2nd December, 2014
By Ibrahim Ola Balogun
On Wednesday, 19 November 2014, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, a Nigerian former Ambassador to Brazil, wrote in The Guardian Newspaper an article titled Cole: Islam, Radicalism and Threat to Peace. However, the article could be best described as a classic show of obliviousness of Islam or a deliberate attempt to mislead unsuspecting readers about what Islam is; what the relationship of Muslims has been with non-Muslims across ages; and the role Muslims have played in the development of mankind around the world including Nigeria especially in the last 100 years.
The piece was totally unacceptable from a person of Dr. Cole’s stature, a presumed elder statesman to concoct such a preposterous article. The article, to say the least, was no less a gross disappointment to those of us who had erroneously assumed that a man of Cole’s academic standing would distance himself from making unfounded statements and outright balderdash that are devoid of any meaningful substance. Dr. Cole’s first sentence in the said article reveals him as a man who is not only filled with erroneous impression about Islam but a writer who simply relies on residual knowledge, refusing to make the requisite research before writing on a popular topic, already well discussed by many scholars among who are people of his faith and from the West which he jealously adores.
A well-known American writer, Dr. William Draper, wrote in his History of Intellectual Development of Europe that: “During the period of the caliphs, the learned men of the Christians and the Jews were not only held in high esteem but were appointed to posts of great responsibility, and were promoted to high ranking positions in government. Haroon Rasheed appointed John, the son of Maswaih, the Director of Public Instruction and all the schools and colleges were placed under his charge. He (Haroon) never considered to which country a learned person belonged nor his faith and belief, but only his excellence in the field of learning.” This is still the practice of many Muslims around the world. So one could only wonder where on earth did he get the bizarre view 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.’
According to Liefy Brutistal, there were several Jews who acted as the ambassadors of the Caliph in European countries. Therefore, it was even more laughable that Dr. Cole asserts ‘Islam does not encourage tolerance.’ If appointing non-Muslims in high-ranking position in an Islamic government was not tolerance, what then would that be? Dr. Cole however inadvertently admitted that there are millions of Arab Christians residing in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria among others and no one is killing them by sword, as he contradicted himself in another line.
Muslims, in different ages have permitted the non-Muslims of Ahl Al-Dhimmah (the Protected People) to hold offices in the executive ministry. Many non-Muslim ministers were well known in the history of Islam. None of the scholars denied them this right, except when they practice oppression and tyranny against the Muslims, which unfortunately did happen. Except for the likes of Dr. Cole, it is therefore incomprehensible to think that a religion that embraces the entire humanity by its leanings and trends; and with the universality in its message and mission would discourage inter-social and inter-ethnic marriages. In fact, the understanding of Muslims is that mankind is created from a male and a female and was made into tribes and nations only for the purpose of identity and identification.
The Qur’an concludes that: the noblest in the sight of Allah are the righteous. Islam encourages inter-racial acquaintance and love. Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) even married to women from different races, tribes, and religions. He married Maria (RA) who was Coptic (native Egyptian; a Christian that later converted to Islam. So his position that “Islam like other religions, does not encourage inter-social and inter-ethnic marriages’’ is alien to the Islamic faith.
On his statement that ‘it (Islam) condemns to death any Moslem marrying outside the faith’, the true position is that the Muslim Man or Woman may not marry a woman or a man who ascribes partners to Allah by way of polytheistic beliefs or pagan practices. And this is because there is a pronounced and unbridgeable gulf between the two systems of belief. How then would it be possible for such conflicting beliefs and practices to co-exist peacefully in one abode, except one of them is not true to what he or she believes?
Nevertheless, Islam permits a Muslim (male) to marry a Christian or Jewish woman. A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian or Jewish man. This is because while Islam guarantees freedom of belief and practice to a Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim and safeguarding her rights, according to her faith, other religions as Judaism and Christianity neither guarantee the wife of a different religion freedom of belief and practice nor safeguard her rights to own property and inheritance. It is only when the West liberated itself from Papacy (The Church), that some of these anomalies began to be redressed over centuries.So, if Dr. Cole’s grievance is that Muslims marry Muslims, he should realize that Islam is not a religion that pretends. It remains the same. No matter the vicissitudes of times and deluge of alien civilisations, Islam will neither legalise frivolous abortions nor permit gay marriages and ordaining them as priests and clergy.
Consequently, Islam does not take chances on the future of its daughters by giving them into the hands of people who neither honour their religious belief nor show concern for protecting their rights. Such a higher degree of tolerance is characteristic of Islam, which is hardly found in other faiths and within nations.
That Dr. Cole has come across sexy belly-dancers in many Muslim countries does not mean that the religion of Islam is ‘hypocritical’ in discouraging music and dancing in its fundamental form, for these are values fostered on the sensibility of the Muslims by westernized leaders like Ben Ali of Tunisia. Just as many Nigerians would not hesitate to disassociate themselves from a corrupt leader, Islam too should not be said to approve of immorality or contradict itself.
Now that our dear former Ambassador confessed to being confused on dealing with Islam, may you with humility take this enlightenment? After all, a man is inferior to what he does not know until it is acquired. Islam in Arabic has its root from two words: Salm (Peace) and Silm (Submission). Thus, Islam is a commitment to surrendering one’s will to the Will of God. So back to your confusion, Islam transcends the Arabs; it is universal. To think that it is only Arab Moslems that seem to be united in their suspicion of Westernization is naïve. Ask the Koreans, the Chinese, and the Russians about their views on westernization and Western civilisation. My very distinguished diplomat, the fact that you could write the sentence below shows that you failed to verify unhidden historical facts before you hurried to the press just as you rightly believe that your status would intimidate the editor from conducting further checks on your article. This further confirms the suspicion, that your essay was a deliberate attempt to malign Islam and Muslims. “Indeed the religious attitude to blacks, women, and the underprivileged is that these groups deserve what they get, that the Holy Prophet saw these glaring inconsistencies but pronounced little about them.” Even with a quick research, you would have known that Bilal was an African, Salma was a Persian, Shuaib was a Roman among many other honourable companions of the Prophet.
Islam respects and honours the black people such that when Ubadah the son of Samit headed a delegation to discuss the terms of surrender of Egypt with Muqaiqis, the ruler of Egypt, he (Muqaiqis) was shocked and screamed “Keep this black person away from me, and bring forward somebody else to talk to me.” The Muslims responded, “He is superior to us in intellect, knowledge, opinion and insight and in every other way. He is our leader; we all turn to him for his opinion and advice…”
This is not an isolated case in the history of Islam and Muslims. Islam’s position is that it is the ‘blackness’ and ‘whiteness’ of the heart and not of the skin that matters. Millions of Muslims gather for pilgrimage in Mecca annually and no single record of discrimination against the Blacks have been recorded from time immemorial. This is what enticed Malcolm X (Malik Shabbas) of US, This is what enthralled our own Muhammad Ali and made him uphold justice and equality of man as preached by Islam to narrow and oppressive nationalism of the West and US in the popular Vietnam war. The list is endless.
Without doubt, no other religion has developed a comprehensive economic support system such as the Zakat of the Muslims. Before the modern day tax and social security system, Islam had made the giving of wealth tax in the form of Zakat mandatory on capable rich Muslims. Sir, if you had painstakingly conducted a little research, the categories of people that will benefit from the proceeds of Zakat are well spelt out. The less privileged and downtrodden are well taken care of with the wealth taken from the rich men in the society.
Islam is a complete religion and a comprehensive way of life, so any misinterpretation or misrepresentation of the body of its teachings by some misguided elements would not be the fault of Islam. What is Haram (forbidden) in Islam applies universally, irrespective of place and clime; as such, what is obtainable in Qatar and Serbia cannot be different from what obtains in Nigeria, England and the US except in the areas of minor details. It is only those who subscribe to shoddy or no research before making pronouncements or scripting articles that have made the Boko Haram insurgency to grow out of control. They simply mislead our impressionable government by their unsubstantiated proclamation: Boko Haram is only sponsored by those politicians who believe they are born to rule and have sworn never to allow a presidency from the minority. They went further: those who have sworn to make Nigeria ‘ungovernable’ for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan sponsor the insurgency.
They unwittingly made our acquiescent President to say, albeit without proof: Boko Haram members are in my cabinet or is it government. The Ambassador sir, while your likes in government circles continue to play the politics of scape-goating, Boko Haram is busy capturing territories in the North East. So when you asked Muslim leaders to go beyond mere condemnation of Boko Haram, are you demanding that they march into Sambisa Forest just as the President asked the Bring Back Our Girls campaigners at the Aso Rock? Are you suggesting in the alternative that they take up the duties of the President as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the Army; that they go and face the insurgency at Mubi while you stay in the confines of your room and reel out misleading views on the pages of newspapers?
May I remind you that our Commander-in-Chief in the country is not among these leaders. I task you to state what the Christian leaders have done in condemning Boko Haram that the Muslim leaders have not done. Please on Boko Haram direct your advice to the Presidency. In other words, what do you mean by ‘not sufficiently angry? Now this paragraph is dedicated to you. Read it well before you write your intended part two. Please sir, you might probably need to digest it so that you can be sufficiently informed about what you know little about but arrogantly lay claim to.“The sixth century of the Christian era represented the darkest phase of human history. Man had progressed from God-forgetfulness to self-forgetting; he had lost his moorings. The Roman and the Persians, who enjoyed the monopoly of leadership in the West and the East, respectively, had sunk to a state of complete moral depravity. Great religions had become playthings in the hand of those who had twisted it beyond recognition. The nations of the West had not yet seen the dawn of civilization. Belief in purity of blood and the superiority of race was the order of the day. The status of women had considerably deteriorated. Tribal prejudice was very strong. War had become necessity and more like fun and game.
“The distribution of wealth was grossly unjust. The ever-increasing tax had broken the back of the peasantry. A flood of wastefulness had swept over the world. Just while humanity lay gasping in the agonies of death, Islam gave humanity hope and delivered it from the darkness to light. That humanity is returning to the above-described backwardness is because true Islamic civilization is not allow to reign, thus, ISLAM is the panacea”– Adapted from ‘Islam and the World – The Rise and Decline of Muslims and its Effects on Mankind’ by Hassan Ali Nadwi, UK Islamic Academy, 2005/1426].
•Balogun wrote from Lagos