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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

South Sudan the next South Nigeria?

World Media conspiracy of silence, lies, and deception.

By Hugh Fitzgerald

“The killers showed no mercy: They didn't spare women and children, or even a 4-day-old baby, from their machetes. Nigerian women wailed in the streets as a dump truck carried dozens of bodies past burned-out homes toward a mass grave.”

Rubber-gloved workers pulled ever-smaller bodies from the dump truck and tossed them into the mass grave on Monday. A crowd began singing a hymn with the refrain, "Jesus said I am the way to heaven." As the grave filled, the grieving crowd sang: "Jesus, show me the way." - from a news account of the mass-murdering by Muslims, of Christians sleeping in their beds, attacked in the middle of the night, on all sides, by Muslim Fulanis.

You've already forgotten just a bit, haven't you? That is, forgotten the details? You remember that about 600 people were killed in north-central Nigeria - was it a week ago? Or two weeks? Or three weeks? It's hard to remember -- when Muslims of the Fulani tribe surrounded Christian villages at night, where there were mostly women and children, and set fire to their houses, and then with machetes killed them, while the Muslim-officered army and police did nothing to prevent it. And you may remember, or not, how in January there was the same story, when Muslims attacked Christians, on a Sunday, burning them alive in a church. But on that occasion, since the Christians around included men, they did fight back, and so that January story's details have been forgotten, and the BBC, and NPR, and everyone else had a high old time, in describing the six hundred Christians murdered last week, in glibly (and wrongly) calling it a "revenge" for the attacks in January -- as if the attacks in January had not been instigated by the Muslims in the first place, and the Christians only inflicting casualties because they were defending themselves.

Christian pastors on the spot were always careful not to call for revenge attacks, but that if attacked, that naturally they should defend themselves:

The Rev. Pandang Yamsat, the president of a local Christian group, said he has urged his congregation not to respond violently to Muslims. However, he said he believes Muslims in the area want to control the region and that any peace talks would only give Muslims "time to conquer territory with swords."

"We have done our best to tell our members, 'don't go and attack Muslims, they are your brother,"' Yamsat said. However, "'if they come to dislodge you in your place, stand to defend yourself."'

Can you imagine any imam, any Muslim cleric, anywhere in the world, in peacetime as in wartime, telling Muslims "don't go and attack Christians [Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians], they are your brother"? Could Muhammad ever have said that? Did Muhammad ever say anything like that? Would or did the Qur'an ever say anything like that? You know the answer.

And if you remember anything at all about the attacks in early March, and how they were covered by the BBC, NPR, and almost all the of the most celebrated news reporting services and newspapers in the Western world, you remember this: That the "attacks by the Muslims" in March - the ones where they surrounded villages of sleeping Christians, mostly women and children, and then attacked them in the middle of the night with machetes, killing six hundred, including babies whose mutilated bodies have been described in ghastly detail - were done "in revenge" for the "killings of last January." And if you are a normal reader or listener, you nod, you say "ah, yes, I remember, there was some trouble in Nigeria in January, and there were killings, and I don't remember exactly what happened but I guess it was a case of the Christians starting it, and the Muslims perhaps not getting their revenge so that they felt they had to get their revenge this March." And that's how you leave it, in your own mind, and that is not your fault, that is how most of us would normally react. We don't go rummaging around trying to check against those whom, we assume, would not misinform us. And so when NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, tutti quanti, tell us the Muslims were attacking "in revenge" for January, we assume:

1) that in January the Christians started the attacks;
2) the Christians did most of the killing;
3) the Muslims must surely have suffered far more, because they still apparently felt the need to get their "revenge" in March.

But in Nigeria, this past January, that's not what happened.

This past January, as Baronness Cox of the House of Lords was one of the very few in the West to note, on a Sunday, as Christians in Jos were going to church, they were attacked by Muslims, who then set a church afire with all the congregants inside, burning them alive. They then proceeded to attack other Christians outside the church, and the killings went on and on. The Christians in Jos did fight back. Some of them, having survived the unprovoked Muslim attacks, went out searching for Muslims to kill. Does that surprise you? Did you expect them to do nothing? Did you expect them to behave as people in London or New York might behave, doing nothing but waiting for the course of "justice" to work itself out in the courts? They are not that silly. In Nigeria it is well understood that neither the Muslim-dominated police in central Nigeria, nor the Muslim-officered army anywhere in Nigeria, would come to the rescue of Christians. And if those Christians do physically defend themselves, and fight back, and even bring the fight to the Muslims, they will simply be massacred, again and again, with impunity. Do you dislike how the Christians in Nigeria behave? Would you wish them to behave, say, as the natives of Western Europe do when set upon by Muslims, which is wait for the forces of order, and then for the long slow spokes of the law to turn the wheels of justice, and finally for some kind of most limited justice to be done? Do you approve of their fighting back? Disapprove? No opinion? What do you think, to move to another continent, of how the Chinese deal with Uighurs who riot and kill Han people? Think they are too tough, or do you secretly wish that in the Western world we could, in dealing with the Muslim threat, emulate the Chinese government?

Now many in the Western world have wanted to minimize the religious prompting - and the prompting comes from the texts of Islam, not from the Christian Bible. For example, a Vatican spokesman wanted to make clear that in the Vatican's view, this was not a religious war:
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, condemned the violence and said Monday that the conflict must be interpreted in the light of social, economic, ethnic and cultural factors rather than religious hatred.

No? Not "religious hatred"? Why then, if it is all about other factors - social, economic, ethnic, and cultural - the sheepmen vs. the cattlemen, and the poor vs. the rich, and the rich vs. the poor, and the town vs. the country, and this people or tribe against that people or tribe, does it turn out, whatever else might be going on, that on the side that starts things the people are entirely Muslim, and those they target are always entirely Christian?

But what about the "ethnic argument"? One could say: Oh, this is just a case of Fulani shepherds trying to fight back against non-Fulani farmers? Wouldn't that be a comforting thought, in some ways, if we could keep Islam out of it?

Here's part of a report that someone inclined to such an analysis could rely on:
The killings in Dogo Nahawa, three miles south of the region's main city of Jos, began early Sunday.

Chuwanga Gyang, 30, said he heard a gunshot and left his house through the back door but stopped when he realized that the attackers were shooting to herd fleeing villagers toward another group of attackers carrying machetes.

He recalled climbing into a tree and watching as villagers were killed and the attackers set homes alight over the course of 90 minutes.

The attackers asked people "Who are you?" in Fulani, a language used mostly by Muslims, and killed those who did not answer back in Fulani, he said.

Plateau State spokesman Gregory Yenlong said police are seeking to arrest Saleh Bayari, the regional leader of the Fulanis, alleging Bayari had made comments that incited the slaughter. He gave no details.

And this business is not merely between Muslim Fulanis and non-Muslim non-Fulanis. There have been other attacks, always beginning with Muslims, and by no means only Fulani Muslims, against Christians, by no means all of them of the Bolem people (the victims of the latest massacres in and near Jos), and never the reverse, in Nigeria in the last few years:
The killings [in March] add to the tally of thousands who have already perished in Africa's most populous country in the last decade due to religious and political frictions. Rioting in September 2001 killed more than 1,000 people. Muslim-Christian battles killed up to 700 people in 2004. More than 300 residents died during a similar uprising in 2008.

Though others outside Nigeria may wish to believe, and to convince others to believe, that this is not a war of Muslims against Christians, all of these attacks evoke the most important event in the history of the state of Nigeria, an event that is never mentioned in any of coverage, on the BBC, or NPR, nor in any of the television and press accounts of the killings in and around Jos in January and March. And that Great Unmentionable Event is the Biafra War, the name we give to that campaign by the Nigerian military, Muslim-led and largely Muslim-manned, to crush the attempt, born of desperation, by Nigeria's Christians to declare a separate state in the south, a place where, it was hoped, the Christians of Nigeria would no longer be subject to the persecutions, humiliations and, above all, physical insecurity that they had long experienced in central and northern Nigeria. A series of large-scale murders by Muslims of non-Muslims living in the north led Christians in southern Nigeria to finally form and announce to the world, in 1967, the independent State of Biafra.

The American and British governments did nothing to help, gave no aid, extended no diplomatic recognition. Only Ghana and Israel gave useful moral and other kinds of support. The Western powers were not interested in the welfare of black African Christians. They were interested only in the uninterrupted supply of oil, and also, so they convinced themselves, in the need - but why? - to keep intact the "most populous state in Black Africa." One wonders, if the Christians and animists in the southern Sudan, who over many decades have been murdered and enslaved in large numbers by the Muslim Arabs of the northern Sudan, dare to vote for independence and then to declare an independent state (with all of the Sudan's oil) in the south, will the West behave as it did with Biafra? Will it refuse to recognize that state, and do so on the grounds that this might "interfere with the supply of oil" (in this case meaning: if we allow the black Africans to break off from the north, the Arabs might reduce the flow of oil to punish us) and because "the largest state in Africa should not be split up"? Such idiocies are entirely possible.

While the West abandoned Nigerian Chrstians in Biafra, the Muslim Arabs provided every assistance to the Muslim side. Why, Nasser sent Egyptian Migs, flown by Egyptian pilots.

Those pilots cheerfully strafed - what fun! - helpless Ibo villagers, who ran around trying to escape the bombs, and the machine-gunning by those Egyptians in their invulnerable planes above. Tens of thousands of Ibo died as a result. The war went on for three years. There were many reports, but the only two worth reading were those of Renata Adler (serialized in Mr. Shawn's New Yorker) and by Frederick Forsyth. From 1967 to 1969 the Biafrans managed to hold on. Their leader, Colonel Ojukwu, issued the Ahaira Declaration (which you might read online), in which he spoke about white racism (in the indifference to the mass murder of black Africans, as long as the oil flow was not interrupted) and, especially, about the "Jihad" that was being waged against Biafra. I wonder, and you may wonder too, if in the chanceries of the West, did anyone take note or think to inquire as to the meaning of that word "Jihad"? Was anyone prompted to start looking into the Qur'an and Sunnah at that point, back in 1969, and at what Muslims were doing in sub-Saharan Africa even then, before the OPEC trillions and the entry of millions of Muslims into Europe, using many different weapons, in their natural Jihad against the Infidels? Did Biafra mean anything, leave any mental residue in their brains, or was it simply something that happened, and had no meaning they could discern, because neither then, nor in the years since, have they figured out what Islam inculcates, and how that explains the behavior of Muslims?

When the Serbs, disastrously, and to their own great misfortune, turned to someone like Milosevic, it was because the West did not listen to them, did not take to heart their worries about such a man as the Bosnian leader Izetbegovic, who openly declared his desire to reimpose Shari'a law. For the Serbs, the mere mention of such a thing evoked tribal memories of Ottoman rule, and the devshirme (the forced levy, by the Turks, of every tenth Christian child, then taken back to Turkey to serve in the Sultan's armies), and provoked other historical memories of what Muslim Turkish rule had meant for the cultural level of the Serbs - a subject treated in the doctoral dissertation of Ivo Andric, the most famous Serbian writer, back in 1924. But the West was unsympathetic, because uncomprehending. Had it shown a little comprehension, it is possible that the Serbs would not have supported Milosevic, and things in the Balkans might have gone more smoothly.

And in 1967, and until the end of the Biafran War, and in the forty years that have followed, the West seems to have no comprehension of the Muslim campaigns against non-Muslims in Africa. It does not understand, it does not listen, to the Nigerian Christians. It does not understand what really happened, does not even have a good grasp of the number of victims of the Jihad in the southern Sudan. It pays no attention to what has been happening in Niger as a result of Saudi money, where the wahabization of the formerly syncretistic Muslims is proceeding at a terrifying pace. It has no idea of what so alarms Laurent Gbagbo and the Christians in the Ivory Coast. It has no idea of what Khaddafy's money has done to spread Islam and fill with anxiety the Christians in Lome and the rest of Togo.

Forty-one years have passed since Biafra was crushed. Why did not, in the State Department, anyone, any group of people, take it upon themselves to study the onslaught of aggressive Islam in sub-Saharan Africa? Why is there no coordinated and cunning policy to support the Christians, to make sure that they do not lose heart, either in Nigeria or in Sudan or anywhere else on the Continent? Why has nothing been said, no plans made, to protect the southern Sudanese so that they may vote without fear in the referendum on independence, and to assure them that their expressed wishes will be honored? Do you have the feeling that this is being discussed, that anyone in the Obama Administration has a policy to deal with the Jihad anywhere, except insofar as the main lineaments of the policy appear to consist of appeasement, the kind of which that Cairo Speech was the purest expression, along with the shabby treatment, both cruel and stupid, which the Israelis had to endure recently and may have to endure in the future? And what American or European officials have tried to understand what the memory of Usman Dan Fodio does to Christians in West Africa, or for that matter, does to Muslims in West Africa? Having made the decision to oppose the attempt by the Christian Nigerians to create a state of their own, the American and British governments did nothing, knew nothing, and did not want to find out anything more. And that determination to know noting, and to continue to know nothing, about the role of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, continues right to this day.

It is now 2010. Eight-and-a-half years have passed since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. One might have thought something about Islam would begin to be learned by those who deal with Africa, or Asia, or Western Europe. Terrorist attacks did not stop. There have been over 15,000 separate attacks by Muslims all over the world. So one might have thought that if Muslim killings of Christians in Nigeria came back into the news, at this point, after so much else related to Muslim war being made on Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists all over the place, that this time the Western world would report things more accurately, more fully and with greater intelligent attention to history.

But it didn't happen.

I think, rather than those idiotic interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, where we spend trillions and attempt to rent "goodwill" of Muslims -- a strategy that requires endless funneling of funds to keep renting that good will, by the month, by the week, by the day -- we should send a few thousand troops to seize the Southern Sudan (and Darfur) and hold them, until we arrange for a referendum on independence to be held.

We are lavishing money on the wrong people, who cannot be won over, and we are ignoring those who are the victims of such people, and who are our natural allies, and who deserve our support and our protection.

Over the past weeks, I have listened to dozens of radio news programs, and seen television news shows in English, Italian, French. I have read the reporters, the columnists, the writers of editorials. And after the initial few days of reporting, the whole story died down. And never, not once, not on the BBC, not on NPR, not on RFI, not on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, nowhere have I seen mention of any context beyond that which goes back two months. And then we are told, inaccurately, that "this was a revenge attack" for "Christian attacks on Muslims." What happened in Jos in January, however, was not, as so many believe, simply a case of Christians killing Muslims, but of Muslims killing Christians and Christians fighting back. Nigerian Christians are not like Western Christians, and are perfectly willing to fight back. In the popular imagination, since more Muslims appear to have been killed than Christians, it has become simply "Christians killing Muslims."

But the one thing no one, no one at all, mentions is the word "Biafra." No one has mentioned, that is, the war -- as mentioned above -- that lasted from 1967 to 1969, in which over one million southern Christians were slaughtered by a Nigerian military machine that was completely controlled by Muslims, as it is today. (And that is why the Muslims who crept up on those three villages, through supposedly secure roadblocks, managed to do so. That is why, once the attacks began, no help came from the army -- because the army is Muslim-officered and largely Muslim-staffed.) No one mentioned that the Biafra War was fought by Christians who were determined to finally become independent of the Muslim north, and who declared their independence only after years and years of every conceivable Muslim provocation, including attack after murderous attack on Christians who happened to be in northern (i.e., Muslim-ruled) cities. No one mentioned the word "Jihad" that Colonel Ojukwu used in his speech to the people of Biafra -- the Ibo and other Christian peoples -- in his Ahiara Declaration.

And besides the Biafra War, the failure to mention the history of Islam in West Africa, which would require doing a little study, has meant the context of no context (to quote the late George Trow): no context in space, and no context in time. The reporting is always merely reporting, and there is no way to make proper sense of any event without some larger context. You have to know things. You have to be instructed. And if those who have the responsibility to instruct know nothing themselves, or so very little, then you cannot, by the reports of such people, ever be adequately informed. This is true of the reporters, of the columnists (think of Tom Friedman, think of the level of his mind), and the editorial writers who presume to instruct us on matters having to do with Islam, and yet who repeatedly show they know nothing, and do not wish to find out, about Islam.

This goes far beyond coverage of Nigeria. In the Sudan, for four decades or more, the Muslim Africans have been pushing southward, killing, enslaving, starving to death, those black African Christians and animists who do not submit, do not convert. Sudanese tell me that about 3.5 million black Sudanese have been killed or deliberately starved to death, almost all of them Christians. In Darfur, what seems to have nothing to do with Islam does indeed have to do with it, for the Arab Muslims killing the non-Arab Muslims are demonstrating, by their attitudes, the Arab supremacism that is encouraged by Islam, an Arab supremacism or which Islam serves as a vehicle. In Nigeria, pushing ever downwards, the Muslims are doing exactly what they did in the Sudan, taking more land from the Christian farmers, and attacking Christian tradesmen and small shopkeepers and workers where those can be found. And in both Nigeria and the Sudan, the country's main wealth is in oil. That oil lies under Christian lands, though the oil revenues are seized by the Muslim rulers and supplied mostly to fellow Muslims. The Christians are helpless to claim their fair share.

I didn't expect the BBC to tell us about Usman Dan Fodio and the Jihad he declared in West Africa in 1804, or to explain that he was Fulani, like those who did the killing last month in Nigeria. But I did think the Biafran War might have been mentioned. It took place not two hundred years ago, but within living memory - or is there nothing within the "living memory" of the media? Is that memory now always moribund?

When things happen, there is no attempt to instruct listeners or readers as to how the events of today fit into, connect with, other events. Take, for example, the series of dreadful attacks - rapes, tortures, killings - of Christians by Muslims in Pakistan. Few of these get reported fully. And there is never any indication that this might be part of a long pattern, part of a long history. You never hear, for example, about the martyrdom of Bishop John Joseph, who nearly ten years ago killed himself, in public, to protest the cruelty of Pakistani laws, and their use by Muslims as an excuse to kill Christians. You hear nothing about the history of the persecution of non-Muslims, going back to the earliest days of Pakistan. Nor do you hear about the persecution of Hindus in Pakistan, or of Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists in Bangladesh. Why not? Why are we never told? Why are we never given the figures on the non-Muslim percentage of the total population of Pakistan, or Bangladesh, at the time of Partition and today, and also given figures on the Muslim percentage of the population of India? Why is there never any attempt to make us understand men and events? Have you ever heard the words "Jizyah" and "dhimmi" used on the BBC? On NPR? Used in a story in the New York Times? The Washington Post? No? Never? In the thousands of stories, in the millions and millions of words, on matters related to Islam and Muslims, not a single appearance of such words. Why not?

It is not too much to ask that the Biafra War, those Egyptian Migs, that Western pusillanimity demonstrated in the abandonment then of Nigeria's Christians, should now be noted in reporting from Nigeria, that a larger context be given, that deep anxieties within the Christian communities be relayed to the outside world. It is not too much to ask that the same fears among Sudanese Christians, fears that have only deepened with every decade since independence in 1956, be reported to the outside world. Some may not know that in order to avoid sanctions, the Sudanese government pretended to commit itself to a referendum, on independence, to be held in the south. The time for that referendum approaches, and the Arabs of the north have been spreading money and weapons around in the south so as to encourage attacks of tribe against tribe. By increasing the level of local violence, the northern Arabs hope to use that violence as an excuse to delay or to cancel that vote on independence, or to use that violence in order to appeal to the southerners to vote for them as the only force capable of keeping the peace in the south - precisely because they are from outside, from the north. Such maneuvering is not sufficiently monitored, and Western audiences not being adequately prepared to understand what is happening now, and what is to come.

Wouldn't it be amazing if we had reporters, columnists, writers of editorials who actually recognized their own ignorance, and felt the need to rectify it, and then decided that by god, they were going to study the texts of Islam, the tenets of Islam, were going to read Schacht and Lammens and Snouck Hurgronje and Jeffrey, were going to read what the defectors -- the apostates -- from the Army of Islam had written (just as, in an earlier day, they would not have relied on TASS but have read what defectors from the Soviet Union said and wrote about it). Then they would no longer keep repeating the baseless banalities about this "religion" that is also a Total Belief-System, with its effects, in those places where Muslims believe themselves powerful enough to act with impunity (i.e., in Dar al-Islam, where Muslims rule) on the actual behavior of Muslims toward non-Muslims.

Wouldn't it be amazing to have reporters who, in giving us the latest news from West Africa, knew about Usman Dan Fodio, and about the Biafra War? And they would be able to provide, then, a deeper understanding of what is going on in the Ivory Coast, with Laurent Gbagbo and the fear of the Christians of infiltration from the north of Muslim immigrants, or what is happening in Togo, where suddenly the mosques are being built everywhere in Lome, thanks to Arab money, and they have state-of-the-art sound systems supplied by Khaddafy (who has bribed the Togolese ruler, apparently with a Lamborghini that ruler enjoys racing up and down the 30 kilometers of paved roads). The Muslims in Lome have cut down all the trees around the churches that once gave shade to worshippers entering and exiting or simply meeting together after a service, while they chase away any Christians who attempt to sit under the "Muslim" trees near mosques. And what have you read in detail about the Wahabification of Islam in Niger, where a friend of mine recently returned after years in France and was horrified to see the complete transformation of the easygoing black-African version of Islam with the real thing that the Saudis had transplanted. But who will connect the Sudan to Togo to Niger to Nigeria? Who will write the articles about Khaddafy as the self-anointed "King of Africa" who is constantly bribing tribal chiefs and constantly distributing funds for the spread of Islam -- even if he, Khaddafy, is hardly fundamentalist in his own behavior, what with his high-stepping bodyguards consisting of Amazon-like women? Who will help people who naturally do not have the time to study, to connect murders in Nigeria today with the Biafran War of forty years ago?

There are all kinds of fellowships for journalists that provide a year of study. Some spend a year at Harvard, meeting each other at the Lippmann House on Francis Avenue, with nothing more pressing than to take courses to deepen their knowledge of what they specialize in. How many of them are clever enough to see that when it comes to Islam, they are better off studying on their own, rather than with the apologists who are thick on the ground of Harvard Yard and its environs, the diana-ecks and noah-feldmans and roy-mottahedehs (he, at least, has some semblance of humor lacking in the others, as his quoting of Robert Benchley indicates). There is the Stanford Program for journalists, who linger or lounge under the loggias made possible by Leland Stanford's railroad largesse, and everyone has a wonderful time in sunny California. But it is unclear, for those covering world politics - and nowadays that has to include Islam - how many are put on the right path, and how many subjected to the myriad myrmidons of Mesa Nostra (Western Division). Nonetheless, there are individual instructors, and even whole departments, where the real thing is studied, but to mention them here would be to cause trouble for them, and there is no reason to do that.

The failure to report adequately, or sometimes failure to report at all, on the Muslim attacks on non-Muslims, in Nigeria, in the southern Sudan, in southern Thailand, in Bangladesh, in Pakistan, in Indonesia, just can't be allowed to continue unremarked. The only way to get papers and radio and television to collectively pull up their socks, or straighten up and fly right or (your colorful and metaphoric message here) is to relentlessly expose the shabbiness of these reports by describing what has not been mentioned. And only thus will those who keep producing or publishing or broadcasting such stuff be shamed, mocked, held up for well-justified criticism and ridicule on the Internet, until word gets back to someone, and someone else discovers that he just has to start giving the context, has to instruct correctly, has to start making sense.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is sad that nigeria as a country refuses to admit that there is a religious war going on in the country. All attacks on christians have been preplaned and would continue until the fedral govt. holds the hausa fulani leaders and muslim clerics responsible for the senceless killing of inocent people.We cant keep running from this fact, Islam preaches hate.