Interfaith Dialogue…With Weaponry


Super best friends no more?

Philip Jenkins, who has a history of writing intelligently about religion in the Third World, has an engaging article in The American Conservative about Muslim/Christian conflicts in Indonesia, Nigeria, and elsewhere in Asia and Africa. Jenkins rejects Samuel Huntington's simplistic Clash of Civilizations narrative and its "notion of a world divided among vast religious-cultural blocs," because it "assumes that these units remain fairly constant, so that tension occurs only along their periphery. Yet cultural blocs change dramatically within their borders as well, and we are presently living through a dizzying era of shifting boundaries." For some details on those shifts and their consequences, read the article.

NEXT: Cell Phone Warning Labels in San Francisco?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Neither here nor there, but huntington never posited a ‘static’ notion of civilizational boundaries; when he mapped out his ‘past, present, future’ views, they did take into account intra-civilizational conflict and transformation. However he tended to feel they (civilizations) tended not to change themselves as often as they changed each other (on the periphery, as said). But a passing reference to his work does not a full rejection make. The book, (the clash of civilizations & remaking of world order) probably ranks as the #1 most cited, #1 least read, and within the top 10 of books no one can summarize accurately.

    This really isnt a comment on the piece but me being a nitpicky bitch about a book I read a few months ago

    1. probably ranks as the #1 most cited, #1 least read

      correction: other than the Bible. 🙂

    2. Honesty IS the best policy…..

  2. The newly faithful generally tend to also be the most fanatic.

    I’d say that doesn’t bode well with the newly fauthful Christian Africans facing off against the Muslim Africans. I don’t expect the continent to become more peaceful anytime soon.

    1. Yeah. Jos is a holy mess right now. Yesterday, apparently, Muslim herdsman woke Christians in the middle of the night with gunfire, and when the Christians ran out of their homes in panic/curiosity, they attacked them with machetes. That’s fucked up.

      These groups in Nigeria have been going back and forth for a while now, and each incident is more savage than the last.

      1. As many of the nigerian clerics on both sides have said, its probably reductive to describe the conflicts as *primarily* religiously motivated. Most agree that ethnic/tribal & socio-economic factors are likely more important than the fact that these particular tribes / ethnic groups have broad, differing religious affiliations.

        It would be like looking at Nazism, and calling it a ‘religious’ movement because they went after jews in particular; I think most people understand that it was less of an issue of theology and a far more complex combination of ethic, social, economic and geographic-control issues.

        1. True. How this has been presented on Al Jazeera is mainly a “we were here first and you weren’t” sort of conflict.

          1. Funny for a news organization run by religious people who view proselytizing by the sword as A-okay.

            1. To say that you haven’t the foggiest idea how AJ (at least AJ English) is run would be an understatement.

      2. I really don’t understand how these atrocities can continue to occur. What point does a culture have to devolve to (or fail to evolve to) for one to lose the ability to say, “Wait, wait a minute now. You want us to do *what* when they run out?”

        I just can’t wrap my head around that kind of prehistoric savagery.

        1. Ever read “things fall apart” by Chinua Achebe?

          Or maybe “Bridge on the Drina” by Ivo Andrek

          Or (best) “Koba the Dread” by Martin Amis…

          Every time you think savagery is monopolized by the “savages”, someone will always come along and surprise you. “Koba” really flipped my wig with the details of the ‘de-kulakization’ & depopulation of the Ukraine, etc. Especially the details of exactly how many people they shoved into train cars bound for nowhere. Boxcars full of children driven out into the far hinterlands and left to starve and freeze. It may not have the visceral quality of machete-hacking, but leaves an equally disturbing question of, “how could anyone do that”? I think the key point is that modernity has failed to eliminate much of what we consider “savage”; we may be better dressed and better educated, but the same issues often repeat themselves. “Bridge on the Drina” was really good on this angle; basically, the story of a bridge over 400+ years, and all the people going back and forth over it to kill each other. In the end it gets blown up, but I think the point was that taking away the bridge still doesn’t change people.

          1. When you get right down to brass tacks, the veneer of civility over the best of us is thinner than the visqueen on Warty’s windows.

          2. I never said that I thought “savages” were at the root of this, tho’ it’s not a great leap to that point, but what they committed was savagery.

            No, I’m just cringing at man’s inhumanity to man and failing to grok how someone can actually think that way.

          3. Dude, I wasn’t using the term “savage” as anything culturally loaded. Hacking people to pieces after luring them outside is pretty savage no matter who does it.

            Previous attacks in Jos have involved setting people on fire.

        2. On another angle, there was a recent story about a kid who grew up in Queens and had decided to blow himself up on the subway …


          As a new yorker, I dont know if thats a whole lot different than the problems in nigeria. Ok, no one stole the kid’s cows… but he felt completely justified blowing up traincars full of people over something he thought was a broad transgression against ‘his people’.

          Probably the biggest problem overall is when people identify with ‘their people’ more than with themselves. Which is why liberal democracy has had a certain kind of stabilizing effect… well, up until some idiot blows themselves up on the subway. But even then, we shrug and see it as the cost of freedom I suppose.

  3. In college i knew a guy from Nigeria who had converted to Christianity from Islam in high school. His parents had to send him to live with an uncle in Virginia because the local imam issued a fatwa against him.

    1. Someone should put together a list of who Muslims WON’T kill in the name of their head goatherd. Shouldn’t be a very long list…….

      1. I was gonna put that list up but the almighty spamfilter (PBUH) said I had to write something in there…

  4. The conflict also comes from differing aspirations for their communities. Christianity, and especially the evangelicals, holds the promise of American dynamism, pluralism (or at least less ethinic identity and less ethnic conflict) and prosperity. Islam promises more traditional values and institutions, and law and order. One of the big propaganda losses for Islam recently was that provinces in northern Nigeria switched to shiara law but rampant corruption continued unimpeded.

  5. regarding Nigeria…the Muslim attackers are also reported to have set anilmal traps outside the Christians doors, then hacked them to death when they were caught. Also, most dead are women and children, even infants. Many were also reported rape. But in Jihad, rape is permitted, sad to say, and the taking of sex-slaves; also permitted.
    Just sick.

  6. The Rwanda massacres, which were by far the largest scale in the shortest time, were not based upon religion at all. Sometimes Muslim Groups will clash with or kill Christians, but it is still mostly a cultural-tribal phenomena.

  7. Anybody who can be made into a member of the “Other” can then be demonized and destroyed. Religions, ideologies, classes, tribes, and whatever else are just convenient labels for that “Other.”

    1. Whenever I read the NYT comment boards, I feel like I’m an ‘other’ that liberals want to string up and kill for no other reason than I happen to have a small understanding of economics.

      Serious though, I’ve seen enough rhetoric from both sides of the isle to believe that the main difference between us and Nigerians is that we’re way too lazy to wield machetes.

      1. Speak for yourself GILMORE.

        Although I do prefer Molotov Cocktails…

  8. How can the Nigerians accumulate so much wealth if they are as savage as ya’ll say. I know they’re all rich because I get 15 letters a week from millionaires trying to get their money out of the country.

    And on a more serious note… is that a picture of Jesus and Mohammed? Isn’t that a death sentence for whoever included it in this story?


  9. Looking at the Jenkins article and these comments, the examples of Muslim aggression seem to involve killing people with machetes and other weapons, and the examples of Christian aggression seem to involve converting people.

    Perhaps there are examples of Christian violence in these struggles – I’m not fully familiar with the situation in those countries – but the closest Jenkins comes is reporting that some Christians have formed militias – doesn’t say that they’re sending these militias on rampages through the Muslim district of town.

    So, is the Christian violence being covered up?

    1. So, is the Christian violence being covered up?

      Of course. By the Jews.

      1. Some days I love you, RC.

        Even when you’re *serious* 🙂

    2. Note that that the attacks were prompted by apparent killings (150?) by the ‘christian’ groups some time earlier. Its not one-sided by any means.

    3. It’s not being covered up as far as I can tell. There’s plenty of it.

  10. Concerning Jos, Wikipedia has a good overview of both this weekend’s attacks and the related ones in January.

    1. Apropos (from the wikipedia link):

      The 2010 Jos riots were a series of clashes between Muslim and Christian groups in central Nigeria near the city of Jos. The area has been plagued by violence for the past twenty years motivated by multiple factors.[1] The clashes have been characterized as “religious violence” by many news sources,[2][3] although others cite ethnic and economic differences as the root of the violence. [1] The Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin A. Kwashi stated, “What seems to be a recurring decimal is that over time, those who have in the past used violence to settle political issues, economic issues, social matters, intertribal disagreements, or any issue for that matter, now continue to use that same path of violence and cover it up with religion.

      Of course, a priest *would* say that… 🙂 but I agree with that view

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.