By Boto Sanneh
In response to Dr. Manta’s two articles, while applauding his criticisms of both the terrorist attack on France and the attack on Mosques and Islamic centres, I must say it is with great dismay that I notice what looks like some claim of parity in the gravity of the two sets of crimes. The first is a crime against the bodies and lives of humans, the other the damage of properties. Putting them on parity I think is unfortunate. Mosques and centres can be rebuilt but lives we cannot resurrect.
Besides this, in the way Dr. Manta casts the two crimes against each other suggests that he believes the two, that is Christian West and the Muslim World, are currently lurked in some kind of a balance of terror. One maintained by the gestation and spread of militant and political Islam on the one hand and a growingly restive Western coalition of the Christian Right, Far-Right, anti-immigrant groups, racists, imperialist Western governments and political parties.
Dr Manta wrote that, Islam “is indeed part and parcel of the Western social fabric. Muslims fought and died in both the first and second world wars to defend liberty, equality and fraternity, the very essence of the French Republic.” Does our fighting in the two world wars make us part of the Western social fabric? I do not see how.
The current social fabric of Western societies is the cumulated experiences of European peoples over the centuries through wars, exploration, the enlightenment, the reformation, revolutions, scientific discoveries, industrialization, etc. So Islam as a major world religion must naturally have had some influence, however peripheral, on the making of Western culture and civilization but on its social fabric, I disagree with the learned doctor.
It is true that at the beginning of the first millennia Christian European armies waged centuries old wars against the Islamic caliphate and that must have been an occasion for the two civilizations to rub with each other and borrowed elements from each other. Before this, ancient Greek mathematicians had taken mathematics and other scientific theories from the Arab scholars and lent them to the Greeks, who through the Latin language can be said to have made it available to the later day Western civilization. It was the works of Greek scholars and historians that sparked Greek interest and curiosity for the ancient world of the Arabs.
I have no knowledge of the Arabs making the reverse as Dr. Manta claims. He wrote: “Muslim philosophers and thinkers from Farabi to Averroes played an indelible role in commenting on and translating the Greek thought upon which the European Renaissance and Enlightenment was anchored.” Also I do not believe that the Europeans were in any need of any Arab translation or commentaries of the ancient Greek philosophers to comprehend them. They had Latin as the language of medium, not Arabic.
Dr. Drammeh then ventured on his onslaught on the so-called the theory of the Clash of Cultures: “Proponents of clash of civilisations would like us to believe that there is an inevitable clash of civilisations or a kind of religious war. However, I refute the claim of clash of civilisations. I think that kind of assumption is based on the lack of the knowledge of history and intellectual superficiality.”
Because according to him,” * *Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all part of the Abrahamic tradition. Thus, they share common ethical values.”
And, he went on: “Contrary to the clash of civilisations theory that is based on the hegemonic vision of global politics, countries should revisit and reconsider their social policies vis a vis the so-called ethnic/religious minorities and foreign policies. In many European countries, ethnic minority communities feel despondent and hopeless. The sense of marginalisation and ghettoization has to be seriously addressed.”
But I think that here, the learned doctor got it all wrong again, first the so called “proponents” are actually not advocates, as the choice of words tend to suggest, but scholars trying to warn readers, in the wake of the conclusion of the Cold War that a future global clash was on the way unless people are prepared to thwart it. Samuel Huntington and his fellow scholars of this persuasion must not be compared to the bigots of the far right.
No proper understanding of their writing would entertain the doctor’s damning conclusion. At beginning of the 1990s the world had just concluded humanity’s noisiest and scariest conflict and world leaders were intoxicated with the idea of their triumph. Western powers now considered themselves the new and sole sheriff in town, flexing muscles all around and despising all that was non-Western and beginning to feel that their way of is the only template for any other people who want to modernize and prosper. Before, that template was optional for the non-Western peoples, but the rigor of the sense after the victory over world communism made adoption of it now mandatory.
The then much-hailed globalization, actually cultural homogenization, was trophy for their triumph. But nature thrives on diversity so it was natural that there arose some who are against globalization and many more against cultural homogenization. This was the alarm-raising that Huntington and his chaps were waking us up to. The previous nearly forty years Cold War might have come to a close but there are many deadly legacies we still have to grapple with.
Some of these are the military industrial complex and the biggest collection of arms in human history plus the swathes of territory the world-over made unusable because they still wait to be demined or de-toxicated. But a less realized legacy is the vacuum left by the Cold War.
Nature does not like vacuums and history does not either. Often in history and on the world stage, conflicts, when long and tempestuous, and especially when suddenly concluded tend to continue in other forms, By change of actors, arguments or setting.
I agree with most of what is held by this view and disagree with most of Dr. Drammeh’s assertions. His stance is standard with nearly all apologia for the terrorism being carried in the name of Islam. “Oh! The terrorists are just using Islam, but they are not Muslims,” Such statements do not add any value to any discourse. It is, I think, just a pre-emption against being deemed part of the collective guilt.
Islam has been endemic to violence since the passing away of the Prophet (SAW) in 622AD. A good number of his successors got murdered. Over the centuries clan and tribal rivalries exploded into civil wars in which whole clans got slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have lost their lives in wars and conflicts between Shia and Sunni over the centuries and currently. Prospects of restoring durable peace between the two is very unlikely within the foreseeable future.
In ADB 750 two rival sub-clans of the prophet’s Hashemite, the Abbasids and the Ummayads, with the former almost completely annihilating members of the later sub-clan. So to the growing number of people who are with the view that there is something in the practice of Islam, not the theory as instructed by Allah and propounded by the Holy Prophet, that inevitably leads to violence of all sorts, I seem to belong to despite being Muslim.
Dr. Drammeh makes a differentiation between what he called jihad and jihadism and even questions the authenticity of the religious faith those called jihadists. But so say almost all Muslim comments on the many atrocities committed daily in communities across the world. But we can today only go by self-ascription, unless we go by fatwa. *And even with that we are likelier to find as many contradictory interpretations as the number of clergymen we care to consult. * Looks like we are on the verge of a return journey back to the middle age or we must think of possible pre-emptions and remedies.
The violence of the jihadists now spreads like Prairie fire all across the world and world leaders are yet to adopt any concerted action against this menace other than war and efforts of preventing the jihadists from access to funds and weapons. But neither looks like being sufficiently effective against it yet wit tempo of explosions among civilians hastening, jihadist groups multiplying and new recruits being now churned out not only by tens of thousands of madrasas but almost of immigrant ghettoes in the urban centers of Europe and America.
The war that will be able to stop the jihadist onslaughts on humans everywhere will be one with a make that we have never seen and it is likely to change our ways of life considerably, our civilization radically when waged. It will be a lose-lose irrational war without any possible winner.
Somewhat unexpectedly Dr. Drammeh launched into what I take to be quasi-political diatribe: “It is difficult to absorb, but it is a difficult reality that the Foreign policies in Iraq and Syria for example have to be reconsidered.”
I wonder what the learned doctor mean with this! So in his views the question is not one of conflict of faith, religions, cultures or civilizations but that of foreign policies on Iraq and Syria. He went on further: some ordinary Muslims question why the West is not intervening in Syria? But they are in Iraq when the alarm of ISIL was rung. Moreover, there seems to be a calculation not to openly intervene in Syria when it is clear that there are serious violations of human rights and alleged crimes against humanity. Other questions whether this is duplicity of standards or promotion of national geo-strategic interests of individual countries?”
So the horrors of the ISIL atrocities can be compared to that of the Syrian government? Assad’s violations of human rights graver than those of ISIL. So it is duplicity of standards to join with Assad and even the Iranians to face the ISIL threat? Remember, the West agreed to court the East in the fight against Nazism and fascism. It is an elementary logic that people unite first against the major enemy before settling scores against each other.
But what is wrong with Dr. Manta’s position is far more serious than these his foreign policy rhetoric. Like most modern members of the Gambian, or even African Islamic, clergy and intelligentsia, Dr. Manta seemed to be so steeped in what I would call Arabo-centricism. This is the belief that the Arab world is the centre of the globe, its preoccupations the core of all human affairs and its culture and religion the template of “proper” fashion of human living on earth. Dr. Manta and his ilk are so trapped in this religious dogmatism not only cannot they see beyond Islam they do not think there is anything beyond it that ought to be peered at.
This is why the learned doctor has cast the issue solely in the polar dichotomy of the Christian West against the Arabo-Islamic East, with little consideration to the atrocities of jihadists elsewhere in Africa, Asia. There is hardly any mention of the Boku Haram jihadists, the al Sabab in Kenya and Somalia, Mali and Central Africa, Taliban, etc.
And yet, in my opinion, perhaps it is we, non-ethnic Arab Muslims, who form the great majority of world Muslims who need to have a fresh look at the whole affair once more. The world Umma has been so trapped with nationalistic Arab issues since the end of Second World War that Muslims of non-Arab ethnic origins need to see if there are no avenues to ending this threat of an all-out war between the West backing international Zionism against the Muslim world of the Arabs. Intellectuals like Dr. Manta and other Muslim intellectuals must dare search for solutions where it had never been sought by the Muslim clergy and authorities.
We may be Muslims or Christians, but that we are Africans saddles on us certain natural responsibilities, the shouldering of which implies looking further beyond, religious, and cultural or other divides.