“I want to task Dr Manta’s Timbuktu Foundation to try to uncover the debates on jihad between Usman Danfodio and the Sultan of Borno , Soni Ali and the Elders of Feleta or Sheikh Umar Taal and Ahmadou of Masina.” Boto Sanneh
Please allow me to thank and congratulate Dr. Manta for a brilliant response. However such discussions when faith-based are unlikely to yield any fruit that can benefit neither participants nor the readership. At the risk of being seen as heretical, non-Muslim or even anti-Islamic I dare plunge into this discourse because of the big danger that jihadism presently poses to mankind everywhere, most especially that part of it that has been historically deprived and now ought to be preoccupied with the tasks of fighting poverty, ignorance and disease as prelude to catching up.
This is not about the teachings of the Prophet (SAW) of Islam, its rituals, its image and grandeur but about its practice, the implications of that practice in the real world. Nor is it anywhere near a questioning of the legitimacy or validity of any religion, organized or de-structured. The great achievements of human civilizations have been to reconcile faith with reason, the religious and the secular the irrational and the logical and our best chance of successfully meeting the coming challenges to our cherished way of life is the cultivation of those triple achievements.
Dr. Manta’s critique was broad-based, leaving little that I said untouched, but, with due respect, shallow and too faith-oriented. I will take some of them in the reverse order, with the last first and first last. He ended by inviting me for live debate over Kaironews, but as grateful as I am for that invitation, I must decline Knowing not what its real purpose is for. If it was a debate on the corrupt practices of the Gambia-based Muslim clerics, their servile following of presidential dictates on when to pray, how to pray, etc, then it would have been worth the while. But a session of empty mimicries, dry citations and other theological platitudes I dislike.
In his final note the learned Dr. wrote “.., I must say that Islam is a religion and revelation. It must not be reduced to a political or national ideology of X and Y.”
I honestly think that Dr. Manta is much more culpable of reductionism than I am. He it was who came up with what he called ghettoerization of immigrants in European cities and the foreign policy matters on Syria, both of which are political issues.
He went on to write that “Islam is a religion of peace, fraternity and compassion;” yes as the prophet once taught, but not in the practice Islam of all the ages that followed. Let the learned Dr. tell one century he can remember, since 624 AD when throats have not been cut, limbs dismembered and innocents killed in the name of Islam.”
Then he concluded “it is indeed guidance for humanity towards their well-being here and hereafter.” This is were culture comes in because our understanding of what is “well-being” is perhaps more part of our culture than our nature.
Yes that was what I was saying all along, that unlike most other orthodoxies, religious, or otherwise, Islam has been passed on from hundreds of generations without any debates and reforms. This, I think, has been the faults of its succession of custodians dating back from the Caliphs, the Ottomans and the current Salafist dynasty. Any call for reform or and tolerance for variance is considered heretical and death-deserving. So Dr. Manta might not have gone sufficiently far enough but I think he has sniffed a bit of the brewing coffee when he wrote, “I also believe we should have new variables for analysis regarding such relations.” What we need goes deeper than new variables for analysis. What we need are radically new parameters of understanding life, existence, and the commonality of our species and our one and only God.
“On another note, I reiterate that extremism is colourless, without a race, region or religion.” Yes, the doctor is right there, but if there is one form of extremism that is consistently being displayed in the name one creed, and that now poses as the greatest threat to world peace, and whose threat appears bigger and more expansive every day, it ought to be properly defined to be properly understood and easier defeated.
He also wrote, “Terrorism is a threat to humanity and must be confronted ideologically, politically and culturally.” Yes, but now you must add physically, because jihadists now do not only preach, throwing bombs at innocent people has become their trade mark. A recent study puts the percentages of the religious belonging of victims put Muslims at 95%.
Before this he had written, “Europe went through a difficult period between Christian denominations. The First and second world wars claimed millions of lives in Europe. But would Christianity be blamed for that. I will say no.”
Yes Europe really did, but those interdenominational strives were based on doctrines, articulated and spread wide around the continent. Therefore Emperor Constantine could organized a synod to resolve the issues after they were laid bare with all positions on each issue.
The problem with the current crisis is that it is by and large non-doctrinaire the demands impractical, if not totally idiotic. So there is nothing to hold on to for any sensible negotiation.
None of the two wars were fought on religious lines, so why has the good doctor brought them in?
Also he wrote, “Christianity like Islam promotes peace and love.” The usual platitudes, but also wrong, because the names of both religion have been used at one time or the other against peace and love. The centuries old Crusade of 999 AD, the Catholic inquisitions, Islamist conquests, the enslavement of black Africans, wars and jihads, the role of the Catholic church in the Spanish civil war and in NAZI Germany, the catalogue goes on and on.
“It is a big misjudgement for Brother Sanneh to assert that “Islam has been endemic to violence..” by referring to the Shia-Sunni conflict.” I misjudged no, but I erred yes I would say because it is in fact the reverse that is true, Islam is not endemic to violence but violence has been endemic to the practice of Islam. From the assassinations of a line of early caliphs, the incessant Shiite Sunni wars, the exterminations of ruling lineages by the others, the wars of conquests, etc etc; and that the predatory character of successive custodians of the Islamist faith. All added up to make the practice of a most popular religious faith the unintended bastion of violence.
To my surprise the learned doctor, here, tries to minimize damage by writing, “Apart from the recent Shiite-Sunni conflict in Iraq and the historical conflict in which Imam Hussain was martyred , how many times have we witnessed conflicts between Shiites and Sunnis across the world? Those conflicts were purely political and religion is now used to magnify them.”
My answer to Dr. Manta’s question is yes many, many times, almost every day since the assassination of Imam Hussain, in fact before that, the assassination of his father, Imam Ali, up to the current times we live in. The conflicts had to be “purely political” since Islam, though before a Diaspora project of Meccans living in exile in Medina later became a religion hosted by the court of the caliphate. Islam has in its roots, genesis the politics that is hardly to be found in any other organized creed of faith.
The good doctor cautions that “We should therefore not simplify complex sociological, political and ideological events and blame them on religion.” But I only wonder who is simplifying what.
Born in the poor, remote area of western section of the Arabian Peninsular, a place, one scholar wrote, “so impoverished no one outsider had ever attempted to conquer, the place was stateless with its people organize in ever warring tribes, the Prophet came with an ideology that was universalist in perspective talking about a world Umma, way above tribal hamlets an villages. Surrounded by states like Egypt, Byzantines, Syria the ancient Persian state of Sasania, people among whom the Prophet(SAW) emerge were much behind in all forms of development. But the Arab caliphate that he left behind soon became a world power through conquest and expansion and went up till the gates of France in 732 A at the battle of Poiters.
Dr. Manta accuses me of “ historical fallacy” for my claim that it was from the Greeks that the Latin civilization took most stuff of Arab learning making it later available to Western civilization as it is today known. Well we can each hold on its views on this matter without hampering this discourse because it is of very minor issue, I believe.
I never denied anywhere that “ Muslims contributed to the European Renaissance and Enlightenment” but Dr. Manta failed to come up with one instance such contributions. Further on, he wrote, “It was the golden age of Islam which went as far as the Mali Empire [State] and Turkey where scholarship flourished and progressed.” Yes It might have been a golden age of Arab princes an Muftis of the time but certainly not for millions of Africans enslaved in Arab wars, homes as slaves an palaces as eunuchs, gladiators and the like. Not even the masses of Arab peoples. And may I add that the so-called “golden” age did not span out as long as Dr. Manta would have us believe, that is half a millennium.
Dr Manta needs to know that having majorities of Muslims, in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo and the Russian Federation does not make Islam part of the social fabric of Europe.
Before this he had launched a lengthy salvo of sallies on semantics, words, vocabularies their cross-cultural exchanges that I see no need to comment on.
Prior to this the doctor had written that, “We should not forget that Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt are on the African continent.” No, there is no way that people with my frame of mind can forget that all those lands originally al Sudan, land of the Blacks which we will one day reclaim an restore back. It is Dr. Manta who are taken with talk of golden ages and all what not but we who dare stare at the sun directly at the face know, feel and share the miseries of the Blacks living amidst the Arabs of the Maghrib.
Finally I want to task the doctor’s Timbuktu Foundation to try to uncover the debates on jihad between Usman Danfodio and the Sultan of Borno , Soni Ali and the Elders of Feleta or Sheikh Umar Taal and Ahmadou of Masina. They are still either in manuscript format or micro films in the Timbuktu Documents, either now in hiding due to threats pose by jihadists in Mali or in the custody of UNESCO Archives.
Thank you so much Dr. Manta
By Boto Sanneh