22 November 2002

Nigeria: Shari'ah and the Press - Shapes of an Eternal Conflict

book review

Kaduna — Shari'ah and the Press in Nigeria: Islam Versus Western Christian Civilization, by Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa, published by Kurawa Holdings Ltd., 2000, 461 pp.

This is a recent book that can best be described as a journey into his-tory, a treasure of knowledge and perspective on Islam versus the Christian civilization. A scenario presented " explore(s) the dynamics behind pretensions, (the) distortions , (the) abuse of history the virulent attack (and) the reasons for this hostility." The well-researched information provided on the actors, their weapons, locations, foreign and domestic forces, are the book's foundation in discussing Islam, Muslims and the Shari'ah on one hand, and Western Christian civilization, Christians, secularism and secularists on the other.

Readers would find in the book chapters on Shari'ah and its sources, Islam and the West, Nigeria: state of the nation, Islam in Nigeria, the status and application of Shari'ah in Nigeria, Shari'ah and the press in Nigeria. These are further contextualised in the conclusion. It becomes clear from the list of abbreviations used and the index that the book, though rooted in the Nigerian experience, is a painstaking documentation of knowledge gathered through research extending to the different parts of the world. This is what makes it a worthwhile resource material of international standard.

The author, a Kano-based research director, journalist and rural development consultant, raises among other issues, a correlation between control over world economy, financial institutions, globalization and media ownership by a "powerful oligarchy headed by khazar Jews" at international levels and at the local level "the Yoruba Christians (who) now control the economy and by extension the press and in addition political power in Nigeria." Malam Ado-Kurawa identifies the connecting forces in "the arrival of the Europeans to the African scene for slave trade (which) initiated the process of an economic power shift to the coast in the forest region " He argues that the European colonial enterprise was a christianizing and an economic exploiting mission that imparted Islamphobia, saying, "Lagos and other parts of the southern Nigeria became favored by the new economic arrangement Their cultural proximity to the Western Christian world gave them advantage over the Muslims northerners, both Muslims and Christians 'held the horn of the Nigerian cow.' The Yoruba Christians and some of their Northern Christian allies succeeded in instilling religious bigotry and intolerance."

He gave copious examples of the "Nigertian" press's Islamphobia. Take Thisday newspaper, for example, which he analysed on pages 351-360. In its journalism, he notes, "propaganda is nurtured on falsehood and sustained by ignorant and bigoted audience" (p. 359).

This pattern, the author points out, assumed international dimension since the Crusades. Years later, orientalism, intellectual domination, secularism, democracy versus Islam and coverage of Islam by Western media became the "sequential but continuous" issues in the forefront which even the growing presence of Islam in the West cannot stop. The result has always been negative throughout the world. In Nigeria, according to this book, " Christian intellectuals view themselves as representatives of the Western Christian civilization and they regard the Muslims as rivals. Often they go further by outdoing their European masters in regarding Muslims as their enemies. The mild ones regard the Muslims as retrogressive while they perceive themselves as heirs of the civilization of their masters and in aping their masters, they outdo them."

It is from this angle that discussion of other issues in the book broaden to encompass Islam and the New World Order, with specific case studies of countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey on one hand and Israel, Europe and America one the other. Terrorism and conspiracy are identified as part of the "sequential but continuing" tactics and methods adopted by Western Christian countries for continued conquest and subjugation of particularly the Muslim countries. This perspective and further discussions under Secularism, Democracy and Islam in the book provide immense historical value to researchers, students of history and the general readership. We are reminded, "Europe, once coterminous with Christendom, is now post-Christian and neo-pagan." This is where in the book the role played by so-called Enlightenment philosophers is credibly identified as the first really serious challenge to the Church which facilitated secularism and the subsequent neo-paganisation of the Western Christian civilization.

It is this onslaught, according to the author, that Islam and the Muslim world are awakening to challenge and ultimately seeking to defeat through the revival of Shari'ah in their societies. The author is so thorough and analytical in pointing out the challenges Muslims have to face and the opposition they had always grappled with which now assumed newer dimensions that he provides fresh perspectives to the state of the Nigerian nation and peoples at different stages. His discussion of the foundations of Nigerian politics under influences of tribal, regional and religious factors and forces confers certain academic excellence on the book the general public would no doubt come to appreciate. The question or issue of "minorities" is inevitably included to complete the rigorous analysis. The subject ultimately leads to perspective on Obasanjo in Nigerian politics and the issue of Islamisation that Shari'ah implementation currently symbolizes. This is treated with special emphasis that covers the status and application of Shari'ah in Nigeria, starting from the pre-Jihad period to the era of Shari'ah in the Sokoto Caliphate, Shari'ah in Yorubaland. Aspects of the judiciary system in precolonial Northern Nigeria are x-rayed, starting with the case of Kano. Readers are told how the system at the Sarki's court, what the court procedures were, who the judges (alkalai) were and what they did.

Shari'ah in post-colonial Nigeria and how the appeal system contributes an obstacle to its application are adequately presented and discussed. It is in linking the so-called Shari'ah debate with the tactics adopted against Islam and Muslims by the international and anti-Islamic forces and their local agents that the book establishes its identity. It is in this section particularly that all the socio-economic, political and pseudo-religious ills paralyzing the development of Nigeria can be understood in their naked ugliness. Who the culprits are, their victims and beneficiaries as well as the strategies in use are presented without mincing words.

Analysts, researchers, journalists and students of journalism would especially find this book an accurate presentation of the nature of the historical clash of civilizations between Islam and role of the press in that ongoing confrontation.

Abdullahi Doki is a lecturer with Department of Mass Communications, Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna.

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