By Afis A. Oladosu
28 November 2014
In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent, the Merciful
“…And you shall hear a lot of abuse from Followers of other faith...” (Q3: 186)
BRETHREN, as is usual nowadays, it is very hard to predict the socio-political or cultural current that would occupy our attention every Friday. Early in the week, I had concluded that today’s sermon would be dedicated to the presentation of responses that previous sermons had elicited from our revered readers. I had thought I would engage some misreading which followed the essay on the role of our Imams in combating corruption which was featured two weeks ago. Some among my compatriots could not derive much sense from my argument that in order for our Imams to effectively become partners in confronting the malaise of corruption in this society, they have to shun both the ‘establishment’ and the ‘underground’. I was misunderstood when some who read that piece complained that a sentence in the piece could be read to mean the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) whose workshop I attended more than a month ago, has become a propaganda outfit for the current government in power. Such is the risk involved in the world of ideas. While a section of the populace would applaud the rainbow, others would descend into lamentation that certain colours in the former is befuddling and too sharp for their cognition.
• Brethren, I had thought of engaging the above more closely. I had also planned to raise some questions for your contemplation too. These are questions which I consider highly pertinent for our lives on terrestrial earth; questions which could be handy in our attempt to tie these days and nights down - days and nights that keep running away as if they are flying away. Brothers and sisters, exactly what does a soldier go to do at the war front? Is it to run away from the battle front, kill the enemy or seek to die for his country? Exactly for what reasons would a woman invite her husband into the kitchen? Is it because she desires to show him how happy she is or simply because she desires to make him apprised with what she goes through in order for him to be happy? Is it true that men commit all these infractions, these embezzlements and thievery solely because they want to have more to eat and drink? Is it not true that they do all these in the jejune assumption that it is they, not the Almighty, who can endow good life and happiness for their kith and kin?
While pondering the above, I became attentive to other streams of consciousness both of which are religious. The first relates to that which drive our pursuit of and the search for the Supreme, the Ultimate. Brethren, some of us seek after the Almighty because we feel He provides an escape route for us from the mundane, the everyday; some among us today cling to the world out of the assumption that our iniquitous ways are beyond redemption.
The second stream of consciousness however functioned in bringing me from the extra-terrestrial plane to the realm of reality. Brethren, I was ensconced in the loneliness of my room where what mattered were the voices of men and women who had died but remained alive. I sat down like the proverbial passenger in Albert Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus; I refused to be agitated by the macabre dance which was then unfolding in Abuja. I thought I have become wizened enough to know that you may accuse Abuja of everything but you would be utterly in error to suggest that it has ran out of error. The golden rule in Abuja today is that there is no golden rule.
Soon, I began to receive text messages on the line which belongs to Friday Sermon. Again I refused the temptation to read them all. Then a call came in from someone I could not ignore. He wanted to call my attention to an essay in The Guardian titled: Islam, Radicalism and the threat to peace; “When shall Islam cease to suffer such misrepresentations?” He wondered.
Brethren, I muttered to myself: “Islam would cease to suffer misrepresentations the day Muslims begin to conduct themselves in line with its dictates.” But that response did not address the issue. Thus in order to properly situate the reaction of brethren to the said essay, I caused a copy of Dr. Cole’s essay to be sent to me. After all, the very first principle in critical thinking is open-mindedness. For me, every act of writing, every product of the intellect, no matter how disagreeable it may appear, is like a spear thrown into the darkness. Ironically, it is an army that must be sent into the darkness to find it - the intellect. In other words, the power of a car is not the same thing as the way the car is driven. I knew circumspection is important; I should not indulge in stupidity while engaging a piece written by an intellectual. This is despite the fact that stupidity is infinitely more fascinating than intelligence - intelligence has its limits, stupidity has none!
Brethren, the very first paragraph of the said essay which appeared in The Guardian of November 19 and 20, 2014 began thus: “Islamic world view today is a destabilizing factor in world politics – which view has no place for non-Muslims – except to die by the sword – Kafirs – fit only for slaughter. Islam does not encourage tolerance. Where Christians and Muslims co-exist – it is usually a reality that any other option would lead to unbearable violence. Muslims do not accept the existence of co-equal creations of God/Allah. For them the existence of non-Muslims is an unfriendly business which would be completed when the time is right. Early Christians were forged by the same mould – that Muslims were unfit to live; and were illegal occupiers of Christian holy places and that Christians held a duty to crusade and move Moslems out of Jerusalem.”
• In another paragraph he wrote as follows: “No peace-maker; very many war makers – a maxim true of Moslems today… since Islam is a way of life, barbarous treatment of the downtrodden, the criminal, the kafir, women sit comfortably with regimes that stone women, cut off hands etc. This is done in the name of religion. Where are the reformists within Islam who argue that behaviours such as described are basically inhuman? …How could you imprison somebody for watching volley-ball? Stone a woman for marrying outside her religion?... “Islam, I am told means peace. If this is so, then there is little Islam in the world today and Islam has a very odd way of showing peace. All areas of the world where there is conflict and war - Islam is there - Algeria, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, India/Pakistan, Pakistan/Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Nigeria...”
Brethren, Dr. Cole’s essay largely travelled along the above trajectory. It is one which, for the ordinary reader, celebrates noxious representations and declamations of Islam and Muslims. It is to the exploration of some of his arguments that we shall turn during our sermon coming weeks.