Reinforcement of the myth of Muslim barbarism in Africa

By Priya Chetty on September 18, 2014

The picture of a woman from Africa is probably predominated by the concept of hijab, a head covering used by Muslim women. One may envision a face that is veiled by a black shroud of burqa. The rights for women are probably at their worst in Muslim countries compared to the other countries of the world (S. E. Z. Al-Djazairi, 2007). One of the Egyptian-American writer journalists, Mona Eltahawy had written that; misogyny happens to have become so endemic to the Arab societies (Eltahawy, n.d.-b); it no longer remains just a mere war on women, but a destructive force which happens to be disintegrating Arab societies and economies (Jacoby, n.d.).


The term barbarian has originated from the Greek word barbarous. There is an idiom in Greek which says that whoever is not a Greek happens to be a Barbarian. The use of this term by Greeks was to indicate people coming from different culture. But, examples exist where one Greek state or city would be using this word to attack another(Melton, 2008).

This article is an attempt to understand how the myth of Muslim barbarism has been reinforced in the continent of Africa. As most of the countries of Arabic world are located in the Northern part of Africa, the Muslim prejudices and fanaticism which are prevalent in their social and cultural lives are evidently affected by the rules and norms of the Arabian communities. This article glances upon the different aspects of Muslim barbarism that prevails in Africa and other parts of the world where, the history of barbarism and its effect on Africa has been delved into.

History of Muslim barbarism in Africa

One of the reasons of barbarism is the religious and cultural illiteracy. As we do not have the intellectual tools in engaging and understanding with the religious and cultural differences, people tend to work on religious and cultural differences with humiliations of unjust forms (Akbarzadeh & Smith, 2005). However, Weiss (2004) opines that it was also the favor that Muslims or Islam received from the British policy that had accelerated the rate of Muslim Barbarism in Africa. The situation was even worse as the colonial governments of Britain had closed regions like Northern Nigeria to the activities of Christian missionary and were restricting these activities in Gold Coast’s Northern Territories. On top of that, the British Colonial government in certain areas was using Muslim administrative personnel and authorities to indirectly rule the Africans by sanctioning Muslim law and education (Weiss, 2004).

In the year 1910, Edinburgh’s World Missionary Conference declared to protect against the British pro-Muslim policies for colonies in Africa.. As Weiss, (2004) says, although converting one into a Muslim as  a general procedure in Ghana has been happening from the twentieth century. The heinous barbarism is evident both within the Islamic culture and outside. Sookhdeo (2005) explains how Muslim women are forced to wear burqas (the long garb that covers the entire face and body of the woman) as they are considered to be dangerous seductresses and need essentially to be hidden from the sight. It has been found that some women need to wear burqa so that they can hide the barbaric violence their brothers and father have brought upon them. Again as Sookhdeo (2008) in his book Global Jihad mentions that the history that describes Muslim expansion as well as the pursuance of political dominance are mainly because of the Islamic institutions and their practicing Jihad (the fight for liberation), which happens to be determine the relations that Muslims should have on non-Muslims (S. E. Al-Djazairi, 2007). The acts of Muslim torture go further with their ritual slaughter and mutilation of female genitals. While there have been many protests against the animals being cut through their throat and left to bleed to death, there are hardly any reports of the young girls between 7 and 10 whose genitalia are cut and slit open to leave them suffering from various uterine diseases including pain during urination, menstruation and while having sex (Eltahawy, n.d.).

Reinforcement to Muslim barbarism in Africa

Most of the causes for Muslim barbarism can be connected to the regular contact the Europeans had in the 15th Century and their atrocities in the Muslim countries (Jones, 2010). It is said that they are the consequences of the intermingling of the Europeans with the Muslims when the Europeans were developing the slave trade overseas that created different African states. The Muslims back then were overpowered by the use of muscle power by the Europeans (S. E. Al-Djazairi, 2007). According to S. E. Al-Djazairi, (2007) the main reason for barbarism to spread in Africa was the European colonization, however, it was through the propagation of various arms and ammunitions from different Muslim sources which kindled the fire of barbarism against the Africans to a great extent. Together the European colonials and the Muslims in their bid to exploit the rich natural resources of this continent began the local oppression and mass killings of the inhabitants. In separate incidents of Muslim barbarism in 2011 in Kenya as part of the motivation for the attack of Somalia’s al-Shabaab, at least 67 people were heinously killed. The militant group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida terrorist group of Somalia went asking each house in a village if they spoke Somali and shot those who didn’t (“Colonialism and the African experience,” n.d.).

The politics after independence in many of the African countries has become to be characterized as the African bourgeoisie’s access to state and its resources. The underdevelopment has been mainly due the powers in political arena and their ability in providing appropriate resources.  The effect of these political parties using the ethnic forces for their personal selfish gains has led to a wave of tribal and ethnic violence in and around Africa (J. I. Dibua, 2006).

Kenya, for one is the ghastly example of horror without any end, mainly brought in by capitalism (“Colonialism and the African experience,” n.d.). Instead of preparing for the new thoughts and developments that are globally uniting the whole world into one single unit for the 21st Century, most of the Muslim and Arab world are seemingly having problems adjusting the liberalization and reforms taking place in the 19th Century even. For instance, the great movements on women’s liberation and equality have been met with extreme cynicism in the Islamic world, where their oppression and torture continues to thrive (Jacoby, n.d.). If there was any need of an example of importance that cultural attitudes has in explaining how a society responds to change, the present day Islam shows it clearly (Jacoby, n.d.).  Cases of Africa’s falling prey to the barbaric acts of the Muslims come after the invasion of the continent by the Europeans after the Berlin conference in 1884-1885. The Muslim communities within these European colonials were using corporal punishments on the Kenyans, usually by using a whip made out of rhino hide and punished for activities like theft, insolence, laziness, desertion, breakages, and so on (“Colonialism and the African experience,” n.d.).There are stories of poor and ordinary African citizens being slaughtered with knives, matches and clubs. Hundreds of thousands of the common people are hacked and then burnt alive every day (“Modernization And the Crisis of Development in Africa: The Nigerian Experience (Interdisciplinary Research Series in Ethnic, Gender and Class Relations in Ethnic, Gender and Class Relations) (J. Dibua, 2006). Houses get looted and torched, women. All of these can be attributed to the invariably bellicose and singular cultural reference, which putting the garb of a devotion of archaic form inevitably takes its followers to a situation where utter futility sensation persists (Jones, 2010).

What will the future unveil?

The history of barbarism in Africa almost runs parallel with the wake of different civilizations. However, the appearance of these barbaric uprising have been more predominant lately, after the British colonization of most parts of the continent. The act of excision of a young girl’s clitoris in the Muslim’s countries though has been met with lot of protest from different sections of the Government and society, there. However, no acts or laws tries to stop this barbaric act.