Radical Ignorance Is the Threat to Peace
Dr Patrick Dele Cole wrote a serialised piece in the Guardian newspaper of 19thof November 2014 under the title: “Islam, radicalism and threat to peace”. The relentless shrill and coarse broad-brush denunciations of Islam that filled the entire article only provided another proof that Islamophobia is thriving and respected in certain quarters in Nigeria; that certain individuals are aspiring to become the most visible and flamboyant figurehead of the Islamophobia industry in Nigeria.
It is a great wonder that despite his exposure, Dr Cole could easily cram his article with so much curious false beliefs that, as a former Nigerian ambassador to Brazil, it is both frightening and bizarre. Some people have wondered how a former ambassador could so brazenly express radical ignorance on the pages of a national daily. Yet, as the former President Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United Statesonce remarked “the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so” (Reagan 1964). Dr Cole's article places him squarely in this category.
To a discerning mind, much of the false beliefs published in the article are easily dismantled. For instance, he states that Islam “condemns to death any Moslem marrying outside the religion.” This unsubstantiated claim, like other outrageous ones in the article, flies in the face of reason. In fact it would have been laughable were it not for its potentially serious consequences. Let us examine what the Quran, the highest source of religious instruction in Islam, categorically states in respect to inter-faith marriage in Islam “…The food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals) of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them. (Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before your time when you have given their due Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), desiring chastity (i.e. taking them in legal wedlock) not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as girlfriends…”[al-Maa'idah 5:5]. So, where did Dr Cole get the false belief that Muslims who marry outside the faith are hunted down and killed?
While it is true that Muslim women are forbidden from marrying outside the faith, multiple examples of Muslim women that have flouted this Quranic rule abound around us. In the opening sentence of the article, Dr Cole states that "Islamic world view today is a destabilizing factor in world politics – which view has no place for non-Moslems – except to die by the sword – Kafirs – fit only for slaughter”. Again, one would wonder what planet Dr Cole must have lived on to come to this type of bizarre understanding. Besides, the notion that only 1/5th of world's population, the Muslim population, can be divinely instructed to be killing everyone they come across is simply absurd.
If Islam is truly hate-filled and calls to vigilante terrorism as the likes of Dr Cole would like us believe, then why there was never a Jewish Holocaust in a Muslim country in the last 1400+ years? If indeed the Islamic world view has no place for non-Muslims, why do the Iranian Jews (of whom there are thousands) refuse to leave Iran and go to Israel? Why is it that in Muslim-majority Syria, the government actually grants land to Christians for the building of churches, along with free water and electricity and the Syrian Christians have their own personal status legal code, straight from the Vatican.
Why is it that in Palestine, the birthplace of Jesus Christ (AS), there still exist today a Christian community which traces its history back to Jesus Christ- unbroken? If indeed, the Islamic world view calls to blood-letting of those who don't subscribe to its tenets, why is it that under the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, some 30 percent of this Muslim dynasty's nobility from which the state soldiers were drawn were notMuslim, a proportion that had risen to 50 percent in the reign of his son Aurangzeb (1658-1707). If Islam was perpetual jihadism, why would so many non-Muslims join in - and be allowed to join in? If Muslims were savages bent on perpetual terror, by what moronic logic would they arm the enemies they have been commanded to wipe out, teach them to fight and incorporate them into their armies?
The Islamic rule in the Iberian peninsula lasted for about 800 years and ushered in golden era of power, progress and inter-faith tolerance. After Seville fell to Ferdinand III of Castile (1199-1252) in December 1248, the poet Ar-Rundi said “Everything declines after reaching perfection …”. The full tale of the horror and sufferings endured by the Moriscos at the hands of their Christian conquerors has never fully been told. When the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed at the end of World War I, its capital, then called Constantinople, was over 50 percent non-Muslim. The Ottomans left behind magnificent public, private structures and great memories in almost all the places where they had ruled.
In contrast to Dr Cole's view of the world, Prophet Muhammad (AS) exemplified the authentic world view that Islam preaches. In 628 C.E, he personally dictated a treaty (also called 'Charter of Privileges') to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sina. In it, the Prophet declared:
"This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate….” ('Muslim History: 570 - 1950 C.E.' by Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq, ZMD Corporation).
Shortly afterwards, at the conquest of Jerusalem by the 2ndsuccessor to the Prophet, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab rode to Jerusalem upon the request of the Church leaders. Upon entry into Jerusalem, Umar dictated a treaty with the Christian citizens of Jerusalem which partly states:
“This is the assurance of safety which the servant of God, Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted.” (The Great Arab Conquests, from Tarikh Tabari)
At the time, these were by far the most progressive treaties in history. For comparison, just 23 years earlier when Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians from the Byzantines, a general massacre was ordered. Another massacre ensued when Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusaders from the Muslims in 1099. The treaty that Umar (RA) made with the Christians of Jerusalem became the standard for Muslim-Christian relations throughout the former Byzantine Empire, with rights of conquered people being protected in all situations, and forced conversions never being a sanctioned act.
What will it take to explain to the likes of Dr Cole that his mythical Islam is not what the vast majority of the Muslim practices? Also, how come he knows the crimes of the Muslims and the existential threat that Islam represents, while he knows nothing of his own and that of the religion he practices? As a Christian in this country, it may be comforting for him to believe that he command such moral heights when he declares that “all conflicts in the world except Ukraine is Muslim based”, yet, he chose to neglect the fact of the millions of massacred civilians stretching from Wounded Knee to Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hanoi, Panama City, and more recently throughout the rubble strewn streets of Baghdad, Falluja, Ramadi, and occupied Palestinian territories. All these places bear silent witness to the unspeakable horror that people have experienced at the hands of other human beings. Most victims of these horrific crimes against humanity are Muslims. Of all the world conflicts that Dr Cole claims are “Muslim based”, he should tell us a single Muslim country that is pouring weapons of mass destruction into these volatile regions and conflict zones as does the so-called Judeo-Christian nations. Almost the entire actors in the different conflicts around the world have been schooled well in modern warfare never taught in Islam- the dramatic explosions, the fireballs, the targeted killing, and the suicide bombers are all straight out of Hollywood.
Dr Cole, by his own hands, has shown that he is a direct reincarnation of the Encyclopaedists in the eighteenth century who did not know and did not care to know what the Muslim believed, nor seek to know the views of Eastern Christians with regard to the Islamic faith. He attributes all the conflicts in the world to Islam and Muslims but forget that in July 2011, Anders Behring Breivik was arrested and charged with terrorism after a car bombing in Oslo and a mass shooting on Utøya island that killed 77 people. Hours prior to the events, Breivik had released a 1,500-page manifesto detailing his beliefs that immigrants were undermining Norway's traditional Christian values.
The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), a rebel group that seeks the secession of Tripura, North-East India, from the country, has been described as Christian terrorists engaging in terrorist violence motivated by their Christian beliefs. The NLFT includes in its aims the forced conversion of all tribespeople in Tripura to Christianity. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a cult and guerrilla army, is currently engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government. Since 2005 when the rebellion started, the LRA has been accused of using child soldiers and of committing numerous crimes against humanity; including massacres, abductions, mutilation, torture, rape, and using forced child labourers as soldiers, porters, and sex slaves. LRA, pretty much like Boko Haram, is a quasi-religious movement that mixes some aspects of Christian beliefs with its own brand of spiritualism. Its leader, Joseph Kony, proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium. Eric Robert Rudolph who carried out the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996, as well as subsequent attacks on an abortion clinic is, according to Michael Barkun, a professor at Syracuse University, a Christian terrorist. James A. Aho, a professor at Idaho State University also argues that religious considerations inspired Rudolph.
These are all examples of crimes perpetrated in the name of Christ but no one calls on the Christians to apologise for them. I know it will be difficult to persuade people who make agreement with them a precondition of even having a conversation to change their views. My wish is that the type of "motivated reasoning" that permeates Dr Cole's article— pursuing information that confirms what we already think and discarding the rest — will help others see how dangerous it is to selectively read history.
Finally, Dr Cole states his frustration with the Nigerian Muslims- that we are not sufficiently angry with Boko Haram. “They have to do something beyond pious declarations in newspapers.” This public lynching of Muslims and the demonization that paves the way for it simply have to stop. In a situation where merely thinking about condemning Boko Haram can get one shot in the head (and countless Muslim/Muslim leaders have died this way) is not courageous enough, then I simply don't know what else Dr Cole expects from us. But the Muslim community has bent over backwards and done far more than this. Literally, many Muslims have acted as human shield against the terrorists. In a country that cannot guarantee personal security for anyone, majority of those caught in the line of fire are Muslims, their lives have been disrupted, some irretrievably. Other Muslims, like their counterpart citizens, make daily sacrifices providing critical services in hospitals, saving live, donating blood, providing for the orphans of the victims of terrorism or, as members of the armed forces, dying gallantly in battles- as unsung heroes. These are some of the important contributions that Muslims are making to advance national security and defeat terrorism. But of course, Dr Cole is having none of it.