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Monday, 24 September, 2001, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
How can Africans combat religious mistrust?
When news first came of the dramatic attacks on key buildings in the United States on September 11, there was condemnation from all African leaders.

But there were also reports of jubilation by some Muslims in several countries.

Could the dreadful events in America signal a turning point in relations between Islam and other religions in Africa? How can Africans combat distrust between different religions in the continent after last Tuesday's terrorist attacks?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The relationship between Islam and other religions has really changed and may become a big problem in Africa. This is because Muslims seem to think that a Jihad is a godly act. If Islam is truly a religion of peace why were Muslims celebrating (in a quiet way) in Africa about the bloodshed in America? The onus is for Muslims to rethink their beliefs that killing pleases God, otherwise the third World War may be a religious one.
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya

Islam teaches its adherents to respect humanity and uphold social justice. Anything else to the contrary is regarded as repugnant

Dalhatu Yola, Nigeria
Islam teaches its adherents to respect humanity and uphold social justice. Anything else to the contrary is regarded as repugnant. Therefore, the western way of life represented by interest based economies, hypocritical foreign and fiscal policies which imposed unfair trade practices and a quagmire of huge debts as well as excruciating poverty upon them, should all be seen as directly responsible for the outcry and resistance against the western lifestyle. These are the crux of the problem.
Dalhatu Yola, Nigeria

All African countries should practice equality to both Islamic people and the other religions. There should be equal Education facilities, equal Employment opportunities and all other fields.
Matano Rajab Kombo, Kenya

The cowardly and despicable act of terrorism has no place in Islamic teachings. Perpetrators and encouragers of such acts are a deadly virus attack in today's modern civilisation. They are abusers of faith and technology and should be dealt with accordingly and with justice. These mass murderers should be thoroughly investigated and wiped out from our planet earth before it is too late. I don't want our children wake up to this nightmare one-day.
Aden Ali, Somalia

Genuine democracy and mutual recognition within those societies are the only solution to control this ever-growing crisis of "extremism" in Africa

Aboud Suleiman, Zanzibari Student
There is a growing 'perception" today among the Muslim youths of different African countries that they are being systematically equated out of their local political and democratic platforms, either within their predominantly Muslim societies or predominantly Christian ones. I think genuine democracy and mutual recognition within those societies are the only solution to control this ever-growing crisis of "extremism" in Africa.
Aboud Suleiman, Zanzibari Student, Bangalore University

We learnt and continue to learn from all this that the bases of religious teachings is peace and love for one another. This unfortunately is not what we are observing. We see all this to signify exactly hatred, mass killings, intolerance etc. Conclusion: the intelligent thing for today is to be neutral: Believe in all and don't practice nothing. Behaving this way, we will be sure to remain alive.
Christian O Emehelu, Brazil

Religious tolerance goes hand in hand with democracy and a respect for human rights for all. Muslims and Christians can co-exist as long as separation of religion and state are enforced. I believe that Sharia laws being adopted by some Nigerian states are bad for non-Muslims. The states and countries should remain secular. Adopting Islamic or Christian laws in secular, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-racial countries is a recipe for conflicts and wars. Everybody should find against the state adopting a particular religion as the rule of law.
Zwelithani Mobuza, Zimbabwean in the USA

It was so unfortunate to watch Africans of the Muslim faith celebrate the terrorist attack of the WTC. It all shed light on the blind loyalty that Africans, without any sense of traditional belonging take sides in a struggle they least understand. I do not believe that what happened in the US is a religious war. It is terrorism of the highest order and needs condemnation. We should know that no religion advocates violence. We can all live together in the peaceful land of Africa.
Ndung'u Ndegwah, Nairobi, Kenya

Ignorance is a dangerous thing while knowledge is power!

Warrior Nwanimo, USA
Ignorance is a dangerous thing while knowledge is power! Both Muslims and Christians need to learn more about each other's religion and be willing to compromise on issues. Both groups need to be more tolerant of their our differences. Both should arm themselves with the power that only knowledge brings, not guns and words of condemnation that only hatred brings.
Warrior Nwanimo, USA

All African countries should start to separate religion from the government. Political leaders should not use government coffers to promote their religion. The governor of Zamfara State should resign his position in government and take to fulltime effort in the evangelisation in his mosque.
Government officials should not be allowed to use their positions to promote religion. The Senate and The House of Representatives should pass a law stating the separation of church and state. The unnecessary tying of government to religion has bred the kind of leaders that are visionless and non-progressive.
Dr. Michael Ebewo, Nigeria

The key words that Africans need to adopt and most importantly practise in order to eradicate this alarming dilemma are love, respect, tolerance, and acceptance. Most of the problems that Africa's Muslims encounter with the continent's other religions - specifically Christianity - have to do with the group in power exercising total domination of the "lesser" one. If we as a "people" categorically refuse to accept that any one group is better than the other, and promote love, respect, and acceptance among us all, we would go a long way into easing this major problem facing mother Africa.
Augustus S. Kesselly, U.S.A./Liberia

There can be no better way of forging trust than by beginning to talk to each other

Anthony Musonda, Zambian in Germany
There can be no better way of forging trust among members of different religions than by beginning to talk to each other and finding common ground among different religions. Talk enables us to better understand each other's lack of trust and fears. Talk enables us to begin to understand each other well and trust each other more.

There is also need on the continent to maintain secular states to avoid discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs. The case of Nigeria is one that calls for federal government to enforce that kind of separation between religion and politics within the federal states. Federal states that may be dominated by one religious group should not be left alone to decide on such an important issue.
Anthony Musonda, Zambian student in Germany

This is not about religion. This is about politics, mainly freedom. Civilisation to me means realising the fact that I am sharing the world with a whole range of living things. I have to learn to COEXIST. Democracy is realising that everyone should have a say in the way they live, and should live freely without FEAR of being victimised in every sense. So I should understand that if my neighbour was blazing in fire, it is only natural as I have an obligation to help before the blaze catches up with my house. Do we realise that while the West or Christians are mobilising themselves against atrocities against civilisation, in the name of neighbourliness, the Muslims are doing the same thing. But why do we see it as being wrong when we are doing just that!

Let us look at this issue democratically if we really are democratic, and not behave like we are myopic and seeing the world with cataract in our eyes. We are all citizens of the world and we have no choice about it because we can't displace that other person or group of people into space. Being arrogant and behaving like a puffed up frog only makes things worse for all of us, puffed up or not.
Gertrude Phiri, Citizen of Africa and the world

Let religion be inside you. A good religious person doesn't need to show anyone that he/she believes in god. The only person will judge you is god.
Sidi Kikenya, Denmark

Every individual should learn the teaching of his/her religion and stop using religion as a tool for hatred

Ebou Jarju, Gambia
Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and co-existence. Christians and Muslims had lived and will continue to live like this in my country. Every individual should learn the teaching of his/her religion and understand the basics and stop using religion as a tool for hatred.

It's unfortunate that individuals believed to be Muslim carried out the attacks. Everybody should understand that these people acted on their own for whatever grudge they have for America; they did not act in the name of Islam or the Muslim community in the world. Every world leader, including Muslim countries has condemned these acts.
Ebou Jarju, Gambia

Christianity, Judaism (in Israel), and Islam all had originated from the problems associated with religion in the Middle East. The Bible, the Torah, and the Koran are all about Middle East problems. And these problems had been carried over from one generation to another, and across different religious terrains up to the recent attacks on the US. Unfortunately, these religions had hardly recognised Africans as a civilisation. What then will jubilation in some African countries achieve? Ironically, these are the same countries that look up to America for every one of their needs. After Israel, African countries receive the largest of American development aids and funds, including the popular visa lottery.

In principle, the terrorist attacks need not breed mistrust between religions in Africa because the problem does not concern Africa. However, any escalation may affect African countries directly or indirectly.
Mohamed, Egypt

Africa should refuse to be tempted this time around

Damilola, Nigeria
Sub-Sahara Africa has the second largest concentration Muslims in the world after Indonesia. But what have we gained from this adopted religion? The question that should be answered by those who went into jubilation in certain African countries is; what have been the benefits to them since the advent of their foreign religion centuries ago? Ironically, these are the countries that directly or indirectly rely more on the US handouts for their daily survival.

The Muslim big-brother countries are also rich, but what have they contributed to African development, except providing training for some religious fanatics in order to create religious tensions in African countries. With the recent happenings, they would once again want to carry Africa along. Africa should refuse to be tempted this time around. This is the time that Africans generally and religious leaders in particular should take the bold step to shut their door against any attempt by Muslim countries to draft them into their age long problems. If this is not done, American retaliation will affect African countries generally.
Damilola, Nigeria

The jubilations by Muslims witnessed in certain countries were unfortunate, because they lend more credence to associating Islam with terrorism. But then this is an offshoot of what the Muslims had been programmed to believe as a basis of their religious tenet. Africans, just like any other ancient civilisation, have had their own religion or media for communication with God. However, the advent of these foreign religions (Islam and Christianity) had changed everything African. Africa should stick to their traditional believes as being practiced in many parts of Asia especially in China and India.
Olajide, Nigeria

I am e-mailing from Jos, a traditionally peaceful city in central Nigeria. However it has been racked by ethnic riots over the last few days which has left hundreds of people dead and several hundreds homeless. By a strange process the issues have been transposed, many of the ethnic groups have been lumped together as "Christian" and others as "Muslim" and once again it has become a religious war. Our own tragedy has been overtaken by the tragedy in America this week, and global terrorism and the ways in which issues become confused as religious.
Kanchana Ugbabe Nigeria

The key is tolerance and respect for each other's religion

Babucarr Kebbeh, US
The key is tolerance and respect for each other's religion. Everyone has a right to believe in his or her religion and should be judged by the ALL MIGHTY and not by any other person on earth. Understanding others' religion and respecting it is the first step of being religious!
Babucarr Kebbeh, US

Islam is a religion that instils great faith and moral virtues. Those who use Islam or any other religion to inflict death, pain, and suffering on their fellow man are not only against man but also God. For all of us to co-exist we must fear God and love our fellow man.
George Mutua, Kenya

It depends what part of Africa. North of the Sahel region Islam religion dominates with few pockets of Christians and Jews. Most of these groups co-exist mutually with just few fundamentalists like Sharia fanatics in Nigeria, Sudan and Egypt. Otherwise, Africa South of the Sahara is dominantly Christian. Political leaders in each country have created atmosphere of co-existence with other religions. Obviously, there is mistrust but with the understanding among religious leaders that Africans had their traditional beliefs before the Christianity and Islam.

In most cases Muslims and Christians study, work and live together in the spirit of brotherhood. We hope the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam and the recent carnage in New York and Washington, will not draw in Africans who are struggling to eke out a living in the new economic order of globalisation.
Diini Ya Musambwa, Uganda

See also:

11 Sep 01 | Africa
Africa reacts to US attacks
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