Monday, 27 May 2013 19:41

A Question For Boko Haram: Is Opposing Western Education Good For Nigeria?

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This paper says that if what Muslims want is to attain parity with the West, or surpass it that not learning what the West knows is the worst way of going about it; it says that education in science and technology is the best way for Africans to catch up with the West and begin to compete with them amano amano, man to man. 

A Question For Boko Haram: Is Opposing Western Education Good For Nigeria? 

Ozodi Osuji 

The media reports that the name Boko Haram means opposition to Western education. In effect, the Muslim group in Northeastern Nigeria called Boko Haram is fighting to prevent Western education in their part of the world.

One has not read a manifesto put out by this group to fully understand their intentions but one can infer that they are at war with things Western and would like to live what they construe to be Islamic life style. That is to say that they see the West and its culture as diluting their Islamic cultural ways and want to get rid of the West and return to pristine Islamic culture.

This paper asks: should Africans oppose Western education? And, if they do who loses and or gains?

A few years ago, an eminent Harvard University scholar, Professor Samuel Huntington wrote a book called the “Clash of Civilizations”. In it he carefully delineated the struggles between various ideological approaches to life, especially as they pertain to the Western world. He described the West’s past struggles with nascent and vigorous Islam, socialism and communism and now with radical Jihadist Islam. Mister Huntington did not hide the fact that he identifies with the West and was interested in having the West defeat the people she struggles with. His partisan book is really trying to call to the attention of Western policy makers what they need to do to defeat those ideologies they are fighting with for world domination.

The capitalist (democratic) West did what it had to do to defeat the Soviet Union (communism) and Mr. Huntington believes that it must also do what it has to do to defeat Islam. In his view, the Western lifestyle, which he felt is threatened by radical Islam, must be preserved at all costs.

I understand where Mr. Huntington is coming from.  He had to make sure that those he identified with defeat those he perceives as a menace to their way of life.

I am assuming that Islam has a similar view? I am assuming that Islam also sees itself as at war with the Christian West and is doing what it believes it has to do to prevent the West from imposing Western life style on it? I said assuming for I am not a Muslim and cannot speak to what motivates the current spate of Muslim terroristic attacks on the West. 

Let us briefly describe Christianity and Islam; the two religious ideologies that are at war with each other.

History tells us that Emperor Augustus of the Roman Empire called for a census to be held in his lands. That much is historical fact.

Fairy tale has it that a man, Joseph and his wife, Mary were on their way to be counted during Augustus census exercise when a child was born to them, a child they named Emmanuel. That would mean that the child, Emmanuel Ben Joseph was born in 4 BC.

Christian mythology says that the local Roman satrap, Harold believed that the child would replace him and embarked on killing all baby boys with the hope of killing Emmanuel in the process. To protect their son the parents were said to have, along with him, ran to Egypt.

We do not know much about the upbringing of Joseph and Mary’s son. The next time we heard about him he was supposed to be twelve years old; his parents had come to the Jewish temple at Jerusalem during the Jewish feast of Passover; he was said to have exhibited wisdom way beyond his age.  Thereafter, he went back into obscurity until age thirty when he was supposed to have started preaching his new religion.

According to the four gospels in the Christian Bible, Jesus told his followers to love one another and to forgive their enemies. He called himself the son of God.  He was said to have performed supernatural miracles. He was supposed to have been arrested, tried and crucified at age thirty three.   He was supposed to have, on the third day after crucifixion, resurrected from death and forty days later ascended to heaven. His followers dispersed throughout the sprawling Roman Empire and spread his teaching; at Antioch, Syria his followers were called Christians and that name stuck with them to the present.

There is no historical evidence that the man in question ever existed. Josephus, a Jewish historian much later did talk about a man who claimed to be a messiah who was killed by Roman authorities in their province of Palestine. But Josephus did not make it clear that he was talking about the man whom the Greeks later called Jesus the Christ.

In 325 AD the Roman emperor, Constantine converted to Christianity and asked the various leaders of Christianity to put together their beliefs in one book. Thus, beginning with that first ecclesiastic council at Nicaea Christian leaders began putting together what is now called the Bible.

The Bible is divided into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament talked about the history of the Jews and about their prophetic tradition; the New Testament talked about the life of the man called Jesus and what Saint Paul wrote about him in his various letters to the faithful scattered in Asia Minor and Rome itself.

Gradually, Christianity penetrated Western Europe and replaced the people’s traditional (pagan) religions. Today, we can safely say that Western Europeans are nominally Christian.

Around 450 AD the Germanic tribes of central Europe sacked the Roman Empire.  What was the Roman Empire (Western Europe, North Africa, Middle East and the Balkans) experienced power vacuum. Nature abhors power vacuum, so, many groups jockeyed to replace the power that was Rome. 

In the meantime, in the Arabian Peninsula in 570 AD Mohammed was born. He worked for a rich man and later married the wife of that man, Khadija.  Thus, he became rich.  It is said that he took to going into the hills to pray and meditate. It is said that in 610 AD, the forty year old Mohammed heard the voice of the angel Gabriel talking to him. He had what he heard written down on paper and those constitute the doctrine he taught. He called his religion Islam: total submission to the will of God. Mohammad taught that he is the seal of the prophets.

Apparently, the people of his home town, Mecca (many of whom were at that time Christians) did not take kindly to his new religion and he fled (hajira) to Medina. At Medina he formed a militia and with it returned and used the sward to conquer Mecca and forced the people to embrace his new religion.

Mohammad’s conquest of Mecca was the first jihad; thus, Islam, the “religion of peace” has always had a history of jihadism, using violence to force people to embrace its ideology.

Muslims are taught to pray five times a day and to always face Mecca while praying; they are told to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least, once in their life time if they have the means to do so; they are told to practice Islam in Mohammad’s original language, Arabic.

In 632 AD Mohammed died. Upon his death there was schism as to who would replace him as the leader of the Muslim Uma. Two persons emerged as possible leaders, Mohammed’s friend, Abu-Bakr, and his son. Apparently, Muhammad’s followers took sides and two groups emerged in Islam: Sunni (those who accepted Abu-Bakr as their leader) and Shia (those who accepted Mohammed’s son as their leader. These two groups to the present constitute the two main denominations of Islam (there are many other sects of Islam, such as Sufi).

Shortly after Mohammad’s death, Muslims conquered much of the Middle East and used force to convert the people to Islam (once converted apostates who tried to leave were killed by the religion of peace).  They then swept into North Africa around 642 AD conquered Egypt, and converted that prior Christian and Greek enclave to Islam (some Egyptians did not convert to Islam and today live as Coptic Christians).

They proceeded until they got to the Maghreb, especially Morocco.  In 711 AD they swept into the Iberian Peninsula and took it over from Christians.

Muslims went up north and reached Southern France where they fought with the Franks (Franks were a Germanic tribe, from their name we now have France, so French men are Germans, with admixture of Celtic Gaul).

Charles Martel, the hammer of God, the leader of the Franks apparently stopped the Muslims from progressing further north at the famous battle of Poitier in Southern France in 733 AD. Charles the hammer is celebrated by Christians as the man who stopped the total Islamization of Europe.

For the records, it is worthwhile to note that it was Muslims who first attacked Christians in their European home land. This information is necessary to put the Christian counter offensive, crusades, that irritated Osama Ben Laden, in proper perspective. If you attacked someone and he counter attacked you why see yourself as a victim?

Muslims struck East and reached India and China; they converted those they conquered to Islam; thus, today the Turkish world of Central Asia is Muslim; there are Muslims in parts of India, Western China and Indonesia. 

CRUSADES 

Christians tried to protect Christendom and many wars were fought between them and Islamdom. These wars included the famous crusades called by Pope Urban in the tenth century to go reclaim what Christians call their Holy land, the birth place of Christianity.  The crusades lasted several hundred years and Jerusalem changed hands between Muslims and Christians until finally Muslims became the dominant power in Palestine.

In the meantime, the Germans (Visigoths) who had settled in Spain and North Africa before the Muslims conquered the area kept on fighting their Muslim overlords.

Queen Isabella of Aragon and King Ferdinand in 1492, the year America was discovered by the Italian under the employ of Isabella and Ferdinand, Christopher Columbus, finally drove Muslims out of Spain. The resurgent Christian Spaniards expelled Muslims and Jews from Spain. 

It came to pass that we have two primary religions in what Western folks call the old world (Europe, North Africa and Middle East), Christianity and Islam. In India is Hinduism and in much of Asia is Buddhism; in China is Taoism, in Japan Shinto and Zen Buddhism and in Africa African religions. 

ISLAM AND THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE 

The fall of the Roman Empire led to the loss of Greek learning in Europe. Classical Greek literature (Plato, Aristotle, Democritus etc.) was banned by the ascendant Christian church in the West. Thus, for a thousand years the West lived in darkness, with Christian superstitions as the only guide to living.

The Arabs who had conquered Egypt, especially Alexandria had access to the learning of the Greeks. Moreover, as Muslim soldiers went to central Asia they picked up Indian mathematics.  Thus, at this time the Arab world possessed more knowledge than Europe.

Muslims took Greek, Indian and Chinese knowledge into the European lands they had conquered (such as Spain).

Muslims, in effect, returned Greek rationalism to Western Europe. That rationalism led to what is called Renaissance in southern Europe, especially in Italy. Europe recovered reason and gradually challenged the superstitions imposed on it by the Christian church.

In 1517, Martin Luther fired the shot that led to the reformation of the Catholic Church. The reformation of the church led to French enlightenment (rational thinking by such giants as Rene Descartes, Voltaire, Jean Jacque Rousseau, Denis Diderot etc.) and later to science.

In 1543 AD Nicolas Copernicus challenged the Catholic Church’s teaching that the earth is the center of the universe (geocentricism) by writing that the sun is (heliocentricism).

In 1610 AD Galileo used his telescope to demonstrate the fact that the sun is the center of its solar system.  Kepler, Tyco Brahe and Eugene Huygens added to the growth of astronomical science.

In 1687 Isaac Newton, in his book Principia Mathematica, posited the three laws of motion and the theory of gravitation.

These trends gave birth to science in the Western world. The rise of Western science, in the mid-1700s led to the industrial revolution (James Watt and his steam engine played a critical role in the industrial revolution).

The Industrial revolution meant bringing folks to work at factories and thus around factories towns sprout up hence urbanization began in the Western world. Folks left their villages and migrated to urban centers.

Gradually, the scientific method became the West’s primary mode of explaining phenomena (epistemology). Today, the West dominates in the world of science and technology (the Asians, such as Japanese, Chinese and Indians are giving it a run for its money).

It is safe to say that the West dominated the world through its science and technology.  Moreover, Western science and technology gave the West the ability to discover the new world of the Americas and in the nineteenth century to take over Africa and Asia.

After the West’s defeat of the last great Muslim Empire, the Turkish, and Ottoman Empire (the Turks had defeated and taken over Christian Constantinople in 1453) during the First World War (1914-1918) the West carved up Muslim lands in North Africa and the Middle East.

Political realism teaches that to victors goes the booty. When Muslim Arabs were at the apogee of history, they too, expropriated other people’s lands. They took what is today called Turkey, a former Christian land. They took North Africa (the term Africa is derived from Latin for black, so blacks must have lived in North Africa before Arabs took the place over).

The West is today the numero uno, the alpha males of the world (as things now stands, the Chinese are at the door waiting to replace Europeans as the dominant predators in the predatory animal kingdom). 

Nobody likes to be dominated by other people. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for Muslims who were at one point at the zenith of human civilization to resent the West dominating them.  Arabs look with nostalgia the glory that was Arabdom in the eight seventh century of our common era. The point is that Arab Muslims anger at the West is totally understandable.

Having said that, if I was from the Muslim world I would ask myself: what exactly led to our conquest and domination by the men of Europe? One should not stop at mere anger; one ought to understand what led to one’s humiliation.


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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176