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Islamic political radicalism endangers African “identity politics” – Trayo A. Ali

February 25, 2016

Islamic political radicalism endangers African “identity politics” 

By Trayo A. Ali


With any single further step of “messing-up” nothing shall stop it from reaching a point of “no-return”. From there it will more bloodier, far reaching and of an untold devasting consequencies. This is so evidential. The wild and expansive wave of Islamists political radicalism encircling in a dramatic speed the African continent is putting the entire arrangement of continental “identity politics” into a real “existential threat”.

Considering the impact is generating, the ongoing challenge will have an unprecedented deeper implications on African “identity politics” that could possibly go beyond the combined impact visited on the continent by different intruders before including that of the Greeks and the Romans in ancient times, of the Arabo-IslamIsts in the mediveal era and the European colonizers of the modern time. Some political observers ascertain to the extent that, the “emanating hazard is threatening to change the entire continental political metabolism”.

What makes the whole prediction more conceivable and prophetic is the reality that this battle has been “down played” by those who matters. Thus its consequences are inadequately recognized as its poorly understood by continental political elites, respective government leaders, security advisors, intelligence pundits, academics and conflict resolution experts. As they all are “distracted” by the immediate security threat of terrorism, they failed to appreciate the other more subtle aspect and dimension of the danger. Thereafter this strategic field of confrontation left ‘unguarded’ and hence escaped ‘unnoticed’.

Operating on the bases of tactical, operational and strategic phases, these radical Islamists aim to destabilize the existing schematic setup of Africa’s “political-identity” and in the immediate process impose religious element as a defining factor that shapes the base of that set-up. Belittling, demeaning and devaluing the relevancy and importance of the other multiple factors, their schematic thinking process is designed to ascertain demographic engineering, racial alteration and annihilation of Africa’s indigenous cultures. Intimidation and coercive means are among other heavy-handed measures thoroughly applied.

Similar to Samuel Huntigton’s theory of “Clash of Civilizations” the two political bases (that of Islamists and indigenous African) are of total contradictive nature. Unlike the Islamists values on governance and their worldview which are based on ‘religion as a single determining factor of identity, African mode of ‘political-identity’ is based on tangible factors such as ethnicity, gender, region, poverty, freedom, cultural diversity, peace, democracy and the challenges these issues cause. Thus, while addressing grievances that usuallt emanate from such issues dictate “rational thinking” that requires mutual recognition, dialogue, negotiations and tolerance as means in order to reach harmony, peaceful co-existence, justice, equality, proportional representation, social welfare as objectives. While the Islamists totalitarianism on the other hand conditions religious allegiance, linguistic divinity, gender superiority, ethnic segregation, racial preferences and even genocide as the case may needs.

In the context of Africa’s complex, multiplistic and “colorful” reality, to apply this fundamentalist parochial unitary theocratic approach, the Islamists are ready to go far to the extent modifying and forging the “DNA” of African identity all together. Today Sudan’s case (which is falling apart) stands as a living testimony. The burning of the ancient library of AL-Alexandria (Egypt), the recent destruction of Timbuktu’s mausoleum in Mali, what signifies the name “Boko Haram” (which literally means “Western Education is forbidden”) and the dilemma and predicament facing North Africa with its culture condemned and impaired, its history forged and its civilization vandalized and torn apart (like the actbof intentional flooding of Nubian heritage by way building dams) are all historical evidence that reinforce these forecasts. Yet, not surprisingly but on the contrary this legacy of destruction provides the Islamists with more moral energy, inspiration and spiritual stimulation to further launch more heinous attacks.

According to statement attributed to Mr. Issoufou Yahaya (a historian from Niger) that today, in his native country Niger “there are more mosques than lecture rooms”. This is in comparison to a situation where, in Niger, in 1980s, while he was student at University of Niamey “there was not a single mosque in the campus” as he testifies.

Mr. Yahaya’s remarks tally with the findings provided by Professor Sultan Barakat (of the Brookings Doha Centre in Qatar), who notes that “African Higher education system have become casualties of war, caught up in the cross-fire of Islamic Fundamentalism that cut across the spectrum of religious and political thought”. He further adds that “tragically higher education in Africa is now caught in mayhem that emanated from the Middle East and from local radical groups that exploit Islam for political and social ends”.
Professor Alexander De Wall of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy also notes that “while Christian students have been using non-violent means to alter their status, their Muslim counter parts have been joining the ranks of radical Islamists that mix liberation politics with religious revival”.

Dr. Sansom Milton, a research fellow at the post-war Reconstruction Unit of the University of York (UK), observes that “in several universities in North Africa, narrow religious considerations often taken centre stage. For instances in some universities, debate such as democracy, the fight against corruption, women rights have been replaced by linear issues such as “whether to ban or not to ban headscarves for female students”.
In this regards where African Universities swept up in Islamic extremism, Mr. Wachiri Kithoto makes a challenging note: “The African governments appear to have limited options to decide whether university students should be trained for nation building or become foot soldiers for extremist religion interventions”.

While all brands of Islamic radical groups have presence in African continent, and openly identifying and declaring their allegiance or membership to either Al-gaeda or ISIS, the Boko Haram, the Al-Shabab, Ansar Adin, AQIM are waging Jihad, controlling territories, killing, kidnapping, raping, and openly preaching their “apophathic” views about establishing “Caliphate system” in Africa, many in the continent (as referred above) have their doubts (which are totally unjustified) about the magnitude and scale of the danger these Islamist kept posing on almost daily bases. Yet from all the indications available they are surely dead wrong. The “matter” is real.
However, what is of more significant is that the possibilty of presence of these fundamentalist elements in even more more “softer” and “strategic” quarters cannot be ruled out. Professor Ofu Okeke of the University of KwaZulu Natal (SA) ascertains this. He argue that organization like Boko Haram (which operating simultanously in three or more countries) has membership that cut across a broad spectrum and extends to former university lectures, bankers, graduates and undergraduates and political elites. What this could also mean is that, nothing prevents these elements to attract more invisible supporters, sympathizers, more facilitators, potential collaborators and ‘fortune-seekers’ in “high places” and “sensitive positions”.

Not surprisingly, Professor Okeke’s accounts go in conformity with what Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi (the leading ideologue of political Islam in Africa) states. Dr. Al-Turabi explains that “the Islam that is spreading through African societies is the new active Islam and not dormant one”. For him that type of Islam is “going into politics, economics, culture, education and the entire public life”. Certainly the operative words here are “it’s going into politics and culture”.That is what this piece intends to bring into attention.

The “Wall Street Journal” reporter, Mr. Yaroslav Tromifov is more prompt and emphatic when it comes in addressing this issue. Under “Africa’s Muslim Belt is Getting Bloodier”, he wrote: “the deceit, cowardice, and silence of all too many African leaders, journalist and academics continue to facilitate the religious discrimination and persecution of radical Muslims to this day”. He even challenges that “the fiction that Jihad had never been an act of aggression, but only defensive concept should be dismissed with the contempt that such deception deserves.”


History, they said repeats itself in the minds of those who ignore it. In the era of “The Dark Age” when Europe was besieged by the “Church” and only Pope’s verdicts and “excommunication” decrees were the laws of European life and sole terms of reference on governance, it was the “liberal Christian” intellectuals themselves who felt the sense of duty, obligatiin and the need for liberation from the yoke and did vehemently challenge and eventually defeated the Papal theocratic world order and system. In Africa too, the “Muslim liberal intellectuals” should take the front line seats in the debate, deliver more rational argument and solutions. With Africa shattering in the way it is, they need to help in defining the moment. Any further submissive positions will only allow the radical Islamists to firmly set their agenda, draw the battle lines and call the shot. The more these “liberal intellectuals” l exhibit silence, the wider political space fundamentalists will occupy and the more anarchic order dominates. Of course, that does not any way or by any means, waving the shared responsibility from the larger African intellectuals and elite community.

The author is a member of African Peace Information Network Service (APINS)

This article was first published in the Sudan Tribune website.

The link to the original article is:

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