The culture of victim-hood is a mechanism at play within some of the most significant African academics. The entire notion of “poor little Africa who was raped by Arabs and then Europeans” is a denial of African intelligence and agency. It stipulates indirectly that African have no sense, no judgment and no ability as a collective to act for self-determination or unity in the face of a collected foe. We must stop constantly seeing our history through the eyes of a victim, played out via the rhetoric of conquered, foreign and invaded. To believe that Islam and Christianity were forced down the throats of an unwilling people is as regressive and bigoted as the diatribes of Kant and Hume.
One cannot have your cake and eat it because every time Africans lay credit on a White agent for why Africans are doing some wrong, we are denying our own agency and celebrating them as gods of our destiny. They would have to be gods to have such power over the African universe. African people have demonstrated absolute agency and contribution to Islam, Christianity as well as Judaism. The theory, which identifies these religions as foreign, is baseless and shallow. When we study the history of Western Europe, we find their conversion to Christianity much later than Africa, yet in all of their writings, they claim authorship and agency in Christianity.
Africans must stop constantly seeing history through the eyes of a victim, played out via the rhetoric of conquered, foreign and invaded. Do we see Pakistanis doing this in Islam? Even Chinese Muslims claim their noble inheritance in these faiths. Chinese Muslims cite the Chinese greats like Zheng Ho and his contributions to Islam. Mongols were highly tolerant of most religions, and at the time of Genghis Khan in the 13th century, virtually every religion had found converts, from Buddhism to Christianity to Islam. Yet with some African academics, there is this suicidal strategy to undermine the degree of agency and influence of Africa on Islam. They would rather remove it as foreign and thus collapsing the largest African kingdom of Songhai to obscurity. Gone is Africa's claim to Timbuktu, Islamic Spain, Aksum, Sokoto and Ancient Mali.
This anti-African rhetoric also infects the notability of Uthman Dan Fodio, Menelik Askia Muhammad, Thewdros, Bilal, Malik Sy, Selassie, Ahmadou Bamba, Sundiata, Seka Toure, The Mahdi of the Sudan, King Ezna, Emperor Fasiladas, the list is endless. But all of these people are removed from history, not to mention our recent greats such as Farrakhan, Dr. King, Garvey, El Hajj Malik Shabazz and Cheikh Anta Diop.
This again testifies to the fastidiousness of the cancer plaguing disenfranchised Africans globally. No people in history are seen to do this. The Turks, who accepted Islam late in the day, made it their own and ruled with it. The principle cornerstones of these faiths have African origins and agency but some like fools cast Africa's historical station into the wind, as "foreign, worthless, and out of Africa. " Sufism an influential branch of Islam is African in origin, testimony to the power of Africanistic theology on Islam. Ethiopia was one of the first Christian Kingdoms in the entire World! The Khans were successful because they integrated what worked in their favor, as did our ancestors. This planet is a fusion and dynamic collision of cultures and ideas, there is no purity.
Africans have succumbed to some of the greatest horrors in history but not the extent of being the exploited historical fodder of others; the perpetual victims in the entire annals of history. Easily seduced with the same tricks that work 500 years ago.
The only people to fix the problems of the African world—may those problems be self-inflicted, inherited or imposed—is the African. If our recent histories tell us anything, it is that we must be separatist in rebuilding our people. There is no "global group" effort when it comes to agency. No partnerships to create African agency. Agency is something you can only discover and seek for self.
When Africans have faith in other peoples structures, values are detour away from Africaness and self-determination. The African is pre-occupied with throwing a celebration party in someone else’s house, as opposed to owning and controlling our own space. The aim of the African author is to be published by the flourishing European publishing houses. The aim of the African musician is to be signed by Columbia. The aim of the African filmmaker to be distributed by Sony and given a Cannes laurel. The aim of the African intellectual is to be awarded some prize controlled by forces outside of his/her cultural reality.
The ultimate product is Africans exist in a world which is owned by others and at any junction and with control they ultimately determine overtly or subtly the agency of a people. But who is working as hard to build an African Sony, An African Randle House, and African Cannes? This is where the greater emphasis needs to be placed because in all disciplines, Africans have enough power to have their own systems of accreditation and distribution.
Almost nothing is given to Africa without a greater benefit to Europe. The new admissions about African kingdoms are a result of overwhelming evidence which forces Europeans into admission which is then twisted to retain the old myths. The fostering of anti-Islamic sentiment among African people to break unity, or creating false borders between the Diaspora and the continent all serves a greater agenda. The promotion of western neo-liberal feminist values to break the African home. Western democracies to stifle African political genius. In the final analysis, the only people to fix the problems of the African world—may those problems be self-inflicted, inherited or imposed—is the African.
It is the responsibility of the next generation of academics to re-interpret the works of their predecessors. This is not a duty exclusive to the victims of Eurocentric academic racism but rather to all. The plurality and multicultural world is far safer if we all exist in an environment of truth and fairness overriding the miss-motives of the past.
By Owen 'Alik Shahadah.
The author is a director, African writer, and scholar. He specializes in African culture, African slavery, and the Arab slave trade.'