Pan Africanism : Africa's Cultural Void and the Curse of Alien Religions and Cultures

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by Sekhemu, Dec 5, 2005.

  1. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    By Dr. Daniel M. Mengara


    PHP:
    The ongoing Sharia Crises in Nigeriawhich so far have claimed more than 1000 lives in the northern states (ZamfaraKadunaKanoamong otherssince Olusegun Obasanjo took office democratically in May 1999are some of the most abject and repulsive aberrations that have come from the African continent since the continent was overtaken and colonized by enslaving alien cultures several centuries ago.

    Clearly this is something wrong and highly peculiar in the image that is broadcast into one's mind when one dares to take a cold look at the whole circus of religious antagonisms that is tearing Nigeria apart:

    NONE OF THE RELIGIONS THAT ARE CREATIONG ANTAGONISMS AND COSTING LIVES IN THE COUNTRY-christianity and islam-IS AN INDIGENOUS AFRICAN RELIGION.

    This image, to me, is a very shocking one. And raises a number of questions. how come Africans, who once had their own religions, are seeing themselves nowadays only through the eyes of culturual identities that were once imposed upon them? How come they are now fighting for the right-or what appears to me as the misery-to be defined only according to such imported identities? Last but not least, how come two Nigerians speaking he same launguage and sharing the same substrate culture have come to see themselves as different and ememies, simply because of the alien religions that they are practicing?

    The questions are many, but the answers few and uneasy. And, to tell the truth, I am totally unablbe to figure out why wer are doing this to ourselves. Perhaps a look back into history will help. But I warn the reader who will dare to continue that the tone of this opinion piece is deliberately angry, I am angered and appalled by our willingness, as Africans, to destroy ourselves in the name of imported gods and cultures whose reocond of inhumanity and hypocrisy should make us think twice before embracing them.

    Religion as Tradition

    In all times and periods, religion has always been considered the quintessential essence of a people. In fact, the word "tradition" is just another from for "religion" because it is religion that informs the very  way in which a people behaves in both culture and tradition. Even in the so-called developed countries that claim to have seperated state from religion, religious beliefs, in fact, are often the foundation upon which moral and legal laws are built. Thus, when considering traditional, pre-colonial Africa, it would be imposssible to seperate religion from culture/tradition, because both are the one and the same thing.

    According to Mohamadou Kane, for instance, Religion-and particuliarly animism-[,,,] in most cases dones not simply limit itself to informing tradition; it does not limit itself to confering its specificity to tradition; it is tradition. when religion dies, tradition can no longer find the energy that would enable it to resist the various assaults of the innovative and contestatory forces that brew from within itself (kane, 1982: 420-421).

    In other words, taking people'
    s religion away is almost equal to a cultural genocide that would signal the end of the assertive forces that used to regulate and affirm that people's identity. if this proposition should be brue, then it is possible to say that the cultural genocide of Africa began in the 7th-8th century AD with the first Arab incursions. Islam made quick inroads into the continent, riding on the back of the commodity and slave trading activities that the Arabs developed in Africa back then. Later in the fifteenth century, the European came and introduced Christianity, thus tearing the continent apart along religious lines that had nothing to do with the indigenous cultural practices.

    Few people know that Africa'
    s indigenous religionsunlike their Christian and Islamic counterpartswere not proselytizing religionsIn other wordsno indigenous religion in Africa is historically known to have led its advocates or practioners to wage ware or undertake cultural incursions whose aim was to convert or impose those beliefs on othersAccording to African scholar Ali Mazruiof the three principal religious legacies of Africa (IndigenousIslamic and Christianity), the most tolerant on record must be the indigenous traditionOne might even argue that Africa did not have religious wars before Christianity or Islam arrived, for indigenous religions [therefore cultureswere neither universalistic (seeking to conquer the whole human racenor competitive (in bitter rivarly against other  [universalisticcreeds). Because they are not proselytizing religionsindigenous African creeds have not fought with each other (Mazrui 1995;77)

    Indeedthe grand design of Christianity and Islamthe two most universalistic religions in the worldhave always been to convert the entire world according to their imageThe crusaders and jihads that teared Europe and other areas of the world apart for centuries testify to the incredible thirst for conquest and domination that has characterized both Christian and Islamic creedsDoes the bible's old testament not carry the following lines? When the lord your God brings you into the land which you are entering to occupy and drives out many nations before you(,,,), when the lord delivers them into your power and you defeat them, you must put them to death.... you must not intermarry with them, neither giving your daughters to their sons nor taking their daughters for your sons. (old testament, deuteronomy,7;1-3) In cultural and philosphical terms, the West seems to have always valued the conquest, control and domination of the weakest among nature's-or God's-creation. It is not therefore surprising to see that Aristotle, one of the greatest and most ancient informers of Western philosophy, had already said the following more than 2000 years ago

    For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not necessary, but expedient; from the hour of birth, some are marked out for subjection, other for rule. The rule of the inferior is always hurtful. THe same hold good of animals in relation to men; for tame animals have a better nature than wild, and all tame animals are better off when they are ruled by man; for then, they are preserved. Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind (Aristotle, The Politics, I. v.2)

    It thus appears that the survival of the fittest is, in fact, a notion not a recent invention. But it seems to have been more so for the Africans who, unlike the other cultural creeds,  developed community religions that left so much freedom of association to the individual that most of the religious practices remained community-based, familial or even individual, and did not, in most cases, expand beyond the village or tribal constituencies. And when they did expance, they did so more in the form of borrowings rather than cultural impositions.

    Aguably, and thanks to the basic pacifist traits in African cultures, the imposition or introduction of aggressive and exclusive alien religions practices seems to have indeed been amortized, allowing for a smoother adaptation that was most African cultures integrate and pacify such alien practices somewhat.

    As a result. because no wars were fought in pre-islamic and pre-christian Africa on the basis of religion, only a limited number of such wars were witnessed in Africa'
    s Islamic and Christian timesIbn Battuta himselfthe great Arabe traveler of the 14th centurytestified to the pacifist and non-agressive spirit of the Islamicized African areas that he visitedHe, for instanceexpressed amazement when he came across Islamicized African tribes and kingdoms that seemed to practice Islam in ways that would habe been utterly sinful to the Arabs. For instanceIbn Battuta found it scandalous that Islamicized Africans should let their women go freely and not unveiled about the community, and allow them to be alone with male companions that were not their husbandsHe also testified to the incredible benevolencerighteousness and generosity of the African "Kings"that he encountered. As a result of the abovea few more questions come to mindWhatin God's name, made the African depart from the tolerant tradition in order to wholeheartedly embrace religions of oppression that were doomed to turn them against on another? Could the current Nigerian crises mean that African have now integrated the cultural aggressivity and intolerance that was so characteristic of Western and Arab holy warriors and missionaries?

    I unfortunately have no answers to these questions. However, one thing is sure: despite the existing vestiges of its own indigenous cultures, Afria now seems to stand out as a cultural void that can define itself only according to how those who conquered it defined its cultural, and even political, universe. Because of this paradoxical tendency of the continent to see itself only through the eyes of its imported cultures, one may argue that, in fact, the grand design of many racist European philosophers and rulers who, since the 16th century, advocated the conquest of Africa in order to order to save the continent from itself has now been achieved.

    It also remains that, even today, the west still refuses to see value in anything African. One of the manifestations of this cultural reductionism is utterly visible on the World Factbook webseit of American'
    s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where there seems to be an obvious and deliberate effort by the American government not to recognize African religionsamong other indigenous religions of the third world as valuable expressions of cultural identities.

    Thusin the descriptions provided on the African countries that are listed on the CIA world fact bookthe imported religions are given a prominence that seems to negate the essence of Africa's indigenous religious practices. For instance, on the pages describing such countries as Senegal and Congo (DRC), one reads the following

    SENEGAL religions:
    Muslim 92%, indigenous beliefs 6%, christian 2% (mostly Roman Catholic)

    Congo (DRC) Religions:
    Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant 20%, Kimbanguist 10%, Muslim 10% other syncretic sects and traditional beliefs 10%. What is wrong with such readings of relgious practices in Africa?

    First, there are the derogative terms that seem to always accompany African practices. Its religions are not considered as "pure religions" or "religions," Rather, they are seen as "indigenous beliefs", "syncretic sects," "traditional and animistic" beliefs, among other epithets.

    Second, there is the totally erroneous reading of the importance of each religous practice. Because Africans tend tno to define themselves in the absolutist and segmentarist way in which Westerners see the world. they do not often see their religions as exclusive. In other words, they do not se a majore problem being both Christian and a believer in traditional religions, or both Muslim and and "animist." They can be all at the same time, using each depending on the context and the cirucumstances, thus going counter to Islam and Christianity'
    s exclusive requirements of renunciationAccording to theseone can only have one religion at a timeThe assumption is therefore that once one has accepted to become a Christian or a Muslimhe can no longer be African in culture and traditionBut this would be to totally ignore the spirit of inclusion and integration of African culturesConsequentlyto render justice to Africa's tolerant, integrative and non exclusive view of the world. the CIA's descriptions should read as follows:

    Senegal Religions:
    African religions100%. Among these92are Muslim and are christian

    Congo 
    (DRCReligions
    AFrican religions
    100%, among these80are christian (Roman catholic 50%, Protestant 20Kimbanguist 10%), 10are muslim, and 10undetermined.

    Clearlythis new reading would do more justice to AfricansInterestinglythe current religious crises in Nigeria are not opposing practitioners of Islam or Christianity to practitioners of African religionsThey are opposing practitioners of Islam to practitioners of Christianitythus symbolizing the transfer into Africa of the secular rivalries that have opposed these two religions since their inception 2000 years ago.

    Fortunately for those who brought Islam and Christianity to the "dark continent," Africans are good learnersReligious wars were first historically witnessed in both West Africa and the eastern coast after Islamicized kingdoms surfaced and built themselves into conquering empires as was dictated to them by their new religion. And thiscombined with the Arabe slave tand gold tradebrought its first major eras of instability to the continentThe European-controled slave trade, as well as their desire to combat not only what they perceived as a stateless-nessbut also both "primitive animism" and Islambrought about times of acute divisiveness on the continentTodayAfricans seeem to have gulped down and taken in foreign religions and cultures so well that they are now at the forefront of cultural and political imperialism over their own. As soon as most of them became "independent" in the 1960's, they embroiled themselves Western-type ideologies by taking sides and becoming pawns in the Western Cold War, adopted the centralized, monarchical forms of government the west had taught and left them, and waged wars against each other for the control of both their artificial countries and the inherited central banks. And now, This Nigerian aberration

    Now, the Nigerians have ridiculously taken it upon themselves to fight for the religions that the Arabs and the Westerners pushed down their culturual throats several centuries ago. They now wnat to become the new frontier of cultural imperialism, not on their own behalf, but on the behalf of those who. from the cultural homelands of those religions, take pleasure at seeing their "children" continuing and finishing for them what they hand not been able to complete openly in the 20th century of forced and accelerated "decolonizations" Some call that '
    political correctness."

    I once thought the cultural distaster of Africa had ended and that teh 40 years since independence added to the prospects brought about the nascent new millenium, would make us Africans come back to our own cultural senses and start to thing African again. Thinking African entailed a re-introduction into ourr values of those principles of tolerance and intergration that, before the Arabs and Europeans came, ensured peace and harmony among peoples of the same creed and their neighbors. Thinking African meant that Africans needed to learn to rediscover the value of African institutions and cultures, and use these as the ferment that would allow them to harmoniously adapt to the constraints of contemporary political and economic necessities. But, I was wrong. The disaster is just beginning. The solution? kill and ban MASS RELIGIONS from African institutions altogether, and leave it to the individual to decide what they want to do, just like pre-christian and pre-islamic African societies use to do. How? I have no clue. What conclusion can be made, then?

    Well, that we Africans have lost ourselves in the mud that the curse of alien religions and cultures threw at us several centuries ago. And the effects of the curse are becoming more poignant every day as multifarious forms of miseries continue to settle in more deeply than before, and as ruthless political and religious leadlerls continue to exploit such miseries for their own purposes.

    Clearly, Africans more than before need good leadership. Is it not a shame that leaders of the Nigerian northern states of Zamfara, Kaduna and Kano, among others, should have chosen the path of religious integrism and intolerance against their own people? Is is not a sign of irresponsibility that, instead of solving the miseries of their own citizens, they should have chosen to push their peoples against one another in ridiculous wars of religions?

    How, may I ask, are Islam and Christianity going to save Africa from the terrible bankruptcy of it institutions and economic systems when its leaders are , in fact, the root of the problem?
     
  2. Omowale Jabali

    Omowale Jabali The Cosmic Journeyman PREMIUM MEMBER

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    The Battle For Souls

    At this very moment there is a documentary on the Discovery Times cable network dealing with the situation arising, particularly in Nigeria, between Christian missionary work and how they are coming into conflict with the Islamic population.

    Its focus is on the growth of Christianity in the continent.
     
  3. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Christianity and Islam Battle Fervently for African Souls

    By Ned Martel
    New York Times
    December 2, 2003

    Add Africa to the list of dangerous arenas where Christianity and Islam are clashing. Anyone charting global hot-spots may know as much, but viewers of "Battle for Souls," on The Discovery Times Channel tonight, can get a lesson in compounded pain. The continent is already gasping through pandemics of poverty and AIDS, so bloodshed among true believers seems to inflict new lacerations on broken limbs.

    "Battle for Souls" leads viewers into the riotous troubles with a focus on unrest in Nigeria. Christians dominate that nation's southern region; Muslims have large communities in the north. In the overlapping central strip, missionaries and evangelical Christians can count conversion successes, aided by Western methods of population mapping and televised Gospel messages. Some Muslims in the area have shored up their resolve with stricter adherence to the Holy Qur'an. Interpretations include sentences like "death by stoning for adulterers" and "amputations for thieves."

    Intensity on each side has led to unrest in the streets, including church burnings. Victimization and retaliation have begun a violent interplay, and the program shows how blame can be assigned to aggressors in both faiths. The Muslim and the Christian avenues to salvation might be seen as peacefully parallel in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but the African paths have dangerous bends. "Islam and Christianity do seem set on a collision course," says Philip Jenkins, a Penn State professor of history and religion.

    Many rural communities are in need of much healing, and religion provides aid, both spiritual and practical. "In Africa you virtually have to depend on divine intervention to have things working for you," explains Timothy Ulondade, a missionary in Nigeria. He mentions prayers that spigots will yield water and phones will have dial tones.

    The program follows a pair of American missionaries who have brought both Christian messages and indoor plumbing to a poor Muslim community called Blindtown. The missionaries, Bill and Dorothy Ardill, a married couple, pay respects to an emir who tolerates their proselytizing. Presumably, his constituency is better off with Christian-financed services, even if the exposure to these Westerners leads a few Muslims to convert. For more than a decade the Ardills have run a surgical clinic and an after-school center, while raising children of their own. Dorothy Ardill covers her head in a Muslim area, so as not to cause a riot, she says, and she touts her openness while Gospel-spreading as a form of respect. "We are not stealth," she says.

    Another Christian missionary talks for broadcast only with his face obscured by dim lighting and video digitizing. "John," as he calls himself, will soon take his wife and two children into a country where his proselytizing is illegal. Still, he says he feels protected, if not from prosecution, then certainly from damnation. "The safest place for us to be is in the center of God's will," he says. He adds his view of Islam, which he hopes to supplant, convert by convert: "I simply don't believe that Christianity and Islam are co-eqeuals," he says. "I believe that one is the truth and the other is not."

    Larger strides in spreading Christianity are accomplished not by Westerners, but by Nigerians like Bishop David Oyedepo. His Canaanland megachurch can hold 50,000 worshippers in a jubilant session, sent out over the airwaves. The complex, with buses and broadcast equipment, is financed "not one dime from America, not one penny from Europe," Bishop Oyedepo says.

    The Muslims must feel somewhat threatened from all the growth of a rival faith, but the program is less comprehensive in showing them on camera. Some militants may be responsible for a spate of church burnings, and the program does not get deeply into which faction first got violent. Aggression can come in many forms, the program deftly shows, and perhaps Christian missionary zeal intrudes dangerously in a Muslim's most guarded sense of self.

    "Battle for Souls" looks carefully at an untenable problem and leaves a viewer anxious about the prospect of more Muslim-Christian outbursts. The producers follow big ideas about theology and poverty wherever they lead, and the concluding segment tracks an ambitious Nigerian Pentecostal pastor who plans churches in each of Brooklyn's ZIP codes. Such meandering undoes the narrative, but teaser-heavy "Dateline"-style storytelling would surely oversimplify a delicate discussion.

    http://www.hvk.org/articles/0604/4.html
     
  4. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Thanks for your input.

    Would you care to share your thoughts or opinion on the article I've posted
     
  5. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    My post was in response to Bro. omo's post re: the documentary on the Discovery Channel. I think it was a re-run of the 2003 documentary, "Battle of the Souls."
     
  6. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I see. Cool
     
  7. soulsearcher

    soulsearcher Banned MEMBER

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    I think sometimes a society succombs more to the Christian missionary because they present it as the 'answer'... not to mention they often times bring food, clothes and shelter to many nations that are poor. But with it comes a price, and it usually means the erasing of that culture's spirituality and traditions, on top of being more susceptible to opposing forces. This is the story time and time again in most countries of color. It is also one of the ways whites have conquered everyone else.

    However, the damage has been done... many African countries are Islamic or Christian. So at this point Africans as well as African Americans will have to just try to unite for the common goal at least for now. And it has happened... the Million Man March is the most notable event in which nobody thought about religion, just unity. But in the meantime, ATR practictioners can continue to plant their seeds through forums like this or other media such as books and websites.
     
  8. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    And this is the very heart of the problem in Nigeria and other African nations.

    The situation is not getting better, it's getting worse. Christians and Muslims from outside of Africa are exacerbating the problem by funding one side over the other, creating further division and hatred.
     
  9. Omowale Jabali

    Omowale Jabali The Cosmic Journeyman PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I agree with the spirit of this article in terms of the effects of Islam and Christianity as "prostelyzing religions" but I disagree that wars were not waged in the name of religion prior to their advent.

    The history of the wars between the Sons of Horus and the Sethites is the most obvious example which was a struggle for the domination of one cult center over another.

    Same with the assertion of the Cult of Amen over the "Atenists".

    Quite honestly, I have grown tired of these arguments which continually blame outside forces for the problems of Africa which at times tend to romanticize African history and not only ignore but deny the internal contradictions and divisions which existed and provided the breeding grounds for these same outside and external forces. It has resulted in one of the worst forms of self-denial and finger-pointing while fostering a climate of self-hatred which has led increasing numbers toward adopting the same outside beliefs. Furthermore, Christianity has many of its roots in African, Alexandria, in particular, the Coptic Church and Ethiopian Orthodox, and the proximity to Mecca, which once was under Ku****e control, has led many to actually view Islam as an indigenous religion.
     
  10. Dual Karnayn

    Dual Karnayn Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Omowale

    My semtiments exactly.
    Infact you put both my thoughts and suspicions down into writing.

    From what I've read, we fell as a people long before whites, Persians, Arabs, and others were able to come in and take advantage of us.
    Infighting and jealousy were the main culprits.

    The fact that we had weakened collectively to the point that these outsiders were able to take advantage is proof that much of the problem was and remains internal.


    Christianity invaded most of Europe much more ferociously than it invaded Africa, yet Europe built it's modern empire off of Chrsitianity.

    Islam invaded parts of Pakistan and Persia/Iran much like it invaded parts of Africa, yet these people used the religion to boost themselves into a world power.

    Africa must first UNITE around a single set of principles and values and once secure in these values then no other outside religion or doctrine would be able to ill-effect her.
     
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