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Religion of Monday, 31 December 2012

Source: Chasant, Muntaka

My Journey Across West Africa Pt. 11: The Religious Dialogue

My dear readers,

Forgive me for not posting new episode sooner. I have had a rather busy life lately. I tried several times to compose a new episode, but could not complete it.

Permit me to continue with the rest of the narration.

Journal entry – start

Date: 30/11/11
Time: 9:40AM
Location: Kano, Nigeria

This is a different world. Hopefully there is much to do in south.

Journal entry – end

Going south was the start of the end of the journey for me.

I had a lot of encounters during my travel from north to south, but I cannot narrate all of them due to time.

I did not feel like leaving Kano. I was a bit worried about where I was going to get supply of the spicy dried meat. I had thought the few pounds I bought were going to last me forever, but it did not last before midday the following day. I had wanted to stay few more days in Kano, but as you may already know, this part of Nigeria is not safe. It is one of the hotbeds of Islamic terrorism in Nigeria. I’m easily identified as a foreigner. I could also be mistaken for a westerner, and a target for kidnappers, especially walking about with my backpack behind. These were enough reasons for me to continue south as soon as possible.

The roads in Kano were poor and dusty, and the streets busy and noisy. I, however, enjoyed my brief transit through the city. The ethnic Hausa people are naturally humorous. Also sold there was ‘kilishi’, my favorite.

In a long distance taxi to Abuja, I encountered an Islamist who demonstrated to me that, all but only Muslims would escape eternal suffering. To avoid this fate, he recommends that, everyone should abandon their belief, and join his. It is about 450km from Kano to Abuja, so I politely engaged him in a dialogue and logical exercise. With no evidence at all, Buhari claimed that every belief system is wrong but his. “Everything I have said is the truth because it is the truth,” he concluded. Chances are if we replace Buhari with a member of any of the mainstream religions the person likely will make a similar statement. This is because it seems most religions cannot exist without discrediting another or others. You view every belief with suspicion except yours.

“You mean to say that,” I started the interaction, “among all the over 3000 religions that exist, only yours is a true one?”

“Over three thousand religions,” he responded my question with a question, “what do you mean?”

“Yes,” I responded, “over 3000 religions. You have never considered that there are more religions beside Islam and Christianity and that, most of them have existed for hundreds if not thousands of years before the advent of Abrahamic religions. Have you?

He thought for a moment and arrogantly responded to my initial question, “yes,” he responded, restating his initial conviction once more, “that’s what the Quran says, so of course, only mine is the truth.”

Once again, if we replace the Quran with a different religious book, a devout of the religious text would likely make a similar statement.

As an educated person, Buhari thought this way, but that is okay. The interaction started because there was a news item on the radio about a clash between Christians and Muslim somewhere in one of the northern states. Buhari instantly took a side and became vociferous. This reaction surprised me. Buhari was a fanatic and a bigot. He could not tolerate anyone because he felt he was right and everyone who does not subscribe to his course was wrong.

It is sad that, religious bigots who think this way has never considered the fact that the world comprises billions of people hence thousands of different cultures and religions. It is for the same reason why you dismiss other religions why they also dismiss yours. What makes you think you can dismiss other religions but they cannot dismiss yours?

Why do you dismiss all the cultures and religions that have existed thousands of years solely because your religion says so?

I demonstrated to Buhari that, he is a muslim, for instance, as a result of where he finds himself or born. This is by accident. “If you were brought up in Nepal, the probability that you’d turn out to be a Muslim is almost zero,” I continued, “the same way if your Christian neighbor had been brought up in say Saudi Arabia, there is less probability that he/she would have turned out to be a Christian or a Buddhist. There is a correlation between geography and the religion you finds yourself in.”

Buhari has never been exposed to any of this argument. It took him a while to reason around it and finally come to the conclusion that I may be right after all. The above argument struck him; as a result, I earned his attention for a moment. I encouraged him to break the norm and read materials that directly contradict his belief system. They are important for his self-development. People disagree with you because they have reasons for doing so. You should try to find out why they disagree with you. By listening to them or reading materials that oppose your belief or political system, you stand to achieve the following.

1. It is an opportunity for you to listen to another point of view.

2. You get to know where you are going wrong, and if possible, try to correct them.

3. By being open minded, the evidence that you may encounter during this process might change your position forever.

4. It also serves as an opportunity for you to explain your position to the other person. It is also an opportunity for you to sell your belief or political system to the person who disagrees with you. But, you must do so with convincing evidence that is if you have any, and in so doing do not try to thrust your opinions or beliefs under their throats because you would not like it when they force theirs on you.

Let me ask you this: Do you tend to avoid rational discussion particularly because the process does not permit you to be completely right in most cases? If you do this, it is a sign you cannot tolerate others and most particularly cannot cope with reality. More than likely, you are wrong about everything. You can work this out by engaging in reasoned dialogue with the mindset that as well as you would like to be right, you can be wrong at most of the times, and the other person can be right at times.

With this, we arrived in Abuja around 3:30PM. It is a decent and a beautiful city. This is home to some good roads in West Africa. They were still constructing roads as at the time I was passing through in late 2011. The first minibus I took broke a traffic rule, by illegally crossing a pavement and started heading the opposite direction. “hmm,” I murmured.

I checked my email and to my surprise, there were 31 emails from Fatou. It has been 8 days since I left her. On average, she sent about 4 emails a day checking up on me. Surprisingly, I had also dreamed the previous night her and me rented a boat and headed out into the sea to an unknown destination. We ate fish and made love on the boat.

I had wanted to spend the night in Abuja, but for some reasons, I decided to continue south. I joined a ‘luxury bos’ bound for Lagos in the evening. It is nearly 800km from Abuja to Lagos, but this took almost forever. This is because the bus will stop whenever a car is not approaching us from the opposite direction. This is an assumption that if no car is approaching, chances are armed robbers have mounted a barrier ahead robbing cars coming from both directions. So we will stop until we see a car approaching from the opposite direction. Whenever we see a light afar in the dark, everyone in the car will start praying loudly. When we approach and realize it is the police, everyone will then shout, “Thank God oooo!” Excluding Ghana, I doubt if there is a country that is overly religious than Nigeria. A preacher would stop the bus, enter and at once start warning that the end is nigh, and the best all can do is to donate to the work of the lord. The preacher will then distribute envelopes, and everyone will donate something. A new preacher will come on board, and the same process would be repeated. My co-passenger realized I wasn’t participating in the exercise. “Why you no they take the envelope now. Where you from? You just they write,” he said in a jovial manner. I smirked in response and continued writing. In between stopping in fear of armed robbers and stopping to pick up preachers, it took us about 12 hours to reach Lagos. This was a memorable experience.

I will not say that my experience in Lagos was awful, but it’s a city I will certainly not recommend to anyone. I would narrate a bit of my experience in the next episode.

Next Episode
Features the final part, and the ride back home.

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