Thou shall not kill. Come, let us reason together

Saturday January 10 2015

Signs reading

Signs reading "Je suis un enfant de Charlie" (I am a child of Charlie) are laid with candles in front of the Capitole building in Toulouse, southern France, on January 9, 2015 during a gathering to pay tribute to the victims of a deadly attack two days prior on the Paris headquarters of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. AFP PHOTO | REMY GABALDA 

By KWENDO OPANGA
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After killing 12 people and injuring 11 others, two Parisian terrorists let it be known that they had avenged Charlie Hebdo’s caricature of the Prophet Mohammed and that God is great.

Somebody, please help me. How can the slaughter of 12 people enrich any religion? Somebody, please enlighten me: how did this massacre advance the greatness of God?

I quite understand that the Koran forbids the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in any way imaginable. But, somebody please educate me; does killing me and the innocents next to me make my killer a better person and my ghost or spirit a veritable tribute to contrition?

But, listen; Charlie Hebdo is known to have satirised, ridiculed and mocked Islam, Jesus, His mother Mary, the Pope, Jews and top political and public leaders.

Tell me, should I not question why Al-Shabaab separates Christians — they call us non-believers — from Muslims in northern Kenya and shoots them in cold blood and then chant that God is great? Should I not, as a Christian, wonder whether the Al-Shabaab God is the same one that I worship? Would I be wrong, then, to ask for a debate rather than slaughter?

TEACHINGS ABOUT GOD

Mama Susana, my Anglican Sunday school teacher, taught me that Jesus the Son of God loved me, loved the girl next door and the boy in the class ahead as He loved our parents and grandparents. My parents, Nahashon and Lutia (Lydia), taught me to love God, because He loves us, always does good for humankind – yes, humankind — and is forever forgiving.

The Catholic fathers at St Mary’s School Yala entrenched this view of religion and God in my mind and my emerging worldview. Of course my view of religion and worldview would begin to be shaken when I read Malcolm X and then heard his voice declare that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth was the good religion.

I questioned that because my Christian Religious Education teachers at Emusire Secondary School taught me that the eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth doctrines belonged to the Old Testament, which was replaced by the New Testament’s turn-the-other-cheek doctrine. Of course, quite literally, if you hit me on the left cheek, do not expect an invitation to strike the right.

Of course, there was Martin Luther King, an African-American, and the Mahatma, an Indian, insisting on peaceful protest. So, as a young “comrade” in love with Frelimo’s aluta continua (the struggle continues) in Mozambique and ZANU’s pamberi nachimurenga (the struggle continues) in Zimbabwe, I was still driven more to King and Gandhi than to Malcom X. I was questioning and deciding my way in and out of situations.

ISLAM PERCEPTION

When I first encountered Islam, I was struck by the oft-repeated dictum that it is a way of life and that Islam is a religion of love and peace. Of course some of this did not quite square up with some of my history lessons that depicted violence – but I stuck to the perception.

I was, however, horrified as I watched the second aeroplane slam nose first into New York’s World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. As I read stuff that was posted on the Internet in the wake of the atrocities committed by Al-Qaeda in New York and Washington that day, one post struck me; it brazenly and chillingly referred to the atrocities as “justice”.

Listen again, in 1990 in the wake of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and with it the Communist dictatorships in Europe and their satellites in Africa and the end of the Cold War, I wrote that the US would need a new enemy for its foreign policy to remain effective. That enemy, in the absence of Communism or the Red Bear, I wrote, would be Islam.

I had not the foggiest idea that Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda would happen on the global stage; that the Taliban of Afghanistan and Pakistan would be players on it; that Boko Haram would kidnap school girls and militarily threaten Nigeria’s neighbours and Islamic State would slit the throats of thousands.

I still believe Mama Susana in Thou Shall Not Kill. I believe in Come Let Us Reason Together.

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