Category Archives: Africa

A day in the life – visiting Kenya

One of my friends is in Nairobi, in Kenya, This her experience of going to church there. Very different to Australia.

The Land of Increasing Sunshine

At last The Very Long Walk is but a distant memory and I’m walking properly again. It’s Sunday, so off to church we went, along with a fairly high proportion of the Nairobi population.

Religion is big in Nairobi. Historically, European colonialism and Christianity went hand-in-hand, and  for better or worse, much  Western aid is delivered via the churches today. Visually, the church is everywhere.  Large, smiling, charismatic pastors smile out from  large billboard hoardings in advertisements for Hillsong-like evangelical churches .  The slum areas along the main roads out from Nairobi are liberally sprinkled with small, congregation-built shacks with colourful Biblical names.  Gigantic white marquees act as pop-up churches, clearly visible from the air.  Hymns are often played in the supermarket and there are several Christian radio stations.  The matatus (passenger mini-buses) and buses often sport religious names and slogans.

Before I left Australia, I had tried to reach…

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Aayan Hirsi Ali’s “The Caged Virgin”

This isn’t so much a book review as a few thoughts sparked off by Aayan Hirsi Ali’s “The Caged Virgin.” The book is a collection of essays, but Hirsi Ali sums up some of her positions in the preface to the book.

In regard to Islam she says:

(first)  “… a Muslims relationship with God is one of fear.” (p.x)

(second) “… Islam only knows one moral source: the Prophet Muhammad.”  (p.xi)

(third) “…Islam is strongly dominated by a sexual morality derived from Arab values dating from the time the Prophet received his instructions from Allah, a culture in which women were the property of their fathers, brothers uncles , grandfathers or guardians. The essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen…. A man’s reputation and honor depend entirely on the respectable, obedient behaviour of the female members of his family.” (p.xi)

In the opening essay, “Why Can’t We Take a Critical Look at Ourselves?” she says “…we Muslims have religion inculcated in us from birth, and this is one of the very reasons for our falling behind the West in technology finance and health.” (p.7).

Hirsi Ali repeatedly points out the unequal, and sometimes appalling treatment of women in Muslim countries: girls who have been raped getting flogged in addition (p.72), and an alleged 5,000 “honour killings” of girls every year in Muslim countries. (p.12.)

She returns at various points to the claim that Muslim society has fallen behind the west. I do not recall the page, but at some point she makes the claim that the big advances of the last 100 years have come from the west. She does not explicitly name them, but she might be thinking of things like air travel, immunisation, television, organ transplants, the internet, or many other technological advances. (One might add that some of the blights on modern society like fast food, and the processed manufactured gunk that a lot of us eat also came from the west.)

She refers to a United Nations report (Arab Human Development Report, 2002)  (P.45 of her book) in which twenty-two Muslim countries are examined and which comes to the conclusion that “the (Arab)  region  … is plagued by three key deficits that can be considered defining features: a lack of freedom; disempowerment of women; and a lack of capabilities or knowledge.”

Thinking about this set me searching for Muslim responses to Hirsi Ali on the internet. It was hard to find them at first, because the search engines initially throw up Hirsi Ali herself, including many videos of her interviews.

One site I came across was http://answeringchristians.blogspot.com  maintained by a Pakistani woman. This site is not specifically related to Hirsi Ali, but it contains examples of honor killings by Christians and murder by Christians in Ghana who burned a woman to death for being a witch. The site also quotes the old testament verses about raped women becoming the wives of their rapists. The Old Testament contains some very violent passages.

See   http://answeringchristians.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html  but  you need to scroll down through 6-8 entries.

Another site that does specifically discuss Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel” is http://goatmilkblog.com/2008/04/06/ayaan-hiris-alis-infidel-commentary-by-asma-t-uddin/

It’s hard to summarize his views, but he states that “The drama, deceit, and sensationalism kept me hooked, I guess.” He makes a legitimate point, I think when he points out that Ali never refers to Christian fundamentalists in the US:  “I am not sure where and when she educated herself about Judaism and Christianity, but she seems to have completely overlooked each of these religion’s fundamentalist strains.”

I also found a site that discusses Christian witch hunts in Africa and Papua New Guinea and Hindu witch killings in India: http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/04/witch-hunts/