Understand Nigeria and understand Islam
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This past week, Muslims in Nigeria rioted. The reason for the beatings, and killings of Christians and the torching of Christian churches; the West’s reporting of these riots; and the official Muslim reactions to the riots explain almost everything you need to know about the threat non-Muslim civilization faces at this time. To understand the threat the non-Muslim world faces, you need to understand the reason for the Muslim riot. Muslims in Nigeria, a country that is about half Muslim, opposed the presence of the Miss World pageant in their country. They condemned the pageant’s “nudity” and its “encouraging of promiscuity.” In an article on the Muslim opposition, on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2002, the popular Nigerian newspaper ThisDay (almost half of whose staff is Muslim), published a piece by one of its reporters, journalist Isioma Daniel. In the piece she wrote, “The Muslims thought it was immoral to bring 92 women to Nigeria and ask them to revel in vanity. What would Muhammad think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from one of them. The irony is that Algeria, an Islamic country, is one of the countries participating in the contest.” To most of us, this paragraph is utterly innocuous, insulting of no one and no faith. To many Muslims, however, it was more than insulting. It was blasphemy. Though the management and editor of ThisDay immediately and profusely apologized in print day after day, “Islamic fundamentalists gathered after prayers outside the national mosque in Abuja, then marched through the city chanting ‘God is Great’ and burning cars, churches and houses. They also burned down the offices of ThisDay, despite a groveling apology from the paper” (The Sunday Herald, Scotland). As reported in the Nigerian press (The Vanguard, Lagos) “Muslim youths chanting ‘Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar’ God is great, God is great, brandishing swords, cutlasses, knives, cudgels and other dangerous implements faced some churches, hotel (sic) and other known Christian places of businesses which they razed.” Christians counterattacked, and as of this writing, over 200 Nigerians are dead, some burned alive in gasoline-soaked tires. To understand the threat the non-Muslim world faces, you need to understand the way in which Western news agencies report Islamic violence. Blame is almost never placed on the Muslim rioters. Rather, the passive voice, “violence broke out,” is regularly used, and Muslims and Christians are simply reported to be killing each other in “sectarian violence.” The Voice of America news report actually identified with the Muslim rioters: “The riots were sparked after a newspaper published an article mocking the Islamic leaders’ protest.” It is crucial to identify this each-side-is-at-fault reporting. It characterizes world news organizations’ descriptions of Arab-Israeli violence as well. Just as in Nigeria, where the press blames “sectarian violence” rather than Muslim rioters, in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the press blames a “cycle of violence” rather than Muslim terrorists. To understand the threat to the non-Muslim world, you must understand the official Muslim reaction to the Muslim rioters in Nigeria. One would think that leaders of any great religion would condemn members of their faith who murdered innocent people, destroyed others’ houses of worship and homes, and burned down a newspaper’s offices. Yet in all the statements made by Nigeria’s leading Muslim officials in the Nigerian press, I could not find a word of condemnation of the Muslim murderers. The Muslim leaders called for calm after accepting the newspaper’s abject apologies. But the leaders made it clear that they, not only the Muslim rioters, consider the original article a grave insult to Islam. In fact, they compared the woman who wrote it to Salman Rushdie, whose death sentence they reaffirmed. So here’s where we stand: Nigerian Muslim rioters murder innocent Nigerians and burn down over 20 churches because of an innocuous sentence in a Nigerian newspaper. The West and its press choose to regard the Nigerian violence as merely “sectarian violence,” and hold Nigerian Christians equally culpable. Muslims kill non-Muslims and the victims (i.e., the editors of the newspaper whose offices were razed) are told to apologize — just as after 9-11, America has been repeatedly told to apologize to the Muslim world, and just as Israel, while enduring massacre after massacre at the hands of Muslim terrorists, is told to apologize for defending itself. Nigerian Muslim leaders do not say a word against their murderous co-religionists but they do declare one innocuous sentence by a young woman writer to be an “abomination.” The woman who wrote the sentence has been fired. The editor of ThisDay has been arrested and not been heard from since. One fears for his life. And ours.