Friday, February 24, 2006

Religion of Peace? --
The International Herald Tribune reports that Christian mobs are attacking Muslims in retaliation for Muslim mobs rioting over the Danish cartoon controversy.

"What has become of us?" lamented Father Joseph Ezeugo, pastor of Immaculate Heart Parish. "This cannot be Nigeria today. We have been living side by side with our Muslim brothers for so long. Why should a cartoon in Denmark bring us to civil war?"

But the cartoons, political analysts say, were simply a pretext to act on very old grievances rubbed raw by political tensions.

Nigeria is entering a period of great political uncertainty in which it must elect a new president to replace Olusegun Obasanjo, who is barred by term limits from running for re-election. Speculation has been rife that he may try to extend his term.

"At the end of the day, it is all politics," said Kayode Fayemi, a political scientist and head of the nonpartisan Center for Democracy and Development in Nigeria. "Everything else is just pretext."

Conflicts between religious and ethnic groups are common and deadly in Nigeria. In 2002, riots over a beauty contest held in Kaduna in northern Nigeria left more than 200 people dead, and thousands of others have died in such clashes over the past few years.

Conservatives who snarkily comment on Islam being a religion of peace miss this point. Conflicts that are seemingly religious in nature, be it the Israeli-Arab conflict or the European wars of religion, have other political causes. Were all Arabs Christians, they would probably have rioted over Andres Serrano's Piss Christ if it were another insult piled upon several. Were all Palestinians atheists, there would probably still be Palestinian terrorist groups in opposition to Israel.
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