Islam is not the ancestral religion of Africans
Stabroek News
December 17, 2001

Dear Editor,

I refer to Mr. S. McDoom's attack on me and on Africa and African culture in his letter captioned "Converts to Islam don't have to take an Arabic name" (9.l2.200l).

Mr McDoom quotes a verse from the Quran which says "Mankind is a single nation". Very nice. But when applied to the Muslim reality, however, it is quite hollow. Black people are generally not allowed into Arab and Muslim countries and the few who manage to go into two or three countries such as Egypt and Libya suffer grave discrimination and harassment. They have to do the lowest jobs and in Libya, it is on record that the police have shot them down when they protest against the injustices meted out to them.

But if Muslims don't apply the Ummah theory (single nation) to black people, it is quite as bad among themselves. Among Muslims, there are many warring nationalities who carry out regular attacks on each other, examples being Iraqis and Kuwaities; Egyptians and Libyans; Iranians and Iraqis; Sahelians, Algerians and Moroccans; Kurds and Turks; and in Afghanistan, there is serious blood letting between Uzbeks, Hazaras, Tajiks and Pathans.

The well known Asiatic Muslim contempt for the African was clearly manifested in the Arab enslavement of Africans. The Arab Muslims initiated the African Slave trade even from the time of the Prophet Mohamed and indeed, it was they who introduced the trade to Europeans. The Slave Trade in Black Africans still continues in such Muslim Arab lands as Mauritania, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Muslim slavery was more brutal and terrible than Western slavery. A characteristic example was in the extraordinary punishments meted out to the slave Bilal who was the first Black African convert to Islam. His punishments would make those of plantation slavery look like child's play.

In Guyana, the myth is propagated that Islam is the ancestral religion of Africans. Mr McDoom is guilty of trying to propagate this myth. The reasons for propagation of this myth are: (a) to deceive Africans into joining the Islamic religion and (b) to strengthen the stereotype that the Black Man was a backward savage who had no religion and culture until Muslim Arabs gave them to him. Mr. McDoom seems to forget that it was the Black Christian King of Ethiopia and his Christian subjects who gave refuge to the early Muslims and saved Islam when Mohammed and his followers were under serious attack by their fellow Arabs.

In fact, our African ancestors who were brought to the Americas were mostly from West Africa and came from those areas of strong African tradition and that is the reason why the religions they brought were African and had nothing to do with Islam. These African religions have survived to the present despite the great persecution they suffered over the centuries.

Socio cultural communities who have survived from the days of slavery such as the Djukas of Suriname are Black to the core and have absolutely no connection with Islam or Arabism.

African religions are highly philosophic and require much training and commitment from the believer. They have so great a depth that a rubric such as "There is no God but God and Mohammed is His last prophet" could never make one a follower of our African religions as happens in Islam.

Mr McDoom defends the Fatwa against Salman Rushdie because a few pages of the "Satanic Verses" are alleged to insult Mohammed and his various wives. The Fatwa sentenced Rushdie to death and as much as US$6 million was offered to anyone who would murder Rushdie. To the African mind and African culture, such an attack on freedom of speech and expression is unthinkable. Muslims and Islam have been particularly nasty to African religion calling it idolatrous, infidel, kaffir, barbaric and other names but Africans value freedom of speech and thought far too much for them to even think of murdering the authors of such blasphemies and insults.

McDoom boasts that there are 350 million blacks in Africa who are Muslims a number far greater than the Middle East's population. But despite that massive number, the centre of gravity of Islam still lies in Asia. There are no equivalent African sheikhs and ayatollas who could make pronouncements and no African directs any international Islamic organization. In the Muslim world there are no equivalents to Blacks of the status of Bishop Tutu or Martin Luther King or General Colin Powell or Dr. Condaleeza Rice and hundreds of other such distinguished black Christian Westerners.

Lastly, Mc Doom admits that Muslims take Arab names and have to pray in the Arab language. Whatever reason he may have advanced for this phenomenon in no way detracts from the fact that Islam makes this demand.

Yours faithfully,

Accabre Nkofi