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Christianity's Complicity in Coloniality: African Christian Leaders as Perpetrators of ColonialityHide

by Kelvin Acheampong

That Christianity was complicit in the colonization of African countries is an almost passe subject that hardly stimulates contemporary debate. It is no longer a myth that, through Christianity, the early missionaries contributed to creating the spiritual and mental environment conducive to colonization. African Christians, deciding that the problem was not Christianity per se have spearheaded efforts at stripping it off its colonial essence—what we may, in other words, call “Africanizing” Christianity. Despite the rich literature on Christianity’s complicity in the colonization of African countries, however, much remains to be understood about Christianity’s complicity in coloniality in Africa today. Decolonial thinkers argue that Christian leaders in contemporary Africa are agents of coloniality; and that the peregrination of African youth into other selves begins from church but the studies that explain exactly how these churches and Christian leaders perpetrate coloniality are as yet largely missing. I will argue (using the institution of marriage, particularly, the ceremony as a case study) about how some African Christian leaders, in an apparently genuine quest to promote supposedly “Christian” practices, end up denigrating cultural practices with African origins, but privileging those with Western origins, just like the early missionaries. This challenge, I argue, is only a reflection of the Sisyphean task of finely distinguishing between culture and religion, a challenge which the early missionaries also faced, but failed to prudently meet. This study is set within the context of the 21st century political background of the resurgence and insurgence of decolonial thinking.

​Religion, State and Society: An Analysis of National Consciousness Among Quranic Educators in Northern NigeriaHide

by Umar Ahmed

In Nigeria, there is a big disconnect between traditional (informal) religious institutions breeding millions of citizens and Nigerian government and its “Nigerian project.” While Nigeria as a nation has its national objectives and mechanisms set in place to achieve them, clerics, especially those at the rural areas are unaware of them and (un)consciously promote activities and attitudes that undermine them. This paper assesses the level of national conciousness among Quranic teachers in rural northern Nigeria and anlyzes how such awareness and their real life experiences impact on their commitment or otherwise toward nation-building. It finds that while the question of nationalism is very much intertwined with another question of who serves who? Achieving a strong sense of national consciousness is not a one-way traffic. Systematic exclusion in the Nigerian project and subsequent inequitable distribution of resource has led to the creation of alternate imagine communities  among the networks of Islamic (Quranic) teachers and their students in rural areas, who are aware of their influence in the success or otherwise of Nigerian government policies in the region.

Two Brotherhoods in the Same Neighborhood: Muslim-Christian Relations amongst the Yorubas in Southwest NigeriaHide

by Odunola Alexander Oladeji

For so long, the co-existence and relations between Christians and Muslims amongst the Yorubas has become an emblem of praise and accolades for an ethnic group that has almost equal proportion of people in the two faiths. It is upon this backdrop that this reflection seeks to draw from the lenses of different strands of literature on Muslim-Christian relations among the Yoruba ethnic group domiciled in the Southwestern part of Nigeria. And in the quest to inquire into the dynamics of co-existence of this culturally unique people in a religio-polemical society, this reflection avoids oversimplifying vaguely the interaction ensemble by the two Abrahamic religions. Rather, it approaches this subject by understanding the complexities and multidimensional layers of this interaction from the standpoint of community organisation and realities- focusing on the lived experiences of the people, the daily politics of engagement and how the relationship is managed. Therefore, moving from presumptive guesses to factual assessment, this study has been able to situate this relation beyond the peaceful coexistence and tolerance rhetoric to an intersectionality of ‘culturalness’ and humaneness of the Yoruba heritage. From findings, the Christian–Muslim relations does not obviate the existence of friction or conflict of interest, what is remarkable is how these differences are managed as well as how these dynamics play out as they go about their daily lives.

​Appropriation of Gospel Songs in Kenyan PoliticsHide

by Magdaline Nakhumicha Wafula

While religion, politics and literature seem to be separate fields of enquiry, in reality, they are so interdependent that they can be considered to be part and parcel of the other. Every literary text is deeply entrenched in the culture that nurtured it. In African oral literature, songs infiltrate virtually every sphere of the African communities. Since time immemorial songs have been powerful transmitters of the African culture and world view. In Kenya, Swahili gospel songs have been gaining prominence in politics in successive electioneering periods. Majority of Kenyans ascribe to Christianity that finds expression in popular gospel songs. Political aspirants are increasingly embracing Kiswahili gospel songs as tools to woe voters and sell their political agenda. Consequently, there is a symbiotic relationship between gospel singers and politicians in Kenya. While the appropriation of Christian songs may enhance politician’s political mileage as well as the artist’s socio- economic capital, it may be construed as misappropriation of the songs’ moral capital. Could the adoption of gospel songs into the political arena end up subverting their spiritual and moral mandate in society? From an ethnographic communicative perspective, this paper examines selected gospel songs that featured in political rallies during the past general elections campaigns in Kenya. Specifically, the paper explores how the Swahili gospel songs namely: Yote Yawezekana (2002) Kuna dawa (2007), Naona mambo yabadilika(2017) and Nimeuna kweli mkono wake Bwana(2022) are shaping the political and religious landscape in Kenya.

​Mkuru's ChurchHide

by Vanessa Wijngaarden

The 22 minute short documentary Mkuru's Church tells the story of rural Maasai who despite hunger and ethnic strife invest their income to build a huge church in the middle of the savanna. The film was made as a participatory effort, the initiative of the theme coming from the local community, and is interesting as a starting point for discussions on coloniality and Christianity, appealing to the inflexibility as well as adaptability of religion, the strengths and weaknesses of religious systems to exert (political) influence on others, and the agency and effects surrounding spirituality in motion with regard to lived realities in Eastern Africa. The documentary has been screened worldwide, and was selected for festivals on three continents, being nominated Best Religious / Spiritual Film at the Cutting Edge Film Festival 2015 in the United States, and reaching finalist status for best documentary short at Cross Docs (New York, 2021) and at the Viva International Film Festival (Sarajevo, 2021).

Negotiating Belongingness among Higher Education Students in a Multiethnic and Religious Learning Spaces: Context from Ethiopian UniversitiesHide

by Emnet Tadesse Woldegiorgis

Students who pass the national School Leaving Examination in the Ethiopian higher education system are placed by the Ministry of Education in different universities located in different ethnic regions of the country. Ethiopia has an ethnic-based federal structure with nine ethnic regions, and most higher education institutions thus have ethnic identities that shape the de facto context of campus spaces. Higher education students in Ethiopia join universities from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds and, as such expected to navigate through the cultural complexities of the host region and negotiate their belongingness to ensure their resilience in the system. What does it mean to belong as students in a multi-ethnic higher education environment located in an ethnic-based federal structure? How does the notion of belongingness impact the performance of students within universities? This study examined the sense of belonging among first-year students and its impact on their academic performance in three Ethiopian Universities. Using a qualitative, multiple case narrative approach, students’ experiences were collected via in-depth interviews and analysed through a theoretical lens of Hurtado and Carter (1997). The study illustrates belonging through case studies drawn from empirical research and presents the argument for analysis in higher education, identifying key conceptual features. The paper argues towards an understanding of belonging in Ethiopian higher education as a relational, complex, and negotiated process.

​“It is our turn; it is my turn”: Ethno-religion and Leadership Politics in NigeriaHide

by Timothy Baiyewu

The interplay of religion, ethnicity and politics has been waging its influence on the affairs of Nigeria over time. The paper examines the ethno-religious consideration and its implications on leadership politics in Nigeria. Considerable work has been done on ethno-religious influence on conflicts and their effects on education, women and economic sectors, but its implications on the quality of leadership and governance seems scanty. Nigeria is a diverse and populous nation. Such diversity and population size, over time, trigger ethno-religious consideration in the selection and election of leaders and the distribution of opportunities. In a descriptive study like this, the use of the library and interview methods reveals that ethno-religious consideration tends to overshadow competency, integrity, creativity, openness and good vision that are required of office seekers and political aspirants. This, to a large extent, affects the performance of leaders. The current reality shows that Nigeria is suffering from good leadership deficit. The study reveals latent conflict due to ethno-religious maneuvering across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. It also reveals gender bias, which male domination has orchestrated. The paper however recommends, among others, that competency and integrity should be a strong yardstick in determining candidates for elective positions across ethno-religious divides. It further recommends favourable considerations in order to encourage more women participation in leadership politics.

Violence as Religious Reaction to Societal Transition in Northern Nigeria: An Analysis of Boko Haram’s Propaganda MessagesHide

by Baba Mai Bello

For more than a decade now, the north-eastern part of Nigeria has witnessed a spate of humanitarian crises, unprecedented in recent times, as a result of terror activities by Boko Haram (BH), an ISIS inspired terror group which seeks to abolish democracy and impose Islamic law in Nigeria. Now in its second decade of campaign of terror, the group has continued to inflict significant damage on both civilian and military targets. Arising from the dearth of research directly analysing Nigeria’s Boko Haram\s propaganda, this study analyses BH messages comprising roughly 40 video clips of varying lengths, which were collected and analysed using content analysis within the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis and propaganda analysis. One of the key findings of the analysis is the attempt by the messages to justify their violent extremism as a direct consequence of societal changes from Islamic to western values such as western education, democratic governance, secularism among others. The findings further indicate that different discourse strategies are used to portray the group’s terror activities as a reaction to the existential threat posed to their brand of Islam by western values and what they view as moral decadence. We argue that these are strategies and tendencies that are peculiar to BH and may have been necessitated by its operational objectives as well as nature of the population they are operating within.

Multiplicity of Islamic Brotherhoods and Cross-border (In)security Dilema in Northern Benin.Hide

by Kamal Donko

The advent of Islamic brotherhoods and the risk of radicalization of the actors have made the reality of terrorism and violent extremism in the northern border areas of Benin a burning challenge for the country. This article provides evidence of the multiplicity of Islamic brotherhoods (locally known as Tidjaniyya, Sounantche, Tab'lik, Chiiya, Izala, and Ahmadiyya in these regions. It highlights the relationships that these brotherhoods have with their counterparts in neighboring countries, which have already been affected by terrorist attacks. The focus is on the development of the Izala whose practices seem to be a source of religious intolerance, a ploy for radicalization and the enrolment of followers in armed groups. Based on a multi-site ethnography, the focus is on the discourses and attitudes of intolerance held by religious leaders as well as on local and political initiatives to prevent the disturbing indoctrination of young people, including talibés and other Koranic students. Empirical pieces of evidence suggest that both radicalization and intolerant attitudes are directed against the undercurrents of the same religion and against the state and its rules. Thus, religion appears as a 'refuge' from various forms of injustice and exclusive state reforms. Secularism is often exploited as a venue by religious communities to challenge the republican order. The porous nature of Benin's borders with Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria, as well as the weak control of several secondary roads and waterways by the state, encourage the organization of joint preaching on both sides of these countries, and the invitation of preachers from these countries are all means of disseminating ideologies and radicalizing attitudes that the central state has striving controlling in its policy of securing its borders.

Islamic Versus Secular State of Sudan: A Dichotomous Vision in Religion and Politics 2019-2022Hide

by Ahmed Elhassab

The legacy of Mahadists Islamic State in Sudan 1885-1898 has created a state of mind that the majority are Muslims in Sudan, and therefore, the governing system should be based on Islam. This view dictates most agendas of the Sudanese politics, but climaxed under "Ingaz" regime 1989-2019 which raised slogan of "Islamization" in Sudan, the consequences of which is the failure to account for Sudanese diversity, and agitates a counter voice that advocates for a secular state. Upon these conflicting visions a series of dichotomies have been created; shaping the Sudan contested identity: Muslims versus Christian, Arabs versus Africans, and theocrats versus secularist. These reigning dichotomies on the identity depict the basis on which the nation-building of the country has been hindered and a storm of debate has raged-out unabated. Whereas theocrats push for an Islamic State with theological ambitions, secularists – liberal-oriented parties and some ethnic groups in the margins advocate a nonalignment in regards to religions by which the country could be kept united. Quest on creating an Islamic state was viewed as a game in which case "politicization of Islam" and "Islamization of Politics" tactics are used. This work interrogates the rising secular tendency as counter act to the professedly Islamic republic through exploring the tensions that have arisen on the identity of the country aftermath revolution in 2019.

Chiefs and Politics of Witch Hunting in Postcolonial Ghana: A Study of the Dagomba CommunityHide

by Leo Chikezie Igwe

The role of chiefs in the manifestation and management of witchcraft accusations in post colonial Africa has not been adequately explained. Existing research suggests that the introduction of state institutions has eroded the powers and legitimacy of post colonial African chiefs to effectively find witches and to adjudicate alleged instances of magical harm.Thus in situating the efflorescence of occult fears in the region, scholars have made a case for the modernity of witchcraft arguing that state institutions including statutory role of chiefs reinforce not weaken witchcraft fears and anxieties.
​However a careful examination reveals that this is not always the case because chiefs are actively involved in the management of witchcraft accusations. Using ethnographic data from the Dagomba area in Northern Ghana, this paper explains how chiefs in Dagomba communities use their limited powers to assert their authority on witchcraft matters. In addition to protecting their communities from the activities of witches and witch hunters, chiefs deploy state mechanisms to dispel occult fears and anxieties and neutralize allegations of witchcraft. This paper makes a case for post colonial modernities arguing that post colonial African political dispensation has yielded a situation whereby chiefs relate to witch hunting in contradictory ways and forms. 

​West African Muslims’ Sense of Belonging within the Context of the German Political TerrainHide

by Fulera Issaka-Toure

Academic debates on migration largely speak to the different topics concerning the process and triggers for people to migrate whether migration is forceful or voluntary as well as the consequences thereof. In Germany, studies on Muslim migration have been limited to Turks and Arab especially with how they negotiate between state laws and religious law to regulate family affairs. This paper departs from that in ways that it brings to the fore, another perspective on migration studies in Germany with a focus on West African Muslims. The presence of West African Muslims follows decades of settlement of Turkish Muslims after the second world war. As such, the foundation of Islam was already laid down by the first group of Muslim migrant workers. This notwithstanding, the experiences concerning the question on issues of identity and integration vary from different angles especially because of the issues of race and different processes of migration as well as the varying degrees of political climates that makes and unmakes the situation of migrant workers in a foreign land with different racial and cultural history. Consequently, this paper speaks to the question of how West African Muslims have navigated and continue to do so within the context of stringent immigration laws and strict rules of enforcement. The paper will at the end present the idea that immigrants do not always find a sense of belonging to their newly found settlements even if they are citizens.

​Knowledge at the Interlocking Space between Politics, Religiosity, and IdeologyHide

by Bakheit Mohammed Nur

Since the European colonialism of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, Muslim societies in postcolonial Africa have faced a form of educational dualism comprised of Western and Islamic systems of education. In response, Muslim scholars and educationists attempt to (re)structure education conceptually and pragmatically in the contemporary Muslim world by suppressing and silencing that which sounds Westernized and by (re)creating that which they see as harmonious with socio-cultural and religious norms of Muslims and their worldviews. They have launched an epistemic movement called the “Islamization of knowledge,” which establishes theoretical models and pragmatic objectives for religiosity, educational (re)orientation, and reconfiguration in Muslim societies. The movement to Islamize knowledge attempts through higher educational institutions to decolonize knowledge, unmake de-Islamization, and theorize Muslim educational dilemmas and socio-political impulses. This reformative educational discourse has given rise to the establishment of modern Islamic universities across the African continent to realize the objectives of the Islamization of knowledge, conduct research from an Islamic perspective, and reconfigure educational policies, practices, and teaching methodologies. This paper examines the epistemic principles of Islamic universities through the example of Sudan, which has become an active member of an Islamic higher education network on both regional and global scales. Sudan hosts prominent Islamic institutions of higher learning like the University of the Holy Qur’an and Islamic Sciences (UHQIS), Omdurman Islamic University (OIU), and the International University of Africa (IUA).
​The politics of Muslim higher education, as well as the movement’s epistemic narratives of decolonization and reformation, are under-researched and under-theorized in the field of African studies. This paper seeks to contribute to the debate surrounding Islamic universities and examine their role in (re)creating new forms of knowledge and lifeworlds. It attempts to uncover how faith-based universities Islamize knowledge; which elements of Western influence and thought they reject, why, and how; and toward which kinds of Muslim thought they want to direct students and why? How do Islamic universities depart methodologically from Western epistemology and thought in the era of technological interconnectivity and flow of information between nations, cultures, and faiths? To what extent do Islamic universities contribute to postcolonial educational reform, which takes place across African universities? The paper delves into a detailed ethnography that answers these questions.

Religion and Politics: The Contribution of Religious Institutions in the Democratic Transition in Congo, RD: Analysis and ProspectsHide

by Blaise Muhire

The role of religion in democratic transitions in sub-Saharan Africa has been remarkable, especially in secular societies post-independencies. This role has been further demonstrated both as an active component of civil society body and in political processes at the institutional level. Since its independence in 1960, Congo managed to organize its first general election in 2006, after 46 years (nearly a half century). Besides being an historical event, this election became possible thanks to the catholic and protestants churches, resulting from a national consensus after a political transition of 3 years. In the meantime, despite this historic success, the democratic process in the DRC is still experiencing political instabilities, whereas the role of the church has become ambiguous in the face of multiple political and security crises. Often, the cleavages between the regime in power and the opposition have dragged behind them cleavages between religious denominations depending on whether the religious actors are in the capital or in remote areas or whether they are Catholics, Protestants or Muslims. This presentation seeks to interrogate the possibilities through which religion might deeply shape political thoughts across Africa by playing a structural and institutional role, not just punctual interventions in post-secular societies.

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