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Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Script

In the wake of Westgate, we have understandably heard the attack reported along the lines of a Muslim/anti-Christian script.  The majority of Kenyans are Christian.  The articulate news sources which dominate our feed are from Western countries where this script plays well in a post- 9/11 world. Witnesses reported the attackers announcing that they would let Muslims go free, though they subsequently shot some of them.  The group claiming responsibility, al-Shabaab, uses Arabic and Q'ranic verses and religious overtones in their pronouncements.

But is this script really true?  The majority of Muslims in the world would not identify with the ethos or tactics of al-Shabaab, even the majority of Somalis wouldn't.  Even the al-Shabaab themselves have had infighting about the violent brutality of some of the leaders (which is probably why there was a publicized attempt to appear to spare Muslims).  If a radical sect in the hills of rural America has a shoot-out with law-enforcement and quotes Bible verses, we don't present them as representative of "Christians".  Secondly, watching the funeral news, it appears that many of those killed were Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and even Muslim, not exclusively Christian.  Thirdly, the most prominent hero story to have emerged in Kenya is that of Abdul Haji, son of the former Minister of Defense in Kenya, who as a private individual citizen with a handgun joined with four others to rescue many of the trapped shoppers.  As a Muslim, he did not for one second consider these attackers to be on his side.  Lastly, the location and timing seems designed to attack Western commercial values which much of the world associates with Christians, but which are probably further removed from the Bible than the attackers are themselves on many issues.  If they wanted to find Christians, they could have taken down one of Nairobi's mega-churches.

So what is the script?  I really don't know.  I think we need to be asking the question:  why are we fighting over Somalia?  Is it about religion, or resources?  Who and what pays for all those machine guns and bombs and get-away cars and military-grade gear?  Does this have anything to do with natural gas and oil reserves under East African nations and off the coast?  Who stands to benefit from Somalia, whether Somalia in chaos or Somalia ruled by a Kenya-friendly force?

I'm sure there are sincere young people who join extreme groups out of deep conviction and even a willingness to martyrdom.  But is that what was happening at Westgate?  The facts are trickling out.  The attackers rented a space in the mall where they could stockpile their weapons and gear ahead of time.  Some were seen changing clothes and walking out.  They could have blown the whole thing immediately into a roaring mass of destruction, instead they carefully crafted a 4-day siege that brought terror and publicity on a deeper and more unsettling level than ever.  The killings were executionary and somehow more horrific than the anonymity of a bomb.  It is possible that they all walked out before the end; Kenyan news is speculating about a sewage tunnel escape.  This sounds like sophisticated planning with a political agenda, not a gesture of protest in the name of religion.

There are so many unanswered questions, and in a culture of information-is-power, need-to-know only, I hope we learn the truth.  In the meantime I think a more political and less religious script makes it less stressful to see Somali patients all over our hospital, and puts less pressure on missionaries to worry about "denying our faith" in a Westgate scenario.

1 comment:

DrsMyhre said...

From another conflict today, in CAR, where "Muslim" rebels attacked: "For the bishop of Bossangoa, Monsignor Nestor Desire Nongo Aziagbia, “the crisis is not religious, it is above all an economic and political crisis,” he said. “The religious aspect is only incidental.”"