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I’m sorry I have been absent from this blog for almost a month. Have been overwhelmed by many, many things.
But tonight, I had to write. I’ve been toggling between AlJazeera and CNN, laughing at the way the journalists are swallowed up in jubilant crowds. People grab their hands and lift them up in a salute, dance around, women in head scarves at midnight, bareheaded teenage girls, and little boys on their father’s shoulders, young men waving flags.
I have been marvelling at getting to see in my lifetime a moment this beautiful. How powerful ordinary people can be when they come together and say they’ve had enough. 30 years of the Mubarak regime. 17 days of committed protest.
And tomorrow all the sensible practicalities will settle in, and the complications of what comes next, the plans on how to transition from military to election, from decades of emergency rule to the law of the people, but tonight is a celebration.
And, if they can do this in Egypt, where else can we do it? If the young and old come out together, and insist, no, no, no, you wax faced old men, no, no, no, you vampires in your Ilmorog competition of thieves and robbers, who drone long speeches about responsibility to the nation, while tucking away millions into your pocketed bellies, no, no, no, we facebook, we tweet, we take to the street. We’re gassed, we’re beat, we sleep in the street. We die, we shout, our mother’s cry, but we do not go home, we do not go in, we stay, we stay, we protest, we pray.
It’s shocking, it worked.
Yesterday, the old man rambled about how he was Egypt, and today he left. And Egypt is now this collective person, this person who has filled the streets, the laughter, the tears, the shouts, the flags waving.
Was it the passion? Is that what it is? Can we do that? Or we all too content to complain, and keep managing?
On Facebook, this video has been going around. It is the voice of the young. Questions. Dreams. Imagine this, they say
First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.
The song was apparently posted on YouTube a few days ago, but, as music and art so often is, it was prescient, confident of success, yet reflective on the anxieties of revolution: “We know freedom is the answer, the only question is, ‘Who’s Next?’
On YouTube, the info on the song is listed as follows:
Inspired by the resilience of Egyptian people during their recent uprising, several notable musicians from North America have teamed up to release a song of solidarity and empowerment. The track is fittingly titled “#Jan25” as a reference to both the date the protests officially began in Egypt, and its prominence as a trending topic on Twitter. Produced by Sami Matar, a Palestinian-American composer from Southern California, and featuring the likes of Freeway, The Narcicyst, Omar Offendum, HBO Def Poet Amir Sulaiman, and Canadian R&B vocalist Ayah – this track serves as a testament to the revolution’s effect on the hearts and minds of today’s youth, and the spirit of resistance it has come to symbolize for oppressed people worldwide.
Omar Offendum (MC #1) – http://twitter.com/Offendum
The Narcicyst (MC #2) – http://twitter.com/TheNarcicyst
Freeway (MC #3) – http://twitter.com/PhillyFreezer
Amir Sulaiman (MC #4) http://twitter.com/AmirSulaiman
Ayah (R&B Vocalist) – http://twitter.com/AyahMusic
Sami Matar (Producer) – http://twitter.com/SamiMatar
Artwork by Ridwan Adhami http://www.ridzdesign.com
And as the night grows old, and the morning is near, look at the faces again, and pray for the days ahead.
A few days I logged onto my blog and noticed that it looked pretty crappy. The font was blocky and squeezed, my flickr widget was gone, my links that had been separated into different themes was gone, as well as quite a few other changes that I began to notice over time. This morning, while trying to reinstall my flickr widget, I realized that my theme must have been somehow changed by wordpress. When I googled “WordPress changed my theme without my knowledge,” I discovered that apparently everyone using the classy pared down Cutline theme had been changed over to the unattractive Coraline because of some sort of feud with the Cutline designer, Chris Pearson. I am, to say the least, … annoyed…
Please bear with the ugly appearance of the blog, as I am going to have to be forced to make formatting changes to my blog that I wasn’t counting on in an already busy month, and it will likely take some time.
[UPDATE: Ok, after a few hours of playing around, I’ve restored the widgets. Still like the old cutline theme better, but this will have to do, I suppose….]
The Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy and MOPPAN are partnering to bring a mini-documentary film festival to Kano today, Monday, 2 August 2010, and Tuesday, 3 August 2010. Documentary filmmakers Kim A. Snyder and Bart Weiss will be presenting the films and leading master classes for invited filmmakers.
Monday, there will be documentary screenings open to the public from 2-4pm at Mambayya House, a simultaneous screening at the Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, New Site from 2-4pm, and another screening at 7pm in the 1000-seater auditorium at Bayero University, New Site, at 7pm.
For more details see the longer entry, I posted on the Hausa Home Video Resource Centre website.
[UPDATE 2 MAY 2010: A computer whiz on Zoo Road was able to help me retrieve my contacts from a virusy phone. The messages are still stuck there, but with my contacts I’m all good. Thanks to those of you who sent numbers and added contacts that I didn’t even have before!]
This morning my phone woke up, decided life wasn’t worth living, and committed suicide (ie. turning itself off and refusing to allow itself to be turned back on), taking with it all 400+ of my contacts and 1000+ text messages. Not a single number or message remained on my SIM card when I put it into my new (as of this evening) phone. For those of you who know me in real life and have my phone number, please send me a text with your name so that I can save it in my phone, or if you don’t have my phone number but want me to have your contact info, you can send me an email or write a comment in the comments section, which I will not publish (if you have commented before don’t do this, because wordpress automatically publishes people it recognizes as having commented before). I’m hoping that the numbers will be able to be retrieved from my old phone, but, since there are none on my sim card, I’m not optimistic.
There is a lot of road construction going on in Kano, which brings hopes of smoother traffic in the future, but in the meantime makes for terrible go-slows. Another side-effect of the road construction has been the demolition of structures in an attempt to widen the roads. From what I’ve seen, the widened roads are creeping quite close to the edges of the ancient nearly thousand year old Kano wall, although there do seem to be efforts along BUK road to construct iron fences between BUK road and the wall. (According to the Kano State Tourism website, construction on the wall began in 1112 AD.) I didn’t think too much of it until today, when I read an upsetting story in the Weekly Trust by Jaafar Jaafar, Naziru Idris Ya’u and Mubarak Hassan Usman describing the destruction of one of the fifteen ancient city gates embedded into Kano wall by a road construction company.
An old monument of the ancient city of Kano, Kofar Na’isa, was demolished by a construction company in order to pave way for the ongoing road expansion in the state. Many metropolitan roads in Kano state are now undergoing expansion and reconstruction. Withstanding the greatest winds and rains of history for about five centuries ago, Kofar Na’isa stood firm without interference until last week when the construction firm rolled out its bulldozers against the gate.
The article continues:
Lamenting the destruction of the gate, the curator of the National Museum, Gidan Makama, Malam Aliyu Abdu, said the demolition has serious consequences on the cultural authenticity of Kano city walls, saying it is an infringement on a cultural site undergoing preparations for the World Heritage listing.
“The gate is over 500 years. Whatever kind of road that will be constructed, the sanctity of the old relic must be respected,” said the curator.
According to him, the museum cannot stop road construction but the gate should either be bypassed or let be. “We are supposed to be notified so that we direct how the monument would be carefully restructured but not to be demolished completely without our consent,” said the curator.
Continuing, he said: “the destruction of the site also constitutes a grievous setback to the conservation plan adopted by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments and the stakeholder committee on Kano city walls towards the preservation of the heritage sites of this great city.”
Malam Abdu said the NCMM in conjunction with the state government was preparing to submit Kano city walls and associated sites to UNESCO for enlistment into the World Heritage List.
“Already this demolished gate had been included in Nigeria’s tentative list and is receiving favourable attention as one of the sites with great potentials for the World Heritage enlistment,” he lamented.
While calling on government and private companies to desist from destroying the monuments, he said the museum will drag the construction company to court for wanton destruction of a national monument.
Also lamenting the destruction, the present lord of the demolished gate, Malam Abdullahi Usman, expressed displeasure with the destruction of the historical architectural piece. “The gate was demolished on April 19, without my permission as the custodian of the gate, nor the permission of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero,” he said.
He further said the construction company desecrated the historical relic, saying Emir Bayero has convened an emergency meeting with the district heads and those who are responsible to look after the gates. “The emir was really bitter about the demolition,” said the lord of the gate.
Unfortunately, the Weekly Trust article does not list the name of the construction company which bull-dozed the gate, or information on who would have given the go-ahead to destroy a national monument “protected by law under the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) Act, CAP 19 of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004, vol X Chapter 19.” However, when I went in search of more information, I found another article in the SundayTrust of 11 April 2010 describing the demolition, meaning the news is over a week old now. Right before I posted this post, I also heard from another source that the name of the construction company that demolished the gate was Kano-based Triacta Nigeria Limited.
The demolished gate is pictured on the Kano Tourism website here, along with a colourful story about the construction of the gate:
Emir Suleiman received a complaint from the nomadic Fulani that they were attacked by a group of thieves who took away their cattle. The Emir directed his son, Abubakar Mai Unguwar Mundubawa to go along with the complainants and capture the thieves at all cost. At the end of the mission, the son of the Emir returned late and was disallowed by the gatekeeper to pass through the Kofar Dogo with his people. There and then he decided to break a part of the wall close to the then Kofar Dogo (Dogo Gate). It took them five days to complete the new entrance. He then ordered the removal of the metal gate of Dogo, and fixed it at the new one called NA’ISA and blocked Kofar Dogo. The gate was renamed Kofar Na’isa by Emir Suleiman.
A October 9, 2008 Daily Sun article describes other Kano City Gates that have been sacrificed to road widening exercises:
Owing to the pressures of traffic, it became necessary to expand or “dualize” some major roads in Kano. Thus, some of the antique gates had to give way. Among the gates, which proved too narrow, were “Kofar Nassarawa,” “Kofar Mata” and “Kofar Wambai.” Unfortunately, the original clay structures were replaced with massive concrete gates. However, Hambolu seven years ago commended those who handled the renovation for their wisdom in incorporating elements of Hausa traditional architecture into the design of the new gates.
One thing that has particularly troubled me in the aftermath of the Jos crisis has been hearing both Christians and Muslims (and all other combinations of this: Hausa/Berom/idigene/settler/outsider/insider) blaming the other “side,” without taking any responsibility for actions committed by their own “side.” I am also troubled by how international mission groups/churches have seemed to use the crisis as a way to further an agenda to “prove” that Muslims are fanatical and hateful and violent, even if this means ignoring the fact that so-called Christians have also been fanatical hateful and violent. In fact, some of these Christian websites go so far as to deny that Christians took part in the violence and claim that Muslims are inflating the numbers of their own losses, without recognizing that they might be doing the exact same thing. Even Craig Keener, a family friend and world renowned biblical theologian who has previously written books on peace and conflict resolution and whom I admire a great deal, in an article in Christianity Today ironically titled “The Truth about the Religious Violence in Jos, Nigeria” presented only the “Christian” side of the story he had heard from friends in Jos without doing much investigation on how the other side might view it. Many of the comments on the Christianity Today articles about the crisis from various Christian readers are cringeworthy.
One of the best analyses I have yet seen on the crisis from the R.E.A.L. Organization (Responsibility for Equality and Liberty) takes to task the international faith communities for not doing more to denounce the atrocities committed by their faith communities, pointing out:
But the obvious point to any people of faith who respect each other and respect our universal human rightsis that it really does not matter who “started” the latest conflict. The reports of burned houses of worship, rioters murdering with machetes, gunfire in the street, dead bodies thrown in wells, axes used on little children, warrant shame and international condemnation from both sides and a unequivocal renunciation of religious hate. The Jos riots are a horror story of human beings’ inhumanity to one another, driven by nothing less than blind, unreasoning hatred.
Let me be clear: I am a Christian. As I have mentioned in the past few posts, I know Christians who have lost homes, family members, and churches in these ongoing crises in Jos. In the 2008 crisis, I spent almost a week with Christians in a refugee camp at my parents house. I have the deepest sympathy for them and agree that the international community should pray for and support financially those who have lost so much. But perhaps the international Christian community should expand their compassion to include the many, many Muslims who have suffered as well.
Let me also be clear that, living in Kano and having many Muslim friends, I have heard similar claims by Muslims to the complete innocence of the Hausa community and complete blame against the “vicious and warring local tribesman” (that is a direct quote) of Plateau State. I recently read a poem by a Hausa Muslim acquaintance that I found very disturbing, that cast the settlers as peace-loving civilized people and the indigenes basically as bloodthirsty savages who pass the time by murdering other people. Now, it’s clear that both sides see the other side as having started the crisis and being at fault in it. Both sides dehumanize the other. And this kind of rhetoric, on both sides, will only feed the fires.
I intend my critique to be against all of those who look at only their own side of the story–both Christians and Muslims. However, since I am a Christian, I feel I have a particular responsibility to take my own faith community to task for what seems to be a lack of compassion and a refusal to try to see through the eyes of the “other,” of using the tragic deaths of both Christians and Muslims to further an agenda to demonize Islam. And to those who claim Christians are completely innocent, let me say that for the past year and a half that I have been back in Nigeria, I have heard Christian friends in Jos say poisonous, toxic, hateful things about Hausas and Muslims. I have heard Christian friends rejoicing over the destruction of Muslim property, even over the burned hull of a primary school owned by a Muslim. When I protested, I was told that I didn’t know what I was talking about. (In fact, my mother just told me the story of a Christian non-Berom friend whose shop was burned by Christians–he rents from a Muslim) So let me protest on a more public forum, and those who disagree with me are free to answer me in the comments section of this blog. I have no doubt that there is much similar rhetoric on the Muslim side of the divide that I do not hear because few people would say such things in front of me, but whether there is or not, does not excuse Christians for hate. As Jesus said, “43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 43-45
I will provide links to two articles on Christian websites here. There are many more, but these are the two that I wrote comments on, trying to point their readers to Human Rights Watch articles that would provide a more complex picture of the situation. My comments, which I posted over a week ago, were never approved and made visible on these websites. I’m sure the people who posted these stories are good people, who have the best intentions to help their Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria, but in not posting the comments of someone who tried to bring some amount of balance and context to the story, they are not doing our faith any favours. In fact, by ignoring my contribution in favour of their own preferred sources, one could even say they are complicit in the spread of hatred.
But let me give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they have not seen my comments. Perhaps the internet ate my posts. If this is the case, I welcome them to contact me when they receive the pingback from my link.
The first one, “Jos is Burning,” is from the CMS mission on January 20, 2010. I read the article because someone posted a link to it on Facebook. The article correctly reports on deaths and losses of property from Christians. It also reports several rumours and allegations about “Muslim” soldiers targeting Christians:
A statement from the Anglican Diocese of Jos said that over the last two months, there has been concern over widespread rumours of plans to bomb the homes of Christian leaders and to kill senior members of Christian churches.
There are worries that the military, brought in to contain the violence, seems to be splintering along religious lines with claims that Muslim troops are allegedly firing on Christians and armoured vehicles are opening fire on Christian civilians. CSW reports that one eyewitness saw a Christian youth singled out in a crowd by a soldier, who forced him to kneel and executed him.
It finally lists a number of admirable prayer requests, including that “For Christian leaders in Jos, especially the Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi: for safety, courage, wisdom and opportunities to make connections across the Christian-Muslim divide.”
On January 20, I attempted to post the following comment,
While we should rightly be very concerned about violence against
Christians in Jos and elsewhere, I think we also need to be careful
not to focus so completely on our “own” side as to miss the violence
and hateful rhetoric carried out by Christians against Muslims as
I am a Christian who spent a good part of my adolescence in Jos. I now
live in Kano and have many Hausa Muslim friends. At least two or three
of my personal acquaintances (Hausa Muslims–Jasawa) from Jos but who
now live in Kano have had their family homes burned and relatives
wounded and killed. One acquaintance lost her grandmother and many
other family members. And if Muslim soldiers have been targeting
Christians, the same is happening with Christian soldiers targeting
Muslims. If churches have been burnt, mosques also have been burnt.
In fact, in one report, almost all of the Muslim homes in the village
of Kuru Jenta were burned and many Muslims”rounded up and killed:”
For another side of the story about the beginning of this conflict,
see this article from a Northern newspaper. It presents one side of
the story, but it may provide some explanation of the context behind
the church being attacked:
Similarly, for those who are not familiar with Jos, to make this a
story about persecuted Christians without mentioning the complex
politics behind it oversimplifies the story:
For more detailed information on the specific context of this
conflict, see these links:
Recent academic article by shari’a-in-Nigeria scholar Philip Ostien on
the 2008 Jos crisis
Human Rights Watch report on the Settler/Indigene politics in Nigeria,
with about 5 case studies from different parts of the country,
including the plateau
Human Rights Watch report on Military abuses in the 2008 Jos crisis:
Have Christians been killed? Yes. Have churches been burnt? Yes. I was
in Jos during the 2008 crisis and we had a refugee camp at our house
made up of mostly members from Emmanuel Baptist church, which had been
burnt for the 3rd time. (Hopefully, it has not been burnt again in
this crisis.) There is very much a need for prayer for Jos. But, let’s
please not focus so much on the Christian side that we forget that
Muslims are suffering and dying, as well, often at the hands of those
who claim to be Christians.
To date, it has still not been posted. Perhaps the internet ate it.
The second post on the 2008 Jos crisis I found because it is the automatically wordpress generated “suggested link” after my blog post on the Jos crisis. This article,“Nigerian Christians Murdered Left Homeless by Organized Muslim Attack”, posted by a Pastor Chuck and Arlyn on a site called “Urgent Prayer Chain” was a bit more sensational.
Pastor Chuck and Arlyn say:
The following report was received by Christian Aid from a native missionary living in Jos, Nigeria. Most reports of this situation by secular media contain skewed information, received directly from the Nigerian government. This information includes false claims that Christians attacked and killed Muslims, and vastly underestimates the damage done to Christian lives and property. In reality, Muslims plotted an attack on Jos Christians days before the election results were announced.
Now, I remember, at the time, as we sat through the crisis with hundreds of Christian refugees in and around our house, thinking that the international media reports did seem somewhat skewed and biased. However, for Pastor Chuck and Arlyn who were not actually in Jos or Nigeria at the time and who were relying on their information from one source, to claim that reports of Christians attacking and killing Muslims were “false claims” or that “in reality, Muslims plotted” the attack seems unwise and in fact quite dangerous.
I posted the following response, which I know was received, because on my google chrome browser, which I was using when I wrote and posted it, it shows my comment and says “awaiting moderation.” On Internet Explorer, it shows no comment. This was my response:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
January 23, 2010 @ 8:48 pm
As a Christian who was in Jos during the November 2008 crisis and had a refugee camp from three different churches at my family home, I appreciate the attempt to raise awareness about the sectarian crises in jos. However, I think we as Christians also need to be a little bit careful about skewing the story to “our” side so much as to not recognize that Muslims, many of whom I know personally, also suffered a great deal in this crisis, many times at the hands of those who call themselves Christians. While you say that “secular media […] includes false claims that Christians attacked and killed Muslims,” it is actually very well known in Jos that so-called Christians did engage in serious reprisal attacks. While we can say that people who kill others are not truly Christians, I have, with my own ears, heard Jos-based pastors advocating violence against Muslims (as well as some very admirable pastors who stress non-violence and forgiveness.)
You say that the “original” inhabitants of the land are Christian, but that “but the green farmland pastures have attracted Muslim Hausa and Fulani people from the north.” This is a bit of an over simplification. The Muslim Hausa community, also known as the Jasawa, has been in Jos for over 100 years, and has until recently lived fairly peacefully with the Christian “indigenes.” Many commentators who have researched this feel that these crises are actually political and have much to do with Nigeria’s policies about granting certain rights only to “indigenes” of the land, which often means that three or four generations of a family may have lived in one place but still not be considered “indigine.” The Jasawa community is denied rights such as reduced tuition at the university, opportunities to be employed in the civil service, and political representation. This does not excuse violence but places the crisis in more context. Just as many Christian “indigenes” feel that the violence is orchestrated by outside Hausa Muslim forces, many Hausas also feel that the violence is orchestrated by local “Christian” “indigene” politicians who are using ethnic chauvinism to reclaim land that has been bought and lived on for years by the Jasawa.
For more detailed information, please see the following articles: “Jonah Jang and the Jasawa: Ethno-Religious Conflict in Jos, Nigeria” by sharia-in-Nigeria scholar Philip Ostien ; a Human Rights Watch report on the politics of “Settler/indigene” in Nigeria , with a section on Plateau State , and the Human Rights Watch report on the Military abuses during the 2008 crisis, which have no doubt been continued during this most recent 2010 crisis .
For an example of why it is so dangerous to talk about only one side of the story, see these reports of a massacre of a Muslim community that took place only a few days ago in Jos:
I say all of this as a Christian who knows Christians who have been killed in these conflicts, Christians who have lost their homes, and Christians who have seen their churches burned. I am not trying to downplay the amount that Christians have suffered, but to urge us not to open our eyes wider to the complexity of these crises and to reach out in love to our Muslim neighbors who have suffered much as well. This is the only hope we have that these crises will stop.
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
January 23, 2010 @ 8:52 pm
For some reason, the links I posted above did not come through.
The link to the “Jonah Jang and the Jasawa” article is here:
The link to the human rights watch report on the “Indigene/Settler” policy in Nigeria is here:
The link to the specific details on Plateau State is here;
The link to the Human Rights Watch report on Extrajudicial killings in the 2008 Jos crisis is here:
I’m sorry that neither of my comments were posted, as I think those posts, without any sort of caveats, will merely further global misunderstandings about what is going on and will further solidify an “us against them” mentality among Christians and Muslims around the world. [UPDATE 4 February 2009: to be fair, the urgent prayer chain blog has now posted my comment.) As the R.E.A.L. organization notes:
You cannot promote religious love, if you won’t recognize and reject religious hate – especially when it comes from members of your religion. Our shared rights to exchange ideas and expect dignity for our religious beliefs comes with the shared responsibility to never allow our religious beliefs to be used to rationalize hate. Surely the thousands that have died in Nigeria over religious hate deserve more than a determined denial over why they died.
The widespread silence by responsible, international Christian leaders and Muslim leaders (outside of the anti-freedom OIC and Muslim Brotherhood groups) to recognize and condemn such religious hatred by both those Christian and Muslim rioters in Jos will certainly ensure that the Jos riots will be used by those who perceive a global Christian “war on Islam,” which remains a motivator for violent jihadists around the world.
Ultimately, I am not interested in “who started it” so much as “how will we now respond.” How will Christians and Muslims in Jos respond? How will Christians and Muslims in the rest of Nigeria respond? How will Christians and Muslims around the world respond? Certainly justice must be done, and the organizers of such violence must be found, prosecuted, and punished. But if we wait for justice before we begin to reach out to the other, before we begin to forgive and try to heal broken communities, I fear that as Dr. Martin Luther King observed: The “Hate [will multiply] hate, violence [will multiply] violence, and toughness [will multiply] toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”