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Africa Submissive

You only wish you cared this much.

I am privileged to have visited Africa three times: twice in late 2003, when on a mission for the HHS Secretary, and once on a junket with Ashley Judd in 2005. The latter was everything a junket should be: pointless, wasteful, and gratifying for the ego of the attendant celebrity. The former two were genuine educational experiences, and one of the things I witnessed — and would witness again, in 2004, in the Middle East — was the dreadful power of Islam.

This is a subject I had some familiarity with in any case: by coincidence, I was in New York City on 9/11, and in London on 7/7. But these things were not holistic immersions in the culture and mores of Islamism, any more than enduring the Blitz was an experience in the fullness of Nazism. There is something unique in seeing wives secluded in their black abayas in the blazing heat of the Nairobi sun — and in seeing them hauling the children and baggage as their common husband strides ahead. There is something troubling in the realization that they are slaves, and that your interaction with them may well get you killed — or them. There is something revealing in visiting a Muslim-run clinic in a Kenyan slum that serves only Muslims; while the Catholic-run clinic you visited earlier in the day was overflowing with Muslim women. And there is something appalling in seeing large banners advertising Mecca Cola, the Jew-free soft drink, stretched across the roundabouts.

Islam in Africa. Click on the map for a full version.

The fault between the Muslim and non-Muslim world runs across the continent, and there is, predictably, blood along the line. It begins in west Africa, where the coastal states are bisected between a Christian littoral and a Muslim interior. This divide shows in places like Cote d’Ivoire, where the rebel- and government-held halves of the country neatly match sectarian patterns; and in places like Nigeria, where the northern states’ devotion to Islam shows in the imposition of Shari’a, the popular embrace of anti-American conspiracy theories, and the killing of Christians. From there, the line runs east, across the wastes of the Sahel, and into the Sudan, where the Islamist government in Khartoum waged exterminationist jihad against the Christians and non-Muslims of the south for a generation. The line loops into the Horn of Africa, splitting Eritrea from Ethiopia, and Ethiopians from one another: indeed, the ancient Christian fastness of Abyssinia is now mostly Muslim, and becoming moreso as the years pass.

Finally, it descends down the coast of east Africa, splitting Somalis and the Ogaden from Ethiopia proper. It populates the coast and cities of Kenya with Muslims who love bin Laden and his works. It splits the Muslim stronghold of Zanzibar and its adjacent littoral from the Tanzanian mainland. And then, entering Mozambique, the line fades away as populations become more mixed, and the centuries of Portuguese, Dutch, and British rule make Islam’s presence as much an immigrant phenomenon as is the European.

It is the east African coastal enclaves of Islam that are of especial interest. Islam did not come there as a proselytizing faith — it rarely does — nor did it come in its more frequent guise of jihad. There it was a commercial enterprise, and the emergence of Swahili, which fuses Arabic and local African vocabulary, testifies to the extent to which traders from southern Arabia came to trade, and then to stay, and then to rule. Indeed, the Sultanate of Oman, now comfortably ensconced in Muscat, was based in Zanzibar for many years. The opportunities to trade were many: there was ivory and the yield of big game, some agriculture, and of course Africa’s most profitable product — slaves.

The Muslims came to east Africa to trade in slaves, and while there is nothing uniquely awful about that in the era in which they did it, there is something uniquely awful in the fact that it is still done. John Rhys-Davies has reminisced about his childhood watching slavers’ dhows leave Africa. The market for these slaves in the modern era is almost exclusively on the Arabian peninsula: Saudi Arabia, for example, did not formally outlaw slavery until 1962, but it is widely acknowledged to still continue, and even receive overt Islamic sanction. The other major Muslim slave market is in Mauretania, the western Sahel, and the Sudan. Though Muslim slaving has recently shifted focus from Africans to encompass domestic servants from east and south Asia, there is no doubt that Islam’s legacy for Africa, beyond war, is bondage.

For all this, Islam is not uniformly hated by Africans. One cannot regard this as unusual: neither are Christians, the long-past slavers of the other side of the continent, uniformly hated. But unlike Christianity, Islam is feared. It is feared in Africa for the same reasons it is feared in Europe: its extant predations combined with its awful potential for worse produce a common compulsion to dhimmitude. As in all places these days, nowhere is this more evident than in the case of the Danish Muhammed cartoons.

Perhaps rooted in the savagery of its communal genesis, the Muslim community of Kenya is especially detestable. Not content with having organized the largest pro-al Qaeda demonstrations outside of Pakistan in the wake of 9/11, the Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims is now organizing violent demonstrations and boycotts against Denmark. The Muslim outrage there is selective enough that it once prompted former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi to ask why they did not demonstrate after al Qaeda attacked Kenya; and one of my own contacts there, a prominent member of the Luo tribe, confided in me that he and his wife were coming to fear their Muslim neighbors near Mombasa as they increasingly adopted abayas, turned socially inward, and otherwise demonstrated increasing signs of Islamization.

Elsewhere in Africa we see the Islamic communities of Somalia — including, sadly, the somewhat more sane secessionist region of Puntland — doing their best self-destruct in the Prophet’s defense. We see the imams of Nigeria, not content with having singlehandedly ignited a continent-wide polio pandemic in 2002-2003, preaching rage and destruction — and implicitly, murder — on Muhammed’s behalf. We see protests in Niger, Mali, Mauritania, and the Sudan.

Most pathetic are the African dhimmis who go along with the Muslim ire. There are the Nigerian Christians who lend unspecified “support” to their raging countrymen. Especially painful to witness is the reduction of South Africa to a dhimmi state. South Africa has a miniscule Muslim population — and yet, that population has managed to produce its share of menacing Islamist groups and even terrorists in the past decade. For all this, then, the decision by the ironically-named Johannesburg High Court Judge Mohammed Jajbhay to forbid publications of the cartoons is especially baffling only if you consider it merely a free-speech issue. But in Africa as elsewhere, it’s a fear issue: the one South African publication to run one of the offending drawings, the Mail and Guardian, has received lectures and threats ever since. Some argue that Judge Jajbhay’s decision is indicative of poor legal expertise; the truth seems rather more obvious. Whatever the case, the supine statements of South African President Mbeki, and the once-great Desmond Tutu, do nothing to reassert their nation’s dignity.

Thus Islam in Africa. It is a sideshow, yes: the loss of Africa to Christianity and the West is nothing compared to the loss of Europe, or the Americas. But we must pay attention to it, because there is a more open and pressing struggle underway there than anywhere else. A rough night in a French banlieue is an ordinary night in Kano — and those who suffer in the latter are as surely our fellows as the original population of the former.

Share  Posted by Josh Trevino at 6:02 PM | Permalink

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