Islam in Africa
by Hugh Fitzgerald (August 2009)
Last week, in an unlikely encounter near the Sangre de Cristo mountains of Colorado, I met a couple who had just returned from a sabbatical year in Togo. I asked them about Togo. They told me they had last been in the country ten years ago, and this time had been horrified by the visible signs of Islam in Lomé. Ten years ago, the wife, a native of Togo, told me, there could not have been more than four mosques in Lomé, and now, she said, “there are four hundred.” And what is more, these four hundred are now equipped with P.A. systems, used by the muezzins to make sure that everyone – Muslim and Christian and animist – all over Lomé, hears five times a day the Call To Prayer.
"Our struggle has far-reaching significance. It is the latest recrudescence in our time of the age-old struggle of the black man for his full stature as man. We are the latest victims of a wicked collusion between the three traditional scourges of the black men - racism, Arab-muslim expansionism and white economic imperialism.
The Biafran struggle is, on another plane, a resistance to the Arab-Muslim expansionism which has menaced and ravaged the African continent for twelve centuries....
"Our Biafran ancestors remained immune from the Islamic contagion. From the middle years of the last century Christianity was established in our land. In this way we came to be a predominantly Christian people. We came to stand out as a non-Muslim island in a raging Islamic sea. Throughout the period of the ill-fated Nigerian experiment, the Muslims hoped to infiltrate Biafra by peaceful means and quiet propaganda, but failed. Then the late Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto tried, by political and economic blackmail and terrorism, to convert Biafrans settled in Northern Nigeria to Islam. His hope was that these Biafrans of dispersion would then carry Islam to Biafra, and by so doing give the religion political control of the area. The crises which agitated the so-called independent Nigeria from 1962 gave these aggressive proselytizers the chance to try converting us by force.
"It is now evident why the fanatic Arab-Muslim states like Algeria, Egypt and the Sudan have come out openly and massively to support and aid Nigeria in her present war of genocide against us. These states see militant Arabism as a powerful instrument for attaining power in the world. Biafra is one of the few African states untainted by Islam.
Therefore, to militant Arabism, Biafra is a stumbling block to their plan for controlling the whole continent. This control is fast becoming manifest in the Organization of African Unity.
"On the question of the Middle East, the Sudanese crisis, in the war between Nigeria and Biafra, militant Arabism has succeeded in imposing its point of view through blackmail and bluster. It has threatened African leaders and governments with inciting their muslim minorities to rebellion if the govern-ments adopted an independent line on these questions. In this way an O.A.U. that has not felt itself able to discuss the genocide in the Sudan and Biafra, an O A.U. that has again and again advertised its ineptitude as a peace maker, has rushed into open condemnation of Israel over the Middle East dispute Indeed, in recent times, by its performance, the O.A.U. might well be an organization an organization of Arab unity.
"From this derives our deep conviction that the Biafran revolution is not just a movement of Igbos, Ibibios, Ijaws, and Ogojas. It is a movement of true and patriotic Africans. It is African nationalism conscious of itself and fully aware of the powers with which it is contending.
For the full text of the Ahiara Declaration, which ought to be studied in courses on Africa, on colonialism, on Islam, and on the definition of statehoood, see here.
Of course, no one paid attention then, and almost no one has paid attention until today, to what the Biafra War was really about. It was the first successful violent Jihad in modern times (the wars against Israel have, so far, not succeeded). The Western nations, especially Great Britain, did nothing to help the Biafrans. Everyone was too concerned with doing nothing to imperil good relations with the “government” of Nigeria, because Nigeria had oil. The fact that all the oil was in the southern regions, where Christian and animist tribes lived, and that the oil could have been supplied by an independent Biafra, was not considered. And the belief that nothing should be done to “break up” Nigeria because…well, because it was the most populous black state, and therefore black amour-propre would somehow be offended, was another, equally idiotic, consideration. In the end, only two states – Ghana and Israel – recognized and maintained relations with the state of Biafra. The failure of the West to come to the aid of Christians being massacred by Muslims , the failure of the world’s press even to cover the story adequately, with two honorable exceptions – the dispatches of Frederick Forsyth, for the British press, and those of Renata Adler, in The New Yorker. Biafra was crushed, and the Christians of West Africa learned in a contest with Muslims, they could not count on the West.
And just imagine how relieved we would feel if we learned that the Voice of America had a special broadcasting effort, aimed solely at Black Africa, in several dozen different African languages as well as in English and French and Portuguese, where black African natives, non-Muslims (Christian or animist), who had themselves endured or suffered from Muslim and Arab treatment (such as Francis Bok, and other Sudanese refugees), or where black Africans who have studied the history of the Arabs in black Africa, including the Arab slave trade – the scholar Tidiane N'Diaye the author of “Le génocide voilé. La traite négrière arabo-musulmane,” comes to mind – could offer historic and contemporaneous accounts of what the Arabs, and Islam as a vehicle of Arab imperialism, have wrought in Black Africa. And others could be brought In – economics, political scientists, sociologists – to discuss all the ways in which the political and economic (especially the economic), and social, intellectual, and moral failures of Muslim peoples and polities can be rightly attributed to Islam itself, to its texts and tenets, and the attitudes and atmospherics that the teachings of Islam naturally create. The latter requires a little work, but in the end is not very difficult to explain. And this point – relating Islam to political despotism and economic paralysis (oil revenues are not the same thing as an economy, and what is amazing is how little economic progress has been accomplished by the Arabs and Iranians, despite the more than twelve trillion dollars they have received in oil revenues since 1973 alone) needs to be repeated and repeated, and broadcast all over sub-Saharan Africa, by powerful American transmitters, possibly located in friendly states – Ghana comes to mind – where the worry about Islam is palpable among the aware.
And given the changes that Arab money can effect, whether that money is used to bribe a Big Man -- an Idi Amin permanently or a Jean-Bedel Bokassa temporarily -- into embracing Islam, or whether it buys the sworn loyalty of tribal chiefs to Muammar Khaddafy (and to the causes for which he stands), or whether it merely, in supplying a Lamborghini to a local despot, ensures that public address systems will change the lives, for the worse, of the now-imperilled Christians of Togo - that is palpable.
And the Western world does nothing. Or rather, it sends some military aid and advisers to countries near the Horn of Africa, and the rest is left up to the hapless locals.
What the Christians of Africa need is a dramatic sign of Western support in halting the progress of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa. An obvious example presents itself: the Sudan. There, a few thousand troops, and a very few planes, could take care of the threat from the Arab north, and hold, and secure, both the Southern Sudan, and Darfur, as part of a well-publicized “humanitarian mission” that would be undertaken after, so President Obama could declare, every possible effort was made to allow the government of Sudan to change its ways. The very next outrage – it need not be a large one – by the Sudanese Arabs should trigger such an intervention.
But would it not, some would say, be a fiasco and a waste, just like Iraq? The answer is: No. In the Sudan, most of those being saved would be non-Muslims. And even the nominal, black African Muslims of Darfur, having suffered so much from Muslim Arabs, might be amenable to hearing about how Islam is and always will be a vehicle of Arab supremacism, and some might even welcome Christian missionaries (possibly black Africans themselves, eager to Christianize as many fellow Africans as possible – they could be brought in, and protected, by American and other Western troops).
No doubt it is easier for the Western, non-Muslim world, to come to the rescue of people who, as in Darfur, are called Muslims, and to pretend, as such people as Samantha Power do, that such conflicts have “nothing to do with Islam because all parties are Muslim.” But it isn’t true. The war in the southern Sudan, against Christians (almost all Catholics) and animists (about 1/6 of the population), is a classic war against Infidels. But the war made on the Muslim blacks in Darfur by other, but Arab, Muslims (or those who think of themselves as Arabs, and thus in a special and higher category of Muslim) is also attributable to another aspect of Islam – Islam as a vehicle for Arab supremacism.
Imagine the electrifying effect on the imperiled Christians of black Africa if the most powerful Western army, that of the United States, simply flicked aside like a harmless insect the Sudanese airforce, destroyed it overnight, and then came to the rescue of the black Africans of the south and of Darfur. What a spectacle that would be. And how silent the corridors of the U.N. would be, where the representatives of the Arabs and organized Islam would have a hard time receiving a sympathetic hearing, and even the attempt might finally cause a rift with the black African countries that, ever since the bribery by the Arabs that followed the Six-Day War, might now split, finally, with the forces of Islam, and the local Big Men who have been the bought-and-paid-for agents of Islam, whether or not they actually have themselves converted.
Just how would the sputtering members of the Arab League publicly demand that the Western powers withdraw their handful of troops – so clearly welcomed by the populace that would benefit from its protection from Arab depredations and mass murder? Could they invoke the divine right of Arabs to continue to commit mass murder, or to be in a position to do so if the spirit again so moved them? It wouldn’t look good. The Arabs would be in an impossible position, and they would know it, and so would black Africa. Khaddafy would rant and rave, and so what? Why wait until the complete cleansing of Darfur is accomplished, and the Arabs have moved in? Why wait until, as we all know will happen, the Arabs of Khartoum renege, when the southerners vote for independence, and instead of allowing such a result, renew their war against the black Africans of the southern Sudan?
Is there, anywhere in the Pentagon, or the State Department, an office where people are working to figure out how to halt the advance of Islam here and there and everywhere? If there is, they might start with the Sudan. And before proceeding, they might refresh their memories as to what the forces of Islam have done, to black Africa, in the last half-century, as the Islam of the Arabs, not the syncretistic easygoing slightly-unorthodox Islam of black Africa, has been on the march, with the enslavement and killing millions of non-Muslims – from West Africa (as in Nigeria, during the Biafra war) to East Africa, (as in the Sudan, over the past quarter-century) with the more powerful Western world doing little or nothing to rescue the black Africans to whom, at least, it owes protection from the depredations of the most dangerous, and most successful, imperialism in human history – that of the Muslim Arabs, who not only impose Islam, but in so doing, suppress all interest in, even knowledge of, the indigenous pre-Islamic or non-Islamic civilizations. (View some of the art of Burkina Faso here.)
Islam is visibly expanding its presence all over the place (just look at Lomé), in the enslavement of blacks in West African states such as Mali and Mauritania (a “cultural practice” that Islam will forever legitimize) and in East African states (such as the Sudan (where slavery is only part of a long, drawn-out war conducted by the Arabs against black Africans) of those who are, in the latest decision, out of ownership of an important oilfield that will now go, undisputed, to the North, while the southerners are supposed to content themselves with the notion that someday – so they have been promised, and so they and their Western backers seem to think will happen – a referendum on independence will be held, and if the black African Christians and animists vote for it, then the Arabs of the North will allow them to depart in peace, and with them the remaining oilfields of the south. By now it ought to be clear that the Arabs of the north will never permit this to happen, and it is better to draw a line, against expansion of Islam, now.
Why now? Because the farce and fiasco of the Iraq venture will soon become clear, and might lead some to think that no use of military force is useful. That is the wrong lesson to be drawn. An intelligent application of limited force, with the aim not of creating, as in Iraq or Afghanistan or possibly Pakistan, a “viable Muslim state,” one where the natural tendency of Islam to favor despotism, disfavor democracy, encourage inshallah-fatalism and hatred of innovation that result in economic stasis that OPEC oil revenues have temporarily hidden from view, will somehow – it’s never explained how – be overcome.
Now is the perfect time –under a Presidnent who never lets us forget his African roots – to do something dramatic to halt the advance of Islam in black Africa. If you think that Islam is not a threat, but merely “one of the world’s great religions” that has been “misinterpreted by extremists” – if that is, you wish to ignore the texts and tenets of Islam, and the 1350-year history of Islamic conquest and subjugation of non-Muslims, then you will not worry overmuch about the spread of Islam in black Africa, nor worry about the arabization that inevitably accompanies islamization. You will find the suggestions I have made absurd, or even malevolent.
If, on the other hand, you are well-prepared, and know the texts, the tenets, the attitudes, the atmospherics of Islam, and are familiar with that 1350-year history of conquest and subjugation in which so many local histories, cultures, artworks were made to disappear, physically and from the minds of those conquered, then you may have quite a different attitude.
To help New English Review continue to publish interesting, timely and thought provoking articles such as this one, please click here. If you have enjoyed this and want to read more by Hugh Fitzgerald, click here.
To comment on this article, please click here.
To help New English Review continue to publish interesting, timely and thought provoking articles such as this one, please click here.
If you have enjoyed this and want to read more by Hugh Fitzgerald, click here.
Hugh Fitzgerald contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all his contributions, on which comments are welcome.