Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some are smug and some are afraid

The words of Orhan Pamuk, Nobel laureate from Turkey (where East meets West, I suppose, although East meets West inside Nigeria too, through the religions) :

What literature needs most to tell and investigate today are humanity's basic fears: the fear of being left outside, and the fear of counting for nothing, and the feelings of worthlessness that come with such fears; the collective humiliations, vulnerabilities, slights, grievances, sensitivities, and imagined insults, and the nationalist boasts and inflations that are their next of kin ...

Whenever I am confronted by such sentiments, and by the irrational, overstated language in which they are usually expressed, I know they touch on a darkness inside me. We have often witnessed peoples, societies and nations outside the Western world–and I can identify with them easily–succumbing to fears that sometimes lead them to commit stupidities, all because of their fears of humiliation and their sensitivities.

I also know that in the West–a world with which I can identify with the same ease–nations and peoples taking an excessive pride in their wealth, and in their having brought us the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and Modernism, have, from time to time, succumbed to a self-satisfaction that is almost as stupid.

Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Lecture (translation by Maureen Freely)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Must religions be in competition?

The purpose of all religions was/is to direct large groups of human beings in improving their lives.
All religions teach tips for emotional health like tolerance and peace; they try to help us get past our attimes destructive impulses; they try to make us higher in our understanding of the natural and social and unknown worlds that we live in.  No religion is perfect (but if you want to argue this, please try in the comments section.)

If all are trying to accomplish the same thing, why fight over religion?

In Dialogue of the Deaf (yesterday's Daily Trust newspaper), the writer Adamu Adamu points out that such fights are over nothing. I quote:
"[Story of] the famous travellers in the Mathnawi of Maulavi. Four people were travelling together—an Arab, a Persian, a Turk and a Greek—and, as is the nature of travel, they soon became very hungry; and just when it was getting unbearable, they found a dinar. They gave thanks to God, but in trying to decide what to do with it, a bitter disagreement broke out between them.
The Arab said they must buy inab with the dinar or nothing. The Persian angrily said he would have nothing to do with that inab; they must buy angur. The Turk said they must buy uzum; while the Greek said there would be a war if they didn’t buy isitafil with the money. And the sabre-rattling began.
The Arab, who had the money in his hands rushed and bought inab and it was only when he returned that each realised that inab, angur, uzum , and istafil all mean the same thing—grapes, respectively in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Greek. And war was averted when they finally realised that they were saying the same thing but in their different languages."

As a good Christian, must I defend Christianity to make sure that it survives?  So what if my inherited religion disappears?  Christianity was born out of the ashes of previous beliefs anyway - e.g. Roman paganism, Jewish myth, and in Nigeria for instance, African religions.  And where did Roman beliefs come from?  And the Jews who had travelled widely within a 1000km radius at the time?
Now you can imagine some of the origins of Islam, a big influence may even have been Christianity.  My point is that religions evolve, and God may not be asking us to keep them static.

In the same article, Adamu says that the path to peace may lie in abandoning the desire to win the most territory for our religion.  He writes: "... so long as Christians do not allow themselves to be agents of imperialism and Muslims do not allow themselves to be agents of imperialism-affiliated conservative Arab reactionary forces, they will have no reason for quarrel; for, in the real sense of the word, they are not in competition when each is involved in the doing of good or in accomplishing God’s work."

Ramadan Millennium, 1999, View of Al Aqsa Mosque through Church Spire, Jerusalem, By Rula Halawani

    Read Dialogue of the Deaf, an article about the inter-faith dialogue necessary to stopping religious violence in Northern Nigeria.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Fashola said

    Babatunde Raji Fashola is a lawyer and is respected as the competent Governor of Lagos State. He has both moral education and advanced "western" education. At a Ramadan lecture last month, he spoke of the need for peace:

    “Africa, and indeed Nigeria, is one of the pre-eminent investment exiles and oasis to pitch. But, if we do not address those very nagging issues of insecurity, those issues of ethnic and religious divide, investment will not come here”, the Governor said and urged all Muslims in the country to pray for peace and security in the country at this period of Ramadan.
    He added, “It is in our hands now and in this very special month, one of the prayers I would urge us to engage in is to pray that those who are angered and who resort to violence would sheath their swords. When we have peace, when we have security, this economy will prosper beyond our imagination”.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Al-Azhar protest AGAINST terrorism

    Al-Azhar University in Cairo Egypt is the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world.
    وقفة «الأزهر» ضد الإرهاب
    Here is a photo of Azhar University students during a demonstration against terrorism, Azhar University, Cairo.
    "Azhar University staged a protest condemning the Alexandria church bombings which took lives of more than 20 and left scores injured.
    Protest was led by Grand Imam of Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Abdullah al-Husseiny, University President. Number of faculty members and students took part."
    News photo and description from , a leading Egyptian news site, in January 2011.

    Modern Society needs MORE than just Islamic knowledge

    In ‘Beyond Belief’, as in ‘Among the Believers’, Naipaul frames the predicament of his converted Muslims as one of cultural self-rejection, a disregard for their pre-Islamic past in favour of what one Walcott poem calls “borrowed ancestors”.

    His considered view is that faith in Islam is no substitute for the serious mental effort required to build a humane, well-oiled modern society. Political Islam is seen as offering no realistic, empirical solutions to the problems of a developing nation, nothing save, as in the Ayatollah’s Iran, “rage, anarchy”.

    Clifford Geertz, writing on Indonesia in 2000, pointed out that the Islamic parties there did not have “much of a program beyond moralism and xenophobia”.
    Naipaul’s use of the medical term neurosis conveys a lot about his view of Islamic faith.

    Visiting an Indonesia pesantren (village boarding school) in ‘Among the Believers’, Naipaul is scathing about the learning method: “ was Islamisation; it was stupefaction, greater than any that could have come with a Western- style curriculum”.

    Adding to the dim view he takes is the perceived hypocrisy of Muslims loathing the West while clutching Harvard and Oxford degrees and seeking aircraft technology...

    All the above is excerpted from a fabulous review of V.S. Naipaul's travel writing from Islamic lands, written in by Missang Oyongha (August 14, 2011). Please read the original review here.

    I think the Nobel Laureate Naipaul's comments makes the same point that Wafa Sultan has tried to make, that: to rely on Islamic belief alone, thereby rejecting other forms of inquiry and knowledge is unlikely to be a winning strategy in the end.

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    The Metamorphosis of Boko Haram, in today's This Day newspaper

    Simon Kolawole writes:

    In the beginning, they preached a form of Islam that described fellow Muslims who did not share their views as “infidels”. They were chased out of the mosque. Then, they set up their own kingdom and became activists, preaching against bad governance and immorality in high places. For effect, they said the Western way of life, including education, is sin. They started demanding the Islamisation of Nigeria.

    They became outlaws, chased up and down by the police, who killed their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, in the process. In retaliation, they launched an all-out war on the police, bombing stations and murdering policemen. They went as far as attacking the police headquarters in Abuja—their most daring raid then. They killed politicians who were fellow Muslims, attacked churches for the fun of it, and were suspected to have robbed banks...

    Whatever the case may be, I think Boko Haram has gone too far. Those who sympathise with them on the basis of police persecution must be reviewing their position by now. Some of those who sympathise with them out of ethno-religious sentiments must also be more circumspect now.
    Read the rest here...

    I ask:
    Is Boko Haram?
    Is Boko-Haram Haram?
    Is the activity of Boko Haram permitted by Islamic Law?
    Please those who know better should teach those who don't know. Post a comment.

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    Does the Quran call Muslims to kill unbelievers?

    The speaker is Wafa Sultan. From her Wikipedia profile:

    "They shot hundreds of bullets into [her professor], shouting, 'Allahu Akbar!' " she said. "At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings.

    On February 21, 2006, she took part in Al Jazeera's weekly 45-minute discussion program The Opposite Direction. She spoke from Los Angeles, arguing with host Faisal al-Qassem and with Ibrahim Al-Khouli, a professor at Al-Azhar University in Cairo (Egypt)

    In this video she criticised Muslims for treating non-Muslims differently, and for not recognizing the accomplishments of Jewish and other members of non-Muslim society while using their wealth and technology.

    Sultan describes her thesis as witnessing "a battle between modernity and barbarism which Islam will lose". Sultan believes that "The trouble with Islam is deeply rooted in its teachings. Islam is not only a religion. Islam [is] also a political ideology that preaches violence and applies its agenda by force."