Talking Extremist Religion

Posted: 6 February 2015 in Understanding Others
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It’s in the news. And I’m in a Muslim country. I want my religion hot. Nothing lukewarm, nothing tepid. The Gambia is 90% Muslim, so I thought I’d ask about extremist religion. Ahmad was all for it. “Jihad is all about telling people, proclaiming to people the Almighty’s Word to all peoples.” Well – in a way, I’m up for that too, as an idea. I asked “what about Boko-Haram in Nigeria, and the violence going on in Mali? Not that far away really.” Did he want that kind of religion? “No, no, no. The time for violent jihad is over. When The Prophet was attacked he had to fight to defend himself. Then he returned to Mecca in victory. Then it was all over. Now is the time for the jihad of the proclamation.”

I asked him about Muslims and Christians here. Trouble elsewhere, how about here? “Everyone has some Christian relative, and the other way round too. I have a Christian aunt myself, by marriage. All this violence is not the teaching of The Quran. Those ISIS guys are not Muslims.” Wow! That’s strong. I probed “but are you a serious Muslim?” Yes he was he assured me. He took his faith seriously and personally.

On the streets, women and men looked very similar to how they dressed in Uganda, the men in shorts and trousers, Western style. The ladies in colourful fabrics, some with colourful head scarves. There were a few more covered heads than in Uganda, but not remarkably so.

I questioned some Christian people along similar lines. Jacques broadly agreed with what Ahmad had said earlier. “Yes, we know of Boko-Haram and the things in Mali, but people here are peaceful. There are many tribes in The Gambia, no one tribe is dominant and we all have to get on. Many people have a Muslim uncle or Christian relative, so it is harder to hate.” And the festivals? “Festivals? We invite them to Christmas and we go to their festivals. We tend to invite them more then they invite us, but we include in Christmas traditional cultural bits and traditional foods. And traditional music. It’s fun.” Sounds fun to me. But someone else added “this mixing is in decline. There is some Muslim preaching on the radio that discourages it.” And Hate radio? Violent jihad, I asked. “No, not that. And people still mix.”

And long may it continue – here in Gambia, but also elsewhere. Faith and religion needs to be discussed. Proclaimed even. But with both integrity and peace.

NB: all names and picture changed to protect identities



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