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What is so African about Anti-homosexuality and Anti-terrorism?

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by MziziMkavu, Aug 2, 2010.

  1. MziziMkavu

    MziziMkavu JF-Expert Member

    Aug 2, 2010
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    I felt my African fingers itch when I read Ayub Rioba and Peter Muthamia’s recent articles. Yes, ‘African fingers’, for that is how far one can go in defining things African! Well, let me explain.

    Rioba’s article carried these phrases: “Whichever way anyone may choose to look at things, Africans enjoy life”; “No wonder Africans have a louder laughter than probably any other human race on earth”; “In Africa, again, the word suicide is not foreign. But when Africans choose to use it they take a rope and head into a jungle; not bomb crowds” (The Citizen 20/07/2010).

    In Muthamia’s article the phrases are more categorical: “Being African with 100 per cent melanin in my skin I see homosexuality as dirty, disgusting and terribly not African”; “In the recent times, African countries are increasingly being dragged into all follies and moral decadence born and nurtured in the West”; ‘No matter how one looks at it, homosexuality does not augur well with African culture though the habit is picking up” (Sunday Citizen 01/08 2010).

    Here we are talking of men who carry what can be regarded as African – Rioba and Muthamia – and Judeo-Christian – Ayub and Peter – names respectively. Of course one may argue that they could not protest when their parents or teachers gave them names associated with (Western) Civilization and Christianity. My friend Ayub would even say he was born one Ikwabe Itembe.

    This name-calling, if you may call it so, has nothing to do with ad hominem. Rather, it gives us a glimpse into the ambiguity of trying too much to isolate things we associate with Africa. More significantly, it highlights the dangers inherent in putting these things into fixed ‘pure’ boxes.

    What we now know as Africa is such a complexity. A cursory look at its history shows that it has always contained a variety of practices and peoples. Its dynamic nature – for every cultural and geographical entity is not static as the theory of relativity shows us – has allowed it to give and take from other continents. Of course the story has not been that rosy as we all know about the history of slavery, colonialism and imperialism that has skewed its relation with Euro-America.

    So, what we have now is even more than what Ali Mazrui called ‘A Triple Heritage’ in reference to influences from primarily (Christian) Europe, (Islamic) Asia and (‘Animistic’) Africa. We have people of various colours and creeds. As such any attempt to strictly define Africa and Africans in terms of one race or culture without acknowledging its diversity is discriminatory.

    And we all know by now, through what we have experienced as a continent and a people, of what discrimination can lead to. It did not only lead to Apartheid, but also to Xenophobia, in South Africa. And we should always remember that at least 1 in 3 people who were killed during the xenophobic attacks were also South Africans. Why? Because it was thought they were not South Africans! How? By associating South Africanness with stereotypical physical features!

    By the way, even those who killed Lucky Dube – the reggae maestro who sung ‘Different Colours, One People’ – claimed that they thought he was Nigerian! How can one tell who a Nigerian is simply by looking? By the colour of his/her skin – is it darker than other Africans?

    When a sperm bank in South Africa advertised that it was desperately looking for ‘black, colored and Indian sperms’ at the dawn of this decade what was it telling the world – that biologically an ‘African sperm’ is black in colour? This is the level of absurdity the politics of pigmentation can lead us to when defining who an African is or not. We can end having ‘Black/African fingers’!

    In ‘What makes you More Tanzanian?’ I referred to an advert that appeared on one of the television stations in South Africa. It flashes a question, ‘what makes you African?’ Then it shows an African albino and asks, ‘is it the colour of your skin?’ It goes on to show Africans with blond hairs, blue eyes and other stereotypical European features. Such are the limits of the absurd politics of pigmentation – the same politics that have led to genocide and albino killings!

    As we were recently debating bitterly about whether Pan-Africanism ought to still be a ‘black’ racial project in the 21st Century, a colleague reminded me of an interesting quote that highlights the limit of colour politicization: "I used to define black nationalism as the idea that the black man should control the economy of his community, and so forth”, Malcolm X said back in 1965, “ but, “when I was in Africa in May, in Ghana, I was speaking with the Algerian ambassador who is extremely militant and is a revolutionary in the true sense of the word (and has credentials as such for having carried on a successful revolution against oppression in his country)” in 1962.

    Malcolm X then concludes: “When I told him that my political, social and economic philosophy was black nationalism, he asked me very frankly, well, where did that leave him? Because he was white. He was an African, but he was Algerian and to all appearances he was a white man. And he said if I define my objective as the victory of black nationalism, where does that leave him? Where does it leave revolutionaries in Morocco, Egypt....So he showed me where I was alienating people who were true revolutionaries, dedicated to overturning the system of exploitation that exists on this earth by any means necessary.” Frantz Fanon would have agreed.

    So, what does all this rumbling about Africanity has to do with Anti-homosexuality and Anti-terrorism? It is just a caution to our analysts to tread careful in the way they attach a meaning to what Africa is and Africans are. Attaching a meaning is always a political act. It can lead to things with serious negative political implications to those who are excluded from the meaning.

    But should a meaning be ahistorical? Should a political act of naming, by way of propaganda, deny a historical reality for the sake of pushing an agenda benign as it may be? In the case of Ayub, the agenda seems to be that of warning African leaders – and awakening African citizens – to the possibilities of using ‘terrorism’ broadly defined to make an end to the misery in Africa.

    Read as a satire, Ayub’s article can be absolved of creating a mythical Africa in which ‘anti- terrorism’ is not alien. But history shows that many an African have been regarded as ‘terrorists’ simply because they were fighting for their freedom from foreign occupation. To the British, Dedan Kimathi and his band that stormed their garrison was a terrorist. Lest we forget, by 2008 the name of Nelson Mandela was still in the United States of America’s official list of terrorists!

    In Muthamia’s article the agenda is to arrest “bad activism” which “engender issues that are petty and unnatural”. To him, activism “should envisage better lifestyles for all Tanzanians and not catapult them to crass decadence.” It should not be “radicalism, militancy, extremism and all approaches that have been imposed by Western countries.” As such activism “should adopt positive non-confrontational approach that must have respect for the government and society.”

    Analysed as a discourse, Muthamia’s article draws its inspiration from the very canon it questions. Its call is based on the tenets of what is regarded as ‘Western’ Liberal Democracy in regard to the relation between the state and civil society. His interpretation of what is natural, as in normal, and respected, as in accepted, in society is highly informed by what is referred to as ‘Western’ Puritanism’. It would be truthful to admit this rather than misconstrue Africa’s history.

    Ancient and contemporary history, whether that of Africa or the world, does not confirm this conclusion of his: “Homosexuality is one of the greatest paradoxes of our time, a pervasion that is gradually being imposed on Africa.” This is an ancient practice even if it was not performed in public in certain places here and elsewhere. Somehow the practice has persisted to our times.

    Even the script from which Muthamia gets his first name talks about such a practice in ancient times. Of course it condemns it. That is what Peter should be telling us, that homosexuality is bad because God, through the Bible, says so. Depending on our belief on the Bible as the Word of God, we can pick from there. If the text that informs him doesnt deny history why should he?

    Our two columnists only have to (re)read the history of how they became named Ayub and Peter to know that they are in as much a (by)product of the West they query as they are of Africa they protect. That way they, and we, won’t deny the extent to which this seemingly contradictory legacy continues to lock us in stereotypes that do not serve our continent and its people well.

    A dynamic people do not deny reality. They bring social change. Let us, Africans, make history.

    Chanzo © Chambi Chachage
  2. Kamaka

    Kamaka JF-Expert Member

    Aug 2, 2010
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    What do you suggest?
  3. The Spit

    The Spit JF-Expert Member

    Aug 2, 2010
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    The author of this article got "cyclecell" or something?...what history are u talking about?..let's make history?...give me a brake,that history isn't "African" like it or not,African has already made a lot of history.
  4. Companero

    Companero Platinum Member

    Aug 2, 2010
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    Maybe it should have read 'lets continue to make history'.