Somali women in Djibouti City (1976), Djibouti, Africa.
Old days of Somalia: University students in Mogadishu, 1976.
Combining logographic and alphabetic elements, hieroglyphics was the writing system used by the Ancient Egyptians, between 3200 BC – AD 400, that can be found on various media such as pyramid walls and clay tablets, to wooden objects, clay sculptures and papyrus scrolls.
Hieroglyphs can be recognized as three kinds of glyphs: phonetic glyphs, including single-consonant characters that function like an alphabet; logographs, representing morphemes; and determinatives, which narrow down the meaning of logographic or phonetic words.
Despite great efforts by mostly Western historians, “no definitive determination has been made as to the origin of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt.”
The Rosetta Stone is one of the most famous objects that contains script written (partially) in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and it has provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Old days of Somalia. Cool car!
Today I wanted to discuss this new a phenomenon, especially for those of us African Muslims. And this is the idea of Arab nationalism as racism. Now, some may accuse me of being racist right at the get go, but let me say, this is not about aimlessly and uselessly criticizing a group of people. This is rather an attempt to criticize the power imbalances in this world, especially in the Muslim world, which have often lead to unfair treatment. Unfair treatment from the institutional to the personal level.
Of course, most Africans ‘know’ that some Arabs think less of us. From my conversations on the topic with friends, it seems to be understood. From the stories which come out of the Middle East it appears that our fellow Africans are often abused and exploited. No doubt many educated and privileged Africans have made their way to the Middle East for the exalted oil money but this doesn’t cease the manifestation of racism. Usually, these educated professionals are paid less than their Arab (and often Western) counterparts. And if that isn’t enough Arab nationalism seems to have snuck itself into our religion as well.
It seems so that our African brethren who travel to these oil rich countries become mesmerized by the Arab style/version of Islam. For generations we African Muslims have been under the false impression( and continue) that Arabs are ‘better Muslims’ than us; that their knowledge of Islam is greater than ours. No doubt there are Arab Muslims with great Islamic knowledge, just as there are Muslims with great Islamic knowledge among all nations. However, the reverence for Arabs among non-Arab Muslims has become epidemic. Many aspects of what we consider to be Islam now trace back to Arab culture, and not Islam itself.
By buying into the propaganda, as I like to call it, we have given rise to Arab righteousness. Somehow, we believe, dressing, talking, behaving like an Arab makes us better it the eyes of God; it grants us certain privileges that being a non-Arab does not.
However, the most detrimental impact of Arab righteousness toward African Muslims is the psychological impact of the inferiority complex which many of us suffer from. African Muslims in places like Somalia and Sudan, are shunning their own culture for that of the Arab countries, falsely believing they are being better Muslims. We feel ashamed of our ‘naive’ and ‘ignorant’ cultures. We believe our people are old and out of date. We look down upon our own roots. We ignore the richness in our own cultures. But what if our beautiful cultures die out? Isn’t that what the racism of the West did to many cultures of Africa? Will we allow this to happen within Africa?
Those of us African Muslims must become aware of this racism and help educate those who ‘hate on us.’ We must tell them that we are not inferior, that our cultures are precious to us, that those of us who are Muslims are equal to them.
Some Africans want to emulate Arabs in every sphere of life but at other hand, their social ethos, family system and values all are deeply rooted in their African identity and they have a strange love-hate relationship with this identity. The collective guilt of living “immoral” or un-Islamic (on African ethos) lives is pushing them towards more religiosity and thus more isolation and self-hatred.
As a result of this identity crisis, deliberate disconnect with the past, twisted and biased history and being part of illusionary ‘Ummah’, majority of Arabised African Muslims are living in a state of deep confusion and denial. Thus, they resort in supremacist religious ideologies and glorification of the invaders, just to soothe their bruised but inflated egos. This persistent state of denial, bigotry and confusion is resulting as irrational behaviors.
Did the Prophet (pbuh) not say:
"No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Nor does a white man have any superiority over a black man, or the black man any superiority over the white man. You are all the children of Adam, and Eve was created from clay."
However, I realize this will be a difficult task. We have been so brainwashed to believe that what the Arabs do will get us into heaven. We should not be listening to our traditional music; even our guuntinos are too provocative and we should be wearing their abayas and gowns. But we need to become more confident in our own abilities to understand God’s word. God’s word is after all for all of us and not the exclusive property of Arabs to do with it whatever they like and present us with the end result. We too need to be involved in the process and we will have to demand that.
Please tweet me @panafrikanist if you have thoughts/comments! All views are welcome.