Irony of Morality in an Islamic Community
I traveled to the northern part of Nigeria for the first time in May 2015 and mandated to stay in this remote town of one of the states. This town was about 2 hours from the major town in the state but if your driver is crazy, the trip can be for just a few minutes over an hour.
The people that lived in the town were of a certain tribe. Although quite a number of people of other tribes lived there, the locals had the dominating number. I worked in a school — a boarding school. The school gave us a place to stay. The first lodge I stayed in, I was with two other people.
Later, two of us moved to a different room. The other person is the one I refer to as my roommate. He slept most of the time at the first lodge we stayed for some cogent reasons. One of it is the fact that the first lodge had a fence and a tree, which allowed him to have his bath outside because he couldn’t risk having his bath in the so-called “bathrooms”.
One day, my roommate and another colleague went into the town to buy underwear shorts. They roamed all they knew through the market but they couldn’t find any. So, my roommate got curious and asked a cloth-seller what he was wearing underneath. The cloth-seller began describing that all the cloth he is wearing is what they are looking at.
I’ve often wondered where the word ‘western’ became part of the word ‘civilization’. And why ‘western’ is put in front of ‘education’. I think civilization is civilization and education is education. Just because it is achieved somewhere (before other places) doesn’t mean the places that experienced it first to lay claims on it.
If they choose to lay claims to it by making it their culture and tradition, it becomes difficult to let people of other places see that it is what they must also achieve. That’s because they’ll think that civilization or education is the culture or tradition of another place that has come to challenge their culture and tradition.
And so, in order to “preserve” their own culture and tradition, they fight education, they fight civilization, they fight growth. The most annoying part of it is that they think they are doing a just thing by the fight they put up.
The Religious Outlook
This town is made up of predominantly Muslims. There are Christians and I hear that there are a few churches but the locals are Muslims and the entire zone is an Islamic zone. The religion has so eaten into their culture such that it is very hard to separate what is tribal and what is religious.
You’ll notice that the religion incorporates culture and an outward lifestyle that dominates any tribe where it is accepted. And this effect is seen very strongly in the lives of the people. The religion believes in morality and takes it very crude dictating how dressing should be (particularly for the females).
So, everywhere in this town, you find people dress, walk and live according to the dictates of the religion. The strict rules of the religion are made for the morality of the society but would you believe me if I tell you the kinds of things that happen here?
First Odd Sign
In the second lodge I stayed in, there were five rooms. Five of us stayed there regularly but three other guys were not regular (including my roommate). The biggest room occupied three guys. Two rooms had two people live in it. And one room that housed one person. (Then much later, another person moved into the last room in the house).
In the house, my roommate and I were the only non-Muslims. All the others were Muslims but they were from different places and had never been to this town before.
As you would expect, the colleagues that were Muslims were very far from the locals. They were people you can relate with on a civilized and educated level and we all had a nice time. You know why? These ones were educated. Of course, occasionally you still hit that spot in them where that rigid devotion is, but you just allow them to be because we’ve got ours also (only that ours is not a rigid devotion).
For the most part of the year, the only person that stayed alone in a room was a lady. She was a Muslim, well brought up, nice, kind, quite gentle and she obeys their religious dress code in a reasonable way.
One day as she narrated, she went to the only functioning bank in the town to make withdrawals. And she said the bank cashier (who was an inhabitant of the town) was making a pass at her. Now, if the bank cashier was asking her out, it would be nice or even if he was trying to start a relationship someway, it would be nothing surprising. The cashier was trying to talk himself into getting into her pants straightaway.
After rambling for a while and seeing that he’s getting nowhere, the cashier said, ‘don’t act like you don’t understand what I’m saying’. We didn’t even know such a thing happened until we were discussing one evening and the issue came up and she mentioned it.
This is a lady who is not a local, who is educated (obviously), who is a Muslim (and dresses like one). So, where is all the morality?
On this part, I have many stories. But I’ll share just a few.
Acts of Bravery or Foolishness?
Another colleague of ours was living in another lodge in the same school. In his house, he had neighbors that were not colleagues of ours. One of the neighbors was a local whose father worked for the school. Our colleague that lived next to him told us of his acts which happened almost every weekend towards the end of 2015.
He would bring different ladies to his room on different occasions for nothing moralistic. The interesting thing for me is the fact that the ladies would wear their moralistic clothing when they come in and put it back on after they are through with the “exercise”. Our colleague said he would purposely sit outside to see the faces of the ladies an even greet them after the session.
Now, don’t blame them — every society has its own moral loopholes. What amazes me about theirs is the deception (pretense and denial). It is one thing to be involved with something and you know you have to deal with it. What these ones do is to be involved in something and then deny that it happened.
A more interesting occasion was when this local gave his room to a friend of his who called a lady in. I saw them walk together towards the room, they gave no indication of what they were about to do while they walked. I was going to see the colleague that lived in that house but then I went about something else first.
When I finally got to the house, my colleague told me that he was awakened from his sleep by the sounds they were making next door. Then, when he got up he realized that they didn’t shut the door and only a curtain separated them from being visible. After the whole thing, they both looked as innocent as you can think.
My point here is:
When you have a solution to a problem and the problem still exists (and growing stronger despite the solution), that solution needs to be reviewed or cast away because it doesn’t work
But for some reason, they suppress the problem so that what has been brought as the solution will remain, rejecting the possibility of something better. But mind you:
Change is not from the outward
My roommate met another colleague of ours in the only functioning bank who wasn’t working in the school we were. She, being from a more civilized environment, was wearing knickers (not the very short ones) that day. My roommate hugged her briefly (as they have not seen each other in a while).
Then my roommate said he noticed a grown man (a local) wearing the usual long men-gowns (that is their normal dress pattern) puts his hand on his thigh like he was hiding something. Then he noticed that the man was hiding a huge bulge through his clothes just by seeing two people, fully clothed embrace lightly in a public place. He said he quickly stayed away, did what he came to do and got out of the bank.
He later asked a more enlightened fellow (that he knew) outside the bank about what he saw. That person replied that it is how the majority of the men are. That they can even get sexually active by watching a little female child have her bath.
So, if you say the women should stop wearing their cover-through outfits, it means they would be raping females anyhow on the streets. That is trying to tell me that they are more animals than (rational) human persons. No wonder they don’t want civilization.
Not The End
Is this the end of the stories? Not at all, how many do you want to hear? About the female students (in a private school in the town) that watch intense sexual content movie clips on their phones while they are being taught in class?
About the fact that all ladies seen later than 7 pm around a certain public area have a 97% chance of being a prostitute looking for the customer of the day (and dressed morally according to the religious code)?
About the “beautiful” prostitute who was heard calling her mum just outside a brothel and telling her about school being stressful with tens of customers lining up waiting for their turn with her?
About the fact that two female local students were caught doing things sexual in nature to each other by a teacher who had to dismiss the case (because if the girls should deny it, the teacher will be roasted)?
About the girl in elementary school who is tired of school and wants to get married?
On this issue, the problem is almost everywhere. To some it is a problem, to some, it is not a problem. But think to yourself, what kind of a world would you rather live in? I believe people are not animals. What do you believe?
Look away from the statistics, look at the stories. For example, who would you blame for rape? Is it the one who exhibited the animalistic behavior, the one that induced the animalistic behavior or the one that provoked the animalistic behavior?
As long as there is a system that induces and provokes, there will always be a victim that will exhibit these things. So, if you say you want to change the world and you go after the exhibitors, you make me angry. If you are really serious and sincere, face the system responsible for the other two and let’s see what you’ll come up with.
Life is not a fairy tale — never try to stop what you don’t understand and don’t try to do what you can’t. You can only do what you know.
This article was written in 2015/2016 from my experience in a community service initiative. Read the entire collection in the order it was written here.