Monday 25 July 2011

Editorial: Religion and custom that savages humanity

The Customs of the Dark Ages

This just tore at my heart, the unconscionable evil that society allows in the name of religion, custom and tradition where men in their seemingly patriarchal superiority have the ability and sometimes that amazingly absurd but inalienable right to batter their spouses and project a sense of honour at their deeds.

Certain societies are so ensconced in the Dark Ages they almost have no prospect of arriving in the age of enlightenment, knowledge or development, they are so wedded to their customs for the purpose of serving selfish virtues in the name of misplaced honour.

The concept of shame is so warped and it never emanates from actions of the males and it is always considered the burden of the females who are then punished severely from actual bodily harm to heinous homicide by male relations who in their communities are automatically exculpated from guilt having restored honour to their clan through unspeakable violence.

Speaking up for against the unacceptable

As long as these communities generously called conservative but in reality are more savage than the wild uncivilised jungle of cannibal and fetish conclaves remain silent, women will continually be abused, forced to live inappropriately with domestic violence and made to take unreasonable rage from their spouses and male relations because that has always been acceptable, accepted and condoned with justice never intervening for the rights of the victims.

Rumana Monzur [1] of Bangladesh and her family have been convinced to go public and tell her story of the way a jealous husband with uncorroborated evidence attacked his professor wife, gouged out her eyes, bit off her nosed and launched into a character assassination of her trying to play victim.

These acts committed in the name of whatever belief system these nasty people adhere to must stop with the full force of criminal law visited on the perpetrators of this kind of violence – no human being’s existence is worthless enough to be sacrificed on the altar of this barbarity for the purpose of redeeming some virtue – my thoughts are with Rumana Monzur and my hope and wish is that she will find encouragement and all the support to pursue full happiness despite her tragedy.

Address men and dressing women

Which brings me to another matter of the Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Adaeze Ogiemwinyi who appears to have adopted a no-nonsense hands-on approach to her portfolio talking tough, eschewing unnecessary ceremony and getting down to the brass tacks.

As so she arrived in Kano, in the north of Nigeria and a one of those apparently conservative societies where her albeit practical and functional apparel [2] acceptable in so many places seems to have caught the displeasure of the keepers of community mores who have termed it “offensive to their cultural values.”

She was in a “smart dark long sleeve shirt and dark jeans trousers”, a picture would have spoken louder than words but I have none to display but if as the news story indicates, the governor of the state is a moderate Muslim, one would expect he would attend to the minister’s courtesy call without much fuss, as for the Emir of Kano, you have to wonder if the mountain would come to the 21st Century or we all have to time travel to the origins of the world where cavemen modelled exotic underwear and well, the womenfolk probably never needed what we modern folk call a brassiere.

Men should take responsibility

There are people who might be concerned about conforming to certain customs and deigning to integrate to be tolerated but the real issue is the refusal of men to take responsibility for self-control in the presence of ladies who refuse to don dowdy apparel no matter how decent, cultured, fashionable and respectable they appear.

The extrapolation of this irresponsible adherence to so-called customs is exemplified in the unfortunate castigation of victims of rape where they are get blamed for the offenses committed against their person because of their appearance and rarely because of the uncontrolled and rampaging conduct of the perpetrator.

Set alight the embers of Islamic Banking

Then the Islamic Banking debate in Nigeria has escalated beyond the angst-ridden concerns of those who were opposed to it.

Now, Nigeria has always been a combustible cauldron of anxious religious uneasiness that does not need the introduction of even a pinch of peppery religious policy of any kind before the battlements are set up and the war of words accentuate the wedges of discord within that nation.

Islamic Banking thrives in many countries, however in Nigeria, the idea has failed to appreciate its community; my advocacy has always been that Nigeria is such a country that requires probably the strictest separation of religion and state just because of the way religion excites uncontrolled passions, intemperate utterances and unreasonable conflict leading to destruction of life of property – Nigeria is just a very volatile country when it comes to religion.

Nigeria’s Pandora’s Box

The smarter idea should have been to secularise the concept of Islamic Banking, define it as Participant Banking, lay out the rules of engagement in the most expansive terms and then offered that this banking concept was compatible, similar and analogous to Islamic Banking – it would be been a master-stroke of the genius of semantics – sometimes words use matter more than their deeper meanings.

However, as usual, Nigeria’s Pandora’s Box of various items of religious import has not been completely emptied and every time we find ways to slam it shut with objective discourse and reason someone kicks it open spilling it contents with some religiously-biased initiative that just heats up the polity.

The Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN) is probably a matured, reasonable and objective organisation that has decided to abort the consideration of conciliation by allaying fears or educating the ignorant whilst dealing with sometimes unwarranted suspicion and suggested that Muslims are ready to go to war if Islamic Banking does not materialise as promoted by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Jihad lines drawn

This Jihadist tone is at best unfortunate and bordering on incitement as they declare that they are ready to “defend the implementation of the Islamic banking system (also known as non-interest banking), with the last drop of their blood.”

Sadly, this would have certain Nigerians pushed forward to be sacrificed for this cause as the instigators stand back washing their hands in the blood of fellow countrymen in the name of religion the government now doubly blackmailed caught between the fears of non-Muslims and threat of war by the Muslims.

The core lesson that remains unlearnt after all these years is that Nigeria is in no way ripe for the easy accommodation of religiously-based systems be they legal, financial, economic, social or commercial as other less volatile nations may be where Islamic Banking thrives like the United Kingdom for instance apart from purely Islamic countries.

And …

Jaiz International Bank PLC with its website having exceeded its bandwidth which was incorporated in 2003 as the vehicle for Islamic Banking once had as its chairman and one cannot say if he remains so the father of the Christmas Day pants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, not that anything should be read into that connection at all.

This is going to be a problem that extends beyond the ructions that the introduction of Sharia Law in the North of Nigeria caused, it was avoidable and manageable, if the initiators were conscious and committed to peace and unity within Nigeria – one wonders if some are ready to break the back of Nigeria on the altar of religion with the SCSN already signifying the tyranny of the majority is ready to make insignificant the concerns of the minority.


[1] Muslim ‘Honor’ Crimes: Rumana Monzur Allegedly Mauled by Her Husband - The Daily Beast

[2] Nigeria: Minister's Dress Sets Tongues Wagging in Kano

[3] The Punch: Islamic banking: Muslims ready to go to war – Sharia Council

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