In their excellent editorial on May 7, 2014 on the incipient conflict between the Muslims and Christians in Liberia, the Daily Observer advocated tolerance between the two groups. This is the best advice that anyone could give. The problem is that there is no tolerance between extremists on either side. Extremists on both sides of the religious divided give no quarter to the other side.
While I may agree with the call for tolerance, my take on the matter is that zero tolerance in the face of extremism is not a vice.
My credentials to speak on this volatile matter is as a former Liberian Foreign Service officer living and working in several Muslim countries in Africa for more than 10 years. In fact, I was married to devout Muslim women and lived the life of a moderate Sunni Muslim.
I was even accepted by her family as a Muslim after counseling by an Imam and our marriage by the Imam according to Muslims rite.
I also discovered that Muslims are no different from Christians in their cultural, economic and political values. I also found, to my belief that many Muslims love to drink alcoholic beverages. Some of them were alcoholics. At my house we entertained quite a bit and there was always plenty of liquor to go around because I could order large consignments duty free without restrictions from Europe. Some of my Muslim friends would pour the champagne in the empty ginger ale bottles and drink it openly.
On other occasions the security guard at my gate was instructed to alert whenever my mother-in-law, who was a Haja, was coming to our house, and we would hurriedly clear the table of all the alcoholic drinks. She knew what had been going on but made no fuss. It was a study in hypocrisy.
Let me emphasize the positives and denigrate the negatives in our own situation here in Liberia. When the settlers emigrated to West Africa from the American plantation slavery system they brought with them the cultural baggage they had assimilated from the systematic method of braking the cultural values that Africans had taken with them to the new world. Their names were changed, their languages were forcibly forgotten and they were scattered hither and yonder among a white majority that took no account of the fact they were human beings too.
Beginning with the great religious uprising that began in England in the 17th century and continued into the 18th century, slavery began to be seen as a very great evil, and the church began the first great modern crusade to eliminate this evil. We must remember that advocates of slavery used the Bible as witness to the fact that it was not wrong to keep another human being in bondage. However, that aspect of slavery as practiced in the Americas was quite different from Biblical or even African slavery. It was plantation slavery and was cruel in every aspect of humanity. The African chiefs who sold their people into slavery to white men who came in ships would have been horrified if they had been aware of what they were sending their people to encounter on the other side of the ocean. The middles passage of the Atlantic slave trade was funeral procession and plantation slavery was horrendous.
Let us look at the other side of the religious divide: the Muslim side. The demonic behavior of adherents of the extremist sect of wahabism, Al-quadism, Boko Haramism, Al-Shababism or other Muslim sects belies their belief in the Koran, the holy book of the Muslim faith, which they have perverted to suit their extremist views.
This is not strange since we are now living in the age of perversion where bearded men wear women’s dress, sing like women. When one's sense of shame is made a laughing stock of; while misuse of the beautiful becomes the order of the day and corruption in all of its aspects as legalized. Stealing is acceptable in the highest levels of governments all over the world.
In an article I wrote some time ago, I tried to sound a wakeup call to the creeping Islamic fundamentalism that has found a foothold in our religious community here, with many Muslim women wearing the full face “burqua” that cover the face leaving only a slit for the eyes to be visible and the entire body covered. This manner of dress is not required by the Koran but is pervasion by people who misinterpret the Koran to suit their own religious views of the Islamic code for women’s dress. This is wrong and should not be tolerated anywhere.
This manner of dress has been outlawed in France, a country with very high human rights credentials, and enforced by the police. We should do the same here in our own country to serve as a warning that ours is a secular state, a moderate religious community where all peoples are free to practice their religious beliefs.
Human rights advocates miss the point completely because the majority of extremists have no respect for human rights and violate in egregious ways all of the principles of human rights. Nigeria was on the verge of wiping out Boko Haramsim when human rights advocates, especially from overseas, began to agitate that the Nigerian army was violating the rights of the people and some female advocates became so vocal that the army tuned down its campaign, gave the extremists a breathing space, and now they got more than 270 young women kidnapped as sex slaves prime for human trafficking!
The signs are clear here in Liberia that we are on a slippery slope towards violence when we hear of a mosque being trashed here and a church being burnt there and people go about their complacent business as if nothing has happened to cause alarm. In Nigeria, the warnings have been there for many years; but the government, constrained by human rights activists, did not continue the drastic steps necessary to stamp out this burgeoning evil of religious fundamentalism until the recent horrendous kidnapping of nearly 300 very young school girls simply because they were going to school. One of the Boko Haram adherents made the unearthly comment “they are girls; why are they going to school” This kind of thinking is not only evil; it is satanic. There is this lingering suspicion that many high level government officials in Nigeria share this perverted thinking. People who think and behave in this manner should be decisively dealt with. SHARIA LAW IN LIBERIA? GOD FORBID!!!