DEMOCRATIZATION 10

By resisting Sharia the infidels seek to prevent Islam from regaining its strength, and as such they constitute a tool of a global conspiracy: »it is a Christian agenda of a gang-up against the Muslims. […] Nigerian Christians are also doing their own part of work as stipulated by the American New World Order that targets Islam as its archenemy.«[1] When the colonial masters left the country 40 years ago, the Christians took the reins as the ruling class and attempted to disenfranchise the Islamic community.[2] The accusation of continuing European colonial rule also involves a demand to no longer be mistreated by whites. It would be better if Christians participated in the Muslims’ renewal process and repelled the malign influence of the West. The reasoning behind this argument is that Sharia is not aimed at the Christian Igbo or Yoruba let alone Christianity itself but at Western decadence, which threatens all forms of religion. Thus, besides harsh criticism of infidels, calls for reconciliation can also be heard: »I would be the last person to argue that adopting Sharia will have no effect whatsoever on the lifestyle of non-Muslims. It will. […] [However] what is at risk is not true Christian life, but the more tolerant attitude of Westernized Christians and Muslims to many of the vices all criminal codes are meant to check.«[3] Vices such as adultery or theft, which Islamic law seeks to eradicate, are also cited in the Bible as subject to harsh punishment.[4] If European societies still prefer to give free rein to moral decay, they are hoodwinked by irreligious, godless ideas: »If […] the West puts the two (i.e. politics and religion) together again, it may have a better chance of solving its own problem […] of moral decadence, exemplified by widespread drug abuse, pedophil[ia], gay priesthood and gay weddings.«[5]

The appeal to join together across the religious divides in opposition to Western, secular influences may be contrived to appease Christian critics and weaken the front of Sharia opponents. However, this does not mean Sharia supporters with their »resistance to Westernization«[6] do not take it seriously. The decline of their own Islamic world is blamed especially on Europeans; this is why Nigeria’s Sharia activists see themselves as players in a global religious conflict that reaches far back in history. Even the colonial conquest by the British, it is argued, was based on a desire to destroy Islam: »the British imperialists were infidels and grandsons of the crusaders whose aims and objectives were to wipe out Islam from the face of the earth.«[7] The advantage of this version of history is that it makes their social and economic decline understandable. They believe this assault on Islam left Muslims defenseless because without the spiritual protection of their religion alien ideas were capable of taking possession of them:

»Our culture has in the recent past been […] polluted by foreign ideas that end up destabilizing our society and making it difficult for us to define our identity. The result is confusion in thought and action, which has given rise to a general state of frustration and restlessness, manifested in deviant behavior among the generality [of] our people such as armed robbery, drug abuse, large scale fraud, break-up of marriages.«[8]

Social decay, which is considered the result of a modern, multicultural system, is the opposite of the just, well-ordered world of the past. In those days, in the jihad era, devout Muslims were guided by Allah’s instructions alone and were able therefore to establish Islam in its »original pure state«[9]: »after the Jihad, shari’ah was fully implemented and very effective at all sections of Muslims’ life in the north.«[10] It was only conquest by the British that ensured Sharia could no longer be applied unrestricted and that is when corruption spread among Muslim judges.[11] The foreign conquerors also destroyed the harmony that had existed between many peoples: »ethnicity, either as thought or deed, was unheard of in the region.« »Centuries of social and political interaction had led to unity and mutual respect among the various communities.«[12] The torment of slave hunts and the destruction of non-Islamic societies are matters Hausa-Fulani intellectuals usually stay silent about.[13] Islam, which was imposed on many people only by jihad, can be stylized in this way as the »authentic«[14] culture of the country, whereas Western, secular culture, which put an end to the Fulani caliphate, is seen as a foreign, destructive power.[15]

The West’s corrupting influence can only be kept at bay with ceaseless effort. In order not to sink back into laxity and moral relativism, the devout Muslim community has to continuously assure itself of its own identity. Sharia’s advantage here is that it makes individual discrepancies obvious to everyone. Anyone who does not adhere to the dress code or common prayers stands out from the crowd of devout Muslims and is liable to sanctions. The ritual of proscription or penalization keeps the group together even more. Unity is created not only by achieving a balance between various interests but by struggling together against godless behavior. Supporters of Islam see themselves as an ethical community in that they reject evil and attribute it to the infidels. Thus, the West plays a role in Islam’s drama of finding its identity. As an embodiment of everything that threatens the ability of devout Muslims to live together, it becomes an object of bizarre suspicions. In Kanothe council of Islamic scholars expressed concern at the activities of Western development agencies and set an ultimatum for all international aid organizations to leave the state.[16] Particular suspicions were aroused by UNICEF’s polio vaccinations. It was said the vaccination program was part of an American conspiracy to depopulate the country. The vaccine was said to contain substances that transmit AIDS or cause sterility. Lab tests in Kano confirmed this suspicion and the governments of four states stopped the polio vaccinations.[17]

The return to strict religious observance does not mean Sharia supporters are turning away from modernity. They are only looking for a different modernity that is more in keeping with Arab archetypes, with glittering skyscrapers as in Saudi-Arabia but without the decadence of the West.[18] There is no place in this vision for a renaissance of traditional ›African‹ values. Sharia supporters are more interested in »de-Africanizing«[19] their culture, which leads them to abandon the shared traditions they could fall back on when negotiating with the Christian side. Nigeria’s Christians are certainly not keen either on being guided by traditional values or lifestyles. The independent African churches in particular, which have disengaged from the influence of the major, European mission churches, are inclined to demonize ›heathen‹ traditions.[20] This does not mean African Christians feel an obligation to the ideals of European societies. Their relationship with the modern Western world is rather ambivalent. It is their opponents especially who identify them with the West. When American forces attack Afghanistan or Iraq, Muslim protesters march through Kano, shout anti-US slogans and burn down the churches and stores of Igbo migrants.[21] A Sharia study by Freedom House, which sought to sympathize with the Christian minority, pointed out that on their protest marches Muslims hit the streets carrying posters of Osama bin Laden, while Christian demonstrators waved American flags.[22] However, enthusiasm for the US as well as European countries is rather limited. For decades Africans made efforts to copy European development programs but poverty and underdevelopment continue to plague them. The blessings of Western civilization have not spread among them and they do not know why. Like the Muslims they tend to see anyone better off as responsible for their misery, which is why whites are associated with various conspiracies. Christian preachers cite quotes from Revelation, mixed with alleged reports from secret service people, to prove the EU is the embodiment of the Antichrist.[23] Europe is regarded as a godless continent, a new »Babylon.«[24] Even representatives of the major mission churches distance themselves from the West’s moral decay and thus from a liberal Christianity that accepts such profanity:

»the primate of [the] Anglican Church, Archbishop Jasper Akinola had said the minds of all Nigerian Christians […]. [Homosexuality] is a perversion of Christianity and Christian Culture. […] Anytime, we see a self confessed Gay bishop or reverend we’ll withdraw. We will withdraw from World Council of Churches. It is incompatible with Christianity especially African Christianity and time has come now when we should go and re-Christianize the white people.«[25]

A likely reason for the fact that Nigerian Christians draw such stark lines between themselves and godless Europeans is their efforts to accommodate their Muslim rivals. This is because Islam, which is also winning many converts in southern Nigeria, is gaining a lot of support especially by attacking the morally bankrupt West.[26] However, Christian criticism of sexual permissiveness and tolerance is also an expression of a fundamental change in African Christianity, a change that also affects the relationship between religion and the state. Nigeria’s churches have committed themselves to secularism less out of conviction than for pragmatic reasons: in order to prevent religious polarization from occurring. But since Muslims show few scruples in making use of state powers, the churches are also starting to assert political claims. Militant Christianity is forging ahead everywhere in Africa; the many independent churches in particular, which attract larger congregations than the Catholics, Anglicans and other mainline churches, are vehemently anti-Islamic.[27] Some politicians pick up on this mood and strike a pose as defenders of their faith, such as Igbo leader Ojukwu: »we are tired of being threatened. No religion has a monopoly of violence. If […] you tell me about the Jihad, know that we had our Crusades too, and you did not fare better.«[28] Christianity and Islam are coming closer together but there is no improvement in their understanding of each other.[29] Instead it appears they are turning into mutually hostile look-alikes. Muslims, for example, copy Christian missionary techniques by building schools, hospitals and other facilities with funds from Saudi-Arabia. Even Islamic healing centers have arisen similar to the Pentecostal church model, in which devout Muslims undergo spiritual rebirth and divine miracles cure them from all types of ailments.[30] But efforts like these to break into the realm of the other religion only reinforce the rivalry between them.

The fact that Christians follow Muslim example and turn away from secular trends certainly also has to do with the separation of religion and politics being alien to them. It is a relic of the colonial era, which has never really caught on. At a conference on Sharia in Nigeria, which was funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, hardly anyone was willing to defend secular principles.[31] Black theologians stress that religion has always been seen as all-embracing in their culture.[32] As Africans perceive the world in religious terms especially, they also tend to apply the Bible’s message directly to political matters.[33] This interpretation relies especially on Old Testament texts, such as Psalms or the books of prophesy, in which a warlike God brings death and destruction to his enemies. The devout may find truths in this, which are better suited to present-day conflicts than the ideals of an enlightened and tolerant Christianity. Under the influence of Biblical teaching Christian politicians and clerics have no objection to wishing God’s vengeance on their opponents. They openly threaten to annihilate them with Holy Ghost Fire. When several dozen corpses were discovered near a traditional shrine, opponents of the priests there burned it down along with the ancient place of worship. A bishop of the Overcomer Christian Mission took spiritual responsibility for this: »God gave me victory. I called on God to kill them and burn their shrine to ashes.«[34]When it comes to Muslims Bishop Ekewuba also favors a violent solution: »Let them thank God that I am not a politician, otherwise any time they kill one Igbo man in Kano or Kaduna, I will order that 10 Moslems be killed here.«[35]

 

 

 

 



   [1]           Hotline,12 March 2000, p. 31.

   [2]           Chukkol, Penal Code, p. 30.

   [3]           Mohammed Haruna, in Hotline,9 April 2000, pp. 24–25.

   [4]           Hotline,12 March 2000, p. 14 and 9 April 2000, p. 25; cf. Leviticus,20:10.

   [5]           Hotline,9 April 2000, p. 25.

   [6]           Mazrui, Shariacracy, p. 4.

   [7]           Hotline,7 May 2000, p. 33.

   [8]           Okunnu, Women, p. 5.

   [9]           Doi, Islam, p. 44.

[10]           Abubakar D. Muhammad, Muslim Responses, p. 2; Khan, Mirath, p. 181; Tabi’u/Rashid, Islamic Law, p. 48; Gwandu, Sokoto Caliphate, pp. 11–12; see also Harneit-Sievers, Jihad vs. Miss World, pp. 7–8.

[11]           Ado-Kurawa, Shari’ah, pp. 290, 292, 307.

[12]           Gumi, Where I Stand, pp. 125, 119; Doi, Islam, p. 44.

[13]           Abubakar Gumi (Where I Stand, p. 191) does mention reports of slave raids by jihadists, but only to dismiss them as Christian propaganda.

[14]           Mazrui, Shariacracy, p. 4.

[15]           In order to break the old established religion’s power, it is said the colonial administration systematically discriminated against Muslims: »Christianity was made the State religion in Nigeriaand all official policies by government were deliberately arranged to support Christians.« (Gumi, Where I Stand, p. 188) Even the current religious conflicts are thought to be merely the »result of European indoctrination«: »The Europeans trained the African Christians in such a way that they hate Islam and everything associated with it including the Shari’ah.« (Ibrahim Sulaiman, Shari’ah and Constitution, pp. 63, 62) While Muslims in northern Nigeria accuse their colonial masters of having fought against Islam, the reverse accusation is heard among Christians in the south: that the British favored the Islamic elite and their faith. To prevent power falling into the hands of the Igbo or Yoruba in an independent Nigeria, they are even supposed to have rigged the 1952/53 census, so that the north obtained a majority of seats in the national parliament (Benjamin Adekunle, in Tell, 27 March 2000, p. 15). According to prominent Igbo and Yoruba politicians the British government also made covert arrangements to influence the current Sharia campaign: »It is in the British interest to support Sharia in the North because Britain has a lot to do with Muslim states« (Tell, 31 July 2000, pp. 27, 28).

[16]           Tell, 5 February 2001, p. 40; Ibrahim, Democracy, p. 16.

[17]           Economist, 10 January 2004, p. 32; Tell, 8 March 2004, pp. 56–57; Newswatch,16 August 2004, pp. 54–55. – In June 2004, following tough negotiations with UNO, oral vaccinations were reintroduced but with a vaccine made in Muslim Indonesia.

[18]           The wealth of Saudi-Arabia, on which pilgrims to Meccareport on their return, is interpreted as the result of a strict Islamic way of life: »the United States of America […] have the largest investments [in] Saudi Arabia. […] They have not treated the kingdomof Saudi Arabiaas a pariah state and their investments are the most secured […] because Islam is against dishonesty”. (Dr. Lateef Adegbite, in Vanguard, 24 March 2002, p. 21) »only one murder case was reported in 1997 in Saudi Arabia where Shari’ah is being practised” (Hotline, 23 April 2000, p. 31; cf. Nouhou, Wahhabisme, p. 78).

[19]           Miles, Shari’a, p. 65. – »L’ennemi n’est pas la modernité mais la tradition, ou plutot […] tout ce qui n’est pas la tradition du Prophète« (Olivier Roy, in Kane, Réformisme, p. 118).

[20]           Meyer, Break with the Past, p. 329; Gifford, African Christianity, pp. 333–334.

[21]           Tell,29 October 2001, pp. 32–33.

[22]           Freedom House, Talibanization, pp. 4, 16, 32; Metan, Dilemmas, p. 289.

[23]           Ezekwe, European Union, pp. 93–102, 111–116; Sunday Star,10 November 1996.

[24]           Milingo, Demarcations, p. 25.

[25]           Ola Makinde, Methodist Archbishop of Lagos, in Newswatch,3 May 2004, p. 45.

[26]           Jenkins, Defender of the Faith, p. 49.

[27]           Gifford, African Christianity, pp. 317, 347.

[28]           Tell,6 March 2000, p. 25.

[29]           Christian reactions to political Islam are described in detail in Hock (Islam-Komplex). At a conference onNigeria in Bensberg, on June 24 and 25, 2002, Klaus Hock spoke of an »Islamization of Christianity.«

[30]           Tell,8 December 2003, p. 51.

[31]           Harneit-Sievers, Debate about Sharia, p. 3.

[32]           Aderibigbe, African Religion, p. 41.

[33]           Gifford, African Christianity, pp. 42–43.

[34]           Alexander Ekewuba, in Newswatch,6 September 2004, p. 48.

[35]           The Source,25 February 2002, p. 12.