Sunday, September 24, 2006

Islam can be (and often is) a good-faith player for peace in Nigeria

The comments posted to a blog should never be considered a pure reflection of the blog itself or of the readers of the blog (there's too much self-selection in who actually posts comments), but I found a recent thread on titusonenine (a blog run by Rev Canon Kendall Harmon of South Carolina) regarding recent riots in Nigeria by Muslims against Christian-minority churches and property to be disturbing. One commenter wrote:
Ah yes. Islam, the religion of peace.
Since I easily grow tired of this kind of Michelle Malkin-style religious polarization, the kind occassionally seeded by the Institute on Religion and Democracy, I got involved in the thread, pointing out, as one can see if they go to the end of the thread, that the violence is much more complicated than a "my prophet is better than your prophet" sort of struggle.

In fact, Muslim leaders in Nigeria, both religious and civil, seeing the coming electoral conflict in 2007, are working hard to stem this tide of internecine religious conflict, just as their Christian counterparts are doing so in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican). In the Vanguard yesterday (September 23) [my emphasis]:

In a special announcement made on the state-owned Kaduna State Radio Corporation (KSMC) Mr Ibhaze [the state police commissioner] said his command was reliably informed that trouble makers wanted to ferment trouble either yesterday or immediately after today's Jumat prayers pointing out that the aim was to cause violence and destruction.

Ibhaze said: "good morning the good and peace loving people of Kaduna State. As we look forward to sighting the moon any moment from today, I wish you Allah's blessings and a rewarding ramadan fast.

"We are reliably informed that some trouble makers want to infiltrate our faithful worshippers today (22/9/2006) during or immediately after the Friday prayers. Their aim is to cause trouble and cause a reign of destruction in this peace loving state.

"My dear good people of Kaduna state, I urge you to say no to violence; no to riots and no to destruction.

"What we need at this stage, is prayers and sober reflection so that Muslims and their Christian brothers can continue to live in peace. The police has not granted any body or group permit to do a precession or rally.

"Anyone who ferments trouble or sponsors chaos will be arrested and prosecuted. A word is enough for the wise."

The "threat" of Islam is commonly used, by the allies of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola, to explain or deflect criticism of his actions. To whit, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh (Episcopal) wrote the following Friday regarding the recent move by the Anglican Communion's Global South Bishops to call for an idealogically purified and separate Anglican Church in the United States [my emphasis]:
We are deeply humbled by the care shown for us by our Fathers in God in the Global South ... In many places they and the Anglicans they pastor face poverty, disease and persecution for their faith on a scale that goes far beyond anything that threatens us. In fact, just this week, Anglicans in Nigeria saw their cathedral in Dutse burned to the ground by rioting Muslims. Yet, in the midst of dealing with these massive issues, they continue to offer us their support and guidance. We can only be profoundly grateful.
The same "threat of Islam" was used by Bishop Duncan (back in March, 2006) to rationalize the fully anti-democratic, anti-gay legislation that had been endorsed by Archbishop Akinola (an excerpt):
Bishop Chane's comments betray a profound lack of empathy or understanding for the position that Archbishop Akinola and all Christians in Nigeria find themselves in. During the last few weeks in Nigeria, an archdeacon has been murdered and two bishops have survived assassination attempts.

All were attacked by what appear to be Islamic extremists. During the same time, Islamic violence ignited by the publishing of Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed have claimed the lives of scores of lay Christians and seen numerous churches destroyed in Nigeria.

Further, it should be noted that while the proposed law sounds harsh to American ears, the penalty for homosexual activities in those parts of Africa under Islamic Sharia law (such as the Sudan and portions of Northern Nigeria for that matter) is death. It is precisely the imposition of these much harsher Sharia laws that Archbishop Akinola and other Anglican leaders in Africa have resisted so strongly for many years with little publicity or support from the West.
You seeing the pattern? Islam has become a convenient scapegoat for all kinds of anti-democratic initiatives.

Nice try, guys, but if Islam is such a threat to minorities and thus to democracy, then face up to it with a higher standard (i.e., a commitment to real democracy)! If it's not the threat you make it out to be, as suggested by the very well-meaning words of Commissioner Ibhaze above, then start answering criticism with facts and substance!

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