This first appeared in the print edition of Weekly Trust on January 21, 2006.
Farooq A. Kperogi
I have decided to devote this week’s column to the several emails I have received from my readers. Unfortunately, I have not been able to reproduce all of them here because of constraints of space. I have also edited some of them for clarity and space. Where I inserted my comments to make the emails clearer, I have indicated that with square brackets. My responses follow in italics. Enjoy:
Tell me about religion in America
I am a keen follower of your column NOTES FROM LOUISIANA. To say the least, your column is opening our eyes beyond what we read in popular texts available to us about the American society.
I will like you to please make an expose on the place of religion in the life of ordinary Americans. Specifically, as an African Muslim, I want to know more about The Nation of Islam, but my Christian reader-friends I know, will welcome notes on American Christianity, especially its Pentecostal version. How do they practice and view religion generally? I wish you happy stay in the U.S and more grease to your elbow.
Abdullahi Bashir Yola, Adamawa State,Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thanks, Abdullahi. Your request, in fact, inspired my series on morality and religion in America. I will write about the Nation of Islam some time in the future.
Re: Relations between Africans and Black Americans
I read with interest your above titled article in the Weekly Trust of December 3-9 2005. In fact, the article was as interesting as it was baffling.
To me, the attitude of Black Americans towards Africans is sheer stupidity. They ought to consider Africans as their true brothers and sisters, because they are all feathers of the same bird, isn’t it? They should regard the [fact of] Africans [selling] their forefathers into slavery as a blessing.
Many Africans now would have wished to be in their shoes, rather than languishing in disease, illiteracy, hunger, uncertain future and injustices of their leaders. They must consider Africans their true relations, instead of nursing grudges and animosity against them. Don’t you think so?
Habibu Isa Kano, Nigeria (email@example.com).
Habibu, it’s a complex issue. Blacks in America, in spite of the phenomenal improvement in their lot since the 1960s, are still at the receiving end of a lot of injustice. Most of them still live in poverty in the midst of the stupendous prosperity of America.
I can’t remember the number of times I have given ‘sadaka’ to Black beggars here. There are also white beggars, of course, who have entreated me for alms, but Blacks are the dregs of the American society. Some of them live in worse poverty than Africans. I will write on this later.
Re: Morality and Religion in America
Yes, Sharia is to protect humanity. Do you agree with that? If not, please try and get the Weekly Trust of Dec. 31, 2005 to Jan.6, 2006 on page 32 [and read] Farooq Kperogi’s column titled “Morality and Religion in America (1)” to see [the] wonderful sanity, moderation, pacification, patriotism, [and] sensible, viable way of life [of Americans], though there is some selfishness to some laws.
Precisely, American government is practicing laws which are almost like divine Islamic teachings (Shari' a). A driver, student, civil servant, etc under the age of 21 cannot drink or take alcohol and also prostitution is prohibited, and there is no any single brothel in America? Kai!
Even cigarette is not allowed to an infant before the age of 21 while in our country, Nigeria, “GARIN SU OBASANJO,” law makers want to implement a rights bill that allows our leaders of tomorrow to go on their lives as they wish? What kind of nonsense is this?
If our lawmakers dare and disdain to implement such rubbish, prodigal and unwanted right, they should stay at Aso Rock for ever, even after their tenure. And subsequently, that law should be at Rock Villa, not northern Nigeria and all Shari’a states because it is against our religion and culture, that is, Islam and subsequently, the teaching of the noble Prophet (SAW).
Furthermore you ought to know that the bill was set and imposed on us by the American government. By the way, I realized that America is exporting immoralities to other countries while on the other hand they secretly preserve the moral fibre of their own society.
My uncle once told me that one of the most popular Hausa singers, Shata, narrated in one of his [songs] titled “SHATA BAKON AMERICA” with his melodious voice that, “BASU DA ADDINI IRIN NAMU SAI DAI TSARE DOKOKIN UBANGIJI.” (Americas have no religion of Islam but they abide by its rules and regulations.)
As I was reading the column of Farooq, I had to wake up and set a special prayer for [him] because of his tremendous work done on this issue. May Allah reward you and your family with the greatest paradise, that is, FIRDAUSI, close to the noble Prophet (SAW). You like it, don’t you? (You smile and laugh).
Abdullahi Yusuf" (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thanks for your prayers, Abdullahi.
A misrepresented America?
Since your debut in the Weekly Trust, I have always found your articles informative, rewarding and interesting. Your series under reference in which you portrayed your host country as a paragon of morality and rectitude is quite curious when juxtaposed with what is said on America by Americans or by those who knew America better (with due respect).
Alistair Cooke, the BBC reporter who covered America for 50 years, has this to say: “In America the race is on between its vitality and decadence, and it has lots of both”.
More specifically, the televangelist, Jimmy Swaggers, in his book titled Alcohol, as quoted by Ahmed Deedat, says there are 11 million drunkards in the US [and] 44 million SOCIAL DRINKERS. Like a good Muslim [Deedat] says he doesn’t see the difference between the two.
There is no room for a nip or a tot in the house of Islam. One-third of white children are illegitimate; two-thirds of black children are illegitimate. Blacks, only 11% of [the] population, constitute 51% of prison inmates. Perhaps it's because moral standards differ that you found American society morally sound.
You are judging not by your Islamic standards but by the white man’s yardstick, e.g., fornication is not a crime; as long as it's consensual one can have sex with whomsoever he likes, wherever he likes, as frequently as he likes, etc provided one has attained the age of consent.
A morally sound society any where is a thing of joy to me, but not a misrepresented one. I’m willing to learn more. Hope I have not bored you. Thank you. Apologies for my disregard for conventions of writing e.g. mechanics since you said you are a linguistic activist of sorts. Allah ya kiyaye ka.
Abdulrahman Muhammad ,ABU Zaria (email@example.com).
Thanks for your mail, and for the observations you have raised about my appraisal of the moral landscape in the United States. But, you see, after all is said and done, all autobiographical narratives, by which I mean travelogues, memoirs, etc, are essentially subjective and selective impressions and recollections of people’s experiences. Mine is not different.
Having said that, I want to point out that I have not set out to “deodorize” the American society. I have no reason to do so. I only wanted to show that in spite of appearances to the contrary, America is not nearly the moral cesspool it has been cracked up to be by popular accounts.
But I pointed out that the society is not morally pristine either. I didn’t say that people don’t drink alcohol here; I only said that they have to be 21 years old before they can legally drink. People have to present government-issued ID cards every single time they want to buy beer anywhere!
To your statistics. The United States has a population of almost 300 million. If only about 50 million drink alcohol, what does that tell you? You may be shocked to hear the statistics of other nations, including ours, which make public pretences to righteousness.
But you’re right that I’m not judging the society from strictly Islamic moral standards.
Thanks for your column
How is the USA? Hope all is fine. I just write to thank you for your weekly column. In fact, it always keeps my weekend alive. Whenever I'm reading your articles, I always feel like hearing the voice of the late Alaister Cook of the BBC World in his famous programme "Letter from America".
Muhammad Sani Liman, Yola- Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org)