A Tale of Two Fundamentalisms

The conflict between Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria is well-known. Killings of Christians are widely reported, as well as the problems non-Muslims face in those areas that have adopted Sharia. The perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure decision of Ibrahim Shekarau, the Governor of the province of Kano, to ban polio vaccines in case Westerners were trying to make Muslim women infertile has added grist to the mill (1).

What’s less reported are a) when Christians retaliate and b) the baneful outside forces that exacerbate the conflict.

Local Christians have long suffered the attentions of Reinhard Bonnke, the German Pentecostal faith healer who operates mainly in Africa (no doubt Shekarau has provided future customers for him). During the 1980s, Bonnke held a series of revivals across sub-Saharan Africa, where he was welcomed by despots such as Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya, who liked Bonnke’s message that poverty was caused by demons rather than poor leadership. As Bonnke headed north, the climax was to be his “breaking down the gates of Islam” in North Africa. Eventually his huge rallies reached Kano in 1991, where his virulent anti-Islamic rhetoric led to riots and his hasty departure. Local Christians were left to face the Muslim wrath, and hundreds were killed. Bonnke’s toned it down a bit since then, but he’s still a regular visitor to Nigeria.

Meanwhile, local Muslims have to endure Saudi cultural imperialism. Most Muslims in Kano are followers of the mystical Qadiriyya Sufi tradition. Like most fundamentalists, the Wahabi Saudis can’t cope with the ambiguities of mystical religious experience, and Sufism is banned in Saudi Arabia. They also devote massive sums on spreading Wahabism abroad – a story the media have belatedly picked up on since 9/11 (although, alas, neo-con demagogues seem to be noticing more it than anyone else in the US). A report in yesterday’s Vanguard newspaper (Lagos) describes how:

THOUSANDS of Nigerian followers of the Sufi branch of Islam protested yesterday in Kano, and demanded the closure of the local office of a London-based Muslim charity accused of sponsoring extremist violence…The crowd marched on the Kano State Assembly, chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), to demand that the group, which promotes the Wahhabi strain of Islam on behalf of wealthy Saudi donors, be banned.

However, here’s why we’re unlikely to here much about it in the foreign press:

The protest remained peaceful.

(1) After an expensive investigation during which God knows how many children have been exposed to the disease, a committee in Nigeria has declared the vaccine to be safe, but Shekarau’s response is unknown. Beliefs based on paranoid delusions tend to be non-falsifiable anyway. See also my entries here and here.

3 Responses

  1. […] by Richard Bartholomew As variants of polio traceable to Kano in Northern Nigeria (see my post here) continue to be found across West Africa, Governor Ibrahim Shekarau has offered a long and rambling […]

  2. […] will be news to the thousands of Muslims who protested AGAINST Sharia in northern Nigeria just recently as a foreign, Saudi, […]

  3. […] managed to escape the prosperity preacher with my wallet intact. Meshoe is a former associate of Reinhard Bonnke, the German faith healer who holds regular revivals across Africa, (Meshoe’s ACDP also […]

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