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Mordechai Kedar: Radical Islam in Africa

Sudanese women seen walking in Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan.

Sudanese women seen walking in Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan.
Photo Credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90

Before Islam appeared on the scene, the Arab tribes would contend with each other in endless wars that continued for hundreds of years and cost many lives. When Islam appeared in the first quarter of the seventh century CE, it was meant to be a new, religious basis for the definition of the individual and the group; a unifying focus of ideological identification that would substitute for the divisive tribal identification from which the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula suffered. The tragedy of Islam is that it failed in this important task, so the Islamic peoples and the tribes remained divided and fragmented, bickering with each other and quarreling with each other as if they had forgotten the explicit saying in the Qur’an, (Chapter 3, verse 103): “Cleave, all of you, to the religion of Allah and do not part from each other”. The worst thing is that throughout history, Islam has been used as fuel for the fires of internal conflicts, and many times in the course of the history of Islam, both sides of an internal conflict justified the conflict in terms of Islam, and each declared jihad against the other.

European colonialism left behind it in Africa heterogeneous states, each of which is an aggregation of tribes that differ from each other. Therefore, for many years, most of the African states have been afflicted with violent conflicts that leave in their wake many thousands of dead and wounded. Cases of genocide, in Biafra in the late sixties and in Rwanda in 1994, are the direct result of the conflicts between tribes within African states. In cases where one side of a conflict is Muslim and the other side is Christian or Animist (pagan), the religious element becomes part of the reason for the war, fueling the conflict and turning it into a holy jihad, thus justifying acts of mass slaughter.

When conflicts between the tribes are colored with a religious hue, situations are created in which Muslim dictators behave with total brutality: Idi Amin, the dictator of Uganda between 1971 and 1979 eliminated about a half million Ugandans in cold blood. Some of them he threw into Lake Victoria, teeming with crocodiles, to be food for the predators. These days a film is circulating on the nternet of a different case: a mass murderer in Uganda, Joseph Kony, who forcefully enlisted children, armed them, and turned them into mass murderers totally lacking in compassion or conscience.

For about fifty years, in the second half of the twentieth century, a terrible and destructive war was carried out in Sudan, between the Arab-Muslim North and the Christian-Animist South. Over the years, this war has caused about two million fatalities, and it ended in an agreement in July 2011 that brought about  the division of Sudan into two states, a northern state which is Arab and Muslim, and a southern state with a Christian and Animist population.

In the Darfur region of Sudan, genocide has been taking place since 2003, in which Arab Muslim militias, aligned with the Sudanese government, have been methodically eliminating African Muslim tribes, burning their villages, slaughtering the men and making abused slaves of their wives. As of today, about half a million people have been killed as a result of the battles, arson, and starvation that have afflicted the population of Darfur, and millions of its people were forced to flee to Libya, Chad or Nigeria. At the crux of this conflict is the popular belief that prevails among Arab Muslims, that Muslims who are not Arab are not true Muslims, but rather second class Muslims only pretending to be Muslims, and therefore it is permissible to shed their blood.

It is important to note that in Arabic, a person with black skin is called “abd”, “slave”, and Arabs were the biggest slave merchants, selling Africans to work in America. This view of the people of Africa turns them into easy and legitimate prey. In the countries south of the Sahara – Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania – there is a Muslim majority, because most of their inhabitants converted to Islam during the course of history in order not to be considered as slaves. Therefore Arab Muslims consider them not to be true Muslims.

In the battles over Darfur there are organizations with an Islamic character such as “Jamaat Ansar al-Sunnah” or “Group of the Followers of Sunnah”; “Jamayat al-Kitab wal-Sunnah Alh’irih” – “Charity Association of Koran and the Tradition”; and the “Salafion” – “The Glorious Past”. And the texts that these organizations distribute are reminiscent of the texts of Usama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, past and present leader of Al-Qaeda respectively. It is important to note that during the 1990s, Al Qaeda had bases in Sudan. In 1988 the terrorists who struck the American embassy in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya and Dar-es-Salam, the capital of Tanzania emanated from these bases; those attacks resulted in more than two hundred fatalities.

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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