expressed when Muslims clearly violate this inviolable principle of human rights and equality.
Indeed the religious attitude to blacks, women, and the underprivileged is basically that these groups deserve what they get, that the Holy Prophet saw these glaring inconsistencies but pronounced little about them. And because he did not, and since Islam is a way of life, barbarous treatment of the downtrodden, the criminal, the Kafir, women sit comfortably with regimes that stone women, cut off hands, etc. This is done in the name of religion. Where are the reformists within Islam who argue that behaviours such as described above are basically inhuman? Islam is not the only religion that has practised untold inhumanity against its own people, and strangers but those regimes have long past and have no hope of resuscitation. How could you imprison somebody for watching volley ball? Stone a woman for marrying outside her religion? (Before Western Christians begin to feel superior it was not so long ago when they killed a man for stealing a chicken!)
It is instructive that these are not issues of great movements in Islamic countries. It is true the West cherry picks these embarrassing moments to criticize one regime or the other. But my pain is that I cannot really discuss any of these matters with my Islamic friends: I am certain they do not discuss them among themselves.
Moslem women, I am told are satisfied with their roles within the Islamic pantheon. I am further astonished that more women have become Presidents in clearly Islamic States than in non-Muslims ones. These facts fly in the face of fears of wholesome discrimination against women. In Nigeria here, for reasons too complex to go into, we have a plethora of female judges and Permanent Secretaries and Ministers without that doing violence to Islam.
Perhaps that is the rub: Islam is not evolving enough to accept modern human rights for all not only for the exceptional. Other religions have people who interpret doctrine and thereby integrate it with “modern life”- thus you have at the pinnacle of Catholicism – the Pope, the Anglicans – the Archbishop.
Ideally the Islamic Government will be a theocracy- the most learned to be Caliph. But there is and will be a role for the Holy man, the itinerant, preacher, until they settled. Nigeria has seen its Questa of holy men from Mali, Senegal, etc who have our political leaders in a vice-grip through Islamic ministrations. No one believes that the Sultan of Arabia is the Caliph; there is no single interpreter of Islam, an intercessor between Mohammed and Man.
The body of writings of Islam could be used to justify any atrocity provided it is understood as a Jihad. Is fighting Boko Haram a Jihad? What is Haram in Nigeria is clearly not Haram in Qatar or Serbia let alone the justification of unheard of barbarity – taking 260 girls from a school – for what?? It is true that our Muslim leaders have been condemning Boko Haram, but surely this goes beyond mere condemnation. When similar unorthodox religion arose in Waco, Texas, USA, and in Guyana the first line of attack was to infiltrate them by the security forces and in a botched attempt to bring down Waco a mini war ensued killing several dozens.
My problem with the Muslims in Nigeria and their response to Boko Haram is that they are not sufficiently angry. They have to do something beyond pious declarations in newspapers. There are some who believe that the whole Boko Haram imbroglio is financed and supported by so called respectable Northern Leaders. Nobody in the 21st century captures schoolgirls, and forcefully turns them into Moslem so as to marry them off!!
Nothing is more self justifying than religion but even so, in 2014, all conflicts in the world except Ukraine is Muslim based, backed and perpetrated – unfortunately it is Moslem killing Moslems, but they have shown an extraordinary capacity to kill non-Moslems outside their own countries.
To what end? There is an under current belief that these wars in the Middle East, Africa – are aimed at dismantling the solutions the West imposed on the regions between 1914 and 1936 – the creation of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria Mali, Chad, Niger, Cameron, etc. In short, to dress these incessant insurgencies in some geopolitical garment. ISIS has now claimed territory. The War Lords in Libya are claiming territory just as Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria.
Islam, I am told, means peace. If this is so, then there is little Islam in the world today and Islam has a very odd way of showing peace. All areas of the world where there is conflict and war – Islam is there – Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, India/Pakistan, Pakistan/Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Nigeria. Christianity and Islam are the two religions in which we worship a Man God, but He is unrepresented by any object and His teachings are embodied in one book, the Koran or the Bible.
Moslems believe that the book of the Koran itself is Holy because it contains the words dictated by Allah to Mohammed who faithfully recorded His words. I believe these basic tenets are also accepted by Judaism – one God, unrepresented and unrepresentable, whose words, Moses copied and is kept as the Torah, in the holiest of places.
Both Judaism and Islam had earlier on found cause to fight Christianity which by and large is today represented by the West. Of late, fundamentalism and radicalism has tended to find expression in anti-western feelings; the disgruntled British and American citizens descended from the Middle East have been finding common cause and going to fight in the Middle East.
• To be continued tomorrow
• Dr. Cole, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Brazil, wrote from Lagos.