WHEN it was first used by Samuel P Huntington, the term ‘Clash of Civilisation‘ was played down as alarmist by a nervous global international and intellectual audience.
Nowadays however, after the recent Charlie Hebdo Magazine massacre in Paris, France and the subsequent printing of millions of the cover copies of the magazine depicting the picture of Prophet Mohammed, a taboo in Islam, I doubt if anyone can boldly call Huntington’s description an exaggerated alarm any longer. In addition in Nigeria where Boko Haram is slaughtering human beings in their thousands while a general election is slated for next month and the sect has just killed thousands in Baga and threatened to kill the Emir of Kano, there is no denying that that there is a also clash within Islam on the practice of the religion which Boko Haram claims to be fighting for and defending to the horror of peaceful Muslims all over the world.
No where is the clash of civilisation and the attendant befuddlement and dilemma with regard to religion better illustrated than in Senegal where the President joined the Freedom March in Paris with other world leaders but banned copies of the magazine from being sold in Senegal after the Solidarity Freedom March in Paris. Some newspapers in Kenya and S Africa have had to apologise to their Muslim readers after outrage by Muslims in such nations after the publication of the Charlie Hebdo cover there. Surely the covers are a time bomb in any language or community where Muslims live and congregate and you can imagine the mood in the entire Middle East especially in the hotbeds of Islamic radicalism and militancy like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq; even theocratic Iran of the Ayatollahs – and of course the base of Boko Haram, Nigeria.
Really I doubt if any Nigerian newspaper would publish the Charlie Hebdo post Paris Massacre cover and I would lend my support to that decision for the simple reason that we must show respect for the values and beliefs of those with whom we share society and environment. Freedom has never been absolutely free and there is a saying that your freedom ends where my nose begins. That is what the decision to print the covers has ignored and it is one that France and Europe would pay a steep and costly price for in terms of security and social cohesion and stability now and in the immediate future. For now I keep my fingers crossed on the consequences of the cover publication for Europe and the world as I try to examine the reason for a decision that is no less than a slap in the face for another religion by those who have long abandoned their own faith which they have replaced with freedom of speech at a gargantuan cost.
Before the Charlie Hebdo Paris Massacre there were demonstrations in Germany especially in Dresden by a group called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of Europe with the acronym – PEGIDA -. Prominent Germans like former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Chancellor Angela Merkel rightly denounced the group as extremists and victims of xenophobia with hatred in their hearts. It was no surprise that Angela Merkel was one of the first to arrive for the Paris March because after France which has the largest Muslim population in Europe [5m], Germany is next with 4m, while Britain is next with 3m. But then the Muslims did not just show up in these European nations, they are products or bye product of European colonialism which built the wealth and economies of these European nations with the exception of Germany where the Turks have always provided cheap labor to oil the robust
German economy which is the most buoyant in Europe. In most European nations especially France the immigrant Muslim communities have always suffered from violence, discrimination and unemployment. Now with the publication of the Charlie Hebdo cover magazine you can add religious provocation to their woes. This certainly cannot be fair in an environment where some extremists and immigrant haters are advocating increase in recruitment discrimination to save jobs for indigenes and are advocating a limit of social welfare and benefits for such indigenes only while leaving out immigrants. Certainly such measures cannot promote social and environmental trust needed for social stability and cohesion now or in the future.
For now it is certain that European parties that hate immigrants will win more elections in France especially and in Europe generally. Le Pen’ daughter is growing in stature in France and some have predicted she would win France’s presidential election in 2017. But the fact and the truth is that while the French Muslims live in ridicule of their religion and fear of discrimination, they cannot fully pull their weight as part of Franc’s overall social capital because they cannot fully trust the system. How they react to their plight will determine the future of France because as an African proverb goes – No one puts fire on a thatched roof and goes to sleep. Of course the wily French have their own version – Eternal Vigilance is the price of liberty. Certainly the French have set for themselves a very long and arduous vigil on this Charlie Hebdo affair and I do not envy them at all.
At home in Nigeria the authorities are more concerned with conducting a free and fair election rather than putting an end to the killing of Nigerians in the North East by using the armed forces to chase Boko Haram away into the night from which it emerged bloodily in our midst some time ago. The two presidential candidates have signed a truce that there will be no post election violence so that the elections must just hold as scheduled. Even the budget for the year has been post poned to after the elections by a National Assembly whose members are more preoccupied with elections than appropriations. At last the President has visited the North East capital of Borno State, Maiduguri 267 days after the over 200 Boko Haram girls were abducted and have not been found to date.
The elections going on as scheduled, the loss of the Chibok girls, and the unabated blood letting of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram show that our respect for human life and dignity as a nation is shallow and inhuman. Undoubtedly the rest of the world must be wondering how we can as a nation be so thick skinned on the loss of so many lives in such a short time while the quest for power goes on at all costs and in spite of the attendant insecurity of life and property in a section of the nation with a large percentage of our population. Anyway every cloud has a silver lining and in spite of our misfortunes and lack of regard for human life we have an election to look forward to and the hope that those who have led us to our sorry Pass of Thermoplae will not come again, come February 14 2015. That is the only wish that is comforting nowadays and one prays and hopes it materialises. Again, Amen.