Religious Identity and Globalization: Furthering Challenges
Since God has set the rules and has made them difficult to challenge, religion provides answers to questions concerning self-identity. However, in providing such answers, religion also institutes a notion of “truth,” which implies an automatic exclusion of the one—called an “abject”—who does not adhere to such “truth.” In times of uncertainty like globalization, therefore, collective identity is reduced to a number of cultural religious characteristics —“them” and “us” and “they” and “our.” In other words, the abject suddenly becomes recognized as a threat.
For example, since the 9/11 attacks, there has been a tendency of the West to link the religion of Islam with terrorist practices while Al-Qaeda links the US as Christian or a Judeo-Christian nation. On the one hand, Al-Qaeda men who hijacked the planes on 9/11 saw the passengers and those working in the World Trade Center and Pentagon as “abjects” of Islam. On the other hand, the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq turned into wars of “Islamofacism” and a “crusade” to the divine in getting rid of evil. Moreover, other attacks on innocent people based on cultural religious characteristics occur today: Muslims in the United States, Western Europe, or India, Kurds in Iraq, and Jews in France. In other words, though socially constructed, these cultural religious characteristics become a unifying force against others not adhering to a particular truth.
Interestingly then, the idea of religious identity in this era of globalization may hold in-line with Huntington’s thesis. According to Huntington, while conflict during the Cold War occurred between the Capitalist West and the Communist Bloc East, current and future conflicts are most likely to occur between the world’s major civilizations, and not the states, including Western, Latin American, Islamic, Sinic (Chinese), Hindu, Orthodox, Japanese, and the African. In a broader sense, having paved the way for religions to come in direct contacts with one another, globalization has, indeed, brought religions to a circle of competition and conflicts. As long as religions see themselves as “world religions” and reinforce their specific identities, the chance for religions to avoid conflict among one another is grey. Luckily, the final section brings some hope on how religions can use their existing principles as ways to overlook their differences.
From time to time in the life of a society, one episode or a series of episodes shock the social system and brings to the fore long festering sores that need resolution. The kidnapping of over 300 young girls and the depravity of those who proclaimed that these youths would be sold into sexual slavery are one of such episodes. Abubakar Shekau’s statement about selling the girls in the market brought out the deep contradictions of Nigerian society and called for a firm and clear resolution of the questions of slavery, exploitation, sexual violence, male oppression and the manipulation of religion to serve the needs of particular sections of the looters and zealots of Nigeria. In response to the kidnapping, a global movement started by women in Nigeria has focused on the issues of sexual terrorism, deformed masculinity and the trafficking of women internationally. This movement mobilized under the banner of #Bring Back Our Girls has opened new avenues for political mobilization. The new coalition is led by women and has the potential to serve as the basis for a new mode of politics in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Religious extremism and intolerance, referred to as Islamic fundamentalism, has gained momentum in Northern Nigeria since the start of the century among some followers of the Islamic faith. These fundamentalists distort the teachings of Islam. They represent themselves as anti-imperialists opposing western cultural influences while seeking to institute Islamic law, including strict codes of behavior. Women in Nigeria have been negatively affected by this resort to fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism (whether Christian, Hindu, Islamic or Jewish) is founded on the oppression and humiliation of women.
In the past, the ruling elements have politicized religion and ethnicity to divert and confuse the peoples of Nigeria. The oligarchy in Northern Nigeria took the politicization of religion to a point where 12 Northern states are now under Sharia law. Boko Haram were pawns in a cold blooded game to control the state in Nigeria. Started in 2002 the movement exploded in the society after the death of President Yar ‘Adua in 2010. The pawns have now taken the violence beyond tolerable bounds and even the former sponsors of Boko Haram now denounce the kidnapping of the girls.
It will be argued here that the fight against Boko Haram require not simply troops, but a new mode of politics where the peoples of the society believe that they have a stake, especially the youths. It is here where the traditions of the mobilization of grassroots women will be decisive. Nigerian women from the producing classes have a rich history of resistance to all forms of fundamentalism. When they stir there can be a cascading effect on the politics of the society. This was the experience from the 1929 women’s uprisings that set the standards for cooperation against colonialism in Nigeria and West Africa. Advance planners for global capital are very aware of the tenacity of Nigerian women.
Nigeria is a society where the questions of peace, stability and prosperity are clearly linked to the building of a secular society free of religious zealots. Patriarchs will seek to bring this momentum under the war on terror. All progressive forces will now have to wade in to oppose both Boko Haram and the states that provided the enabling conditions for the growth of terror elements such as Boko Haram.
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