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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Head of Department of Public Law,

Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria,

Kaduna State, Nigeria.










Dialogue between cultures was and remains the main road for the development of human civilization. Through the reciprocal understanding and interpretation of cultures over the centuries and millennia, those cultures have been mutually enriched, and so have made up the unique mosaic of human civilization.1


It is this dialogue between cultures which can and must be the answer to the growing danger of various manifestations of intolerance and violence today or in the first decade of the twenty-first century.2


This paper therefore aims at realizing the following objectives:-


1.                  To provide conceptual clarifications of key terms:- “culture”, “Arab Culture”, “African Culture”, “Culture of Peace and tolerance,” and “globalization”;

2.                  To appraise the impact of the religion or culture of Islam on the Afro-Arab cultures, and its contribution to the promotion of the culture of peace and tolerance;

3.                  To identify some of the current challenges facing the Arab-African cultural/religious values and norms in the context of globalization; and ,

4.                  To conclude with some viable options in facing modern challenges to the Arab-African culture.


1.         Conceptual Clarifications of Key Terms


This part of the paper seeks to provide conceptual clarifications of the following key terms:-


1.1              The Concept of “Culture”


Various definitions or conceptions of culture have been provided since the 19th century,3 and 164 definitions of culture have been cited so far. For our purpose, the term “culture” may be defined as behaviour peculiar to human beings, together with material objects used as an integral part of this behaviour; specifically, culture consists of language, ideas, religious beliefs, customs, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, ceremonies, and so on. The existence and use of culture depends upon an ability possessed by man alone. This ability has been called variously the capacity for rational or abstract thought, but a good case has been made for rational behaviour among sub human animals, and the meaning of abstract is not sufficiently explicit or precise. The term symboling has been proposed as a more suitable name for man’s unique mental ability consisting of assigning to things and event certain meanings that cannot be grasped with the senses alone. Articulate speech such as language, is a good example. Symboling therefore is a kind of behaviour objectively definable and should not be confused with symoblizing, which has an entirely different meaning.5


1.2              The term “Arab-African Culture”

Sometime after the rise of Islam in the first quarter of the 7th century AD and the emergence of the Arabian Muslims as the founders of one of the great empires of history, the name “Arab” came to be used by the Muslims themselves and by the nations with whom they came in contact to indicate all the people of Arabian origin. The very name Arabia, or its Arabic name “Jazirat al-“Arab”, has come to be used for the whole peninsula. But it is much less certain that all the people of the peninsula called it Jazirat al-‘Arab before the rise of Islam. Even in Islamic sources the definition of Jazirat al-Arab is far from unanimously agreed upon; in its narrowest applications it indicates much less than the whole peninsula. The same can be said, perhaps with more certainty, about the use of the name Arab (arabi) for every native of that same peninsula, who speaks Arabic, the semitic language of the Arabs used in Arabia, Syria, TransJordan, Iraq, Northern Africa etc, before and after Islam. It is therefore, often more realistic to call them Arabians.6

On the character and achievements of Arabian culture, suffice if to say, that the Arabian culture is a branch of Semitic civilization; because of this and because of the influences of sister Semitic cultures to which it has been subjected at certain epochs, it is sometimes difficult to determine what is specifically Arabian. Because a great trade route passed along its flanks, Arabia had contact along its borders with Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and Indo-Persian Civilizations. The Turkish overlords of the Arabic speaking countries affected Arabia relatively little, however, and the dominant culture of Western Europe arrived late in the Colonial era. Isolation preserved many parts of Arabia’s interior from the changes of the centuries.7

Arabia was the cradle of Islam and, through this faith, it influenced every Muslim people. Islam, essentially Arabian in origin, whatever the superficial external influences may have affected it, is Arabia’s outstanding contribution to world civilization.8

The flexible and expressive Arabic language, the vehicle of Islam, is, along with it, the important cultural legacy of the peninsula and a language of which Arabs are in ordinately proud, regarding Arabic verse as its loftiest achievement.  Arabic not only developed a vast and important literature outside Arabia but it has affected every language it has contacted:- Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Malay, Swahili and Hausa, just as Islam and Shariah law have affected the intellectual and material cultures of Muslim Countries.9


At the beginning of their history we find one thing that is quite individual to (the culture of) the Arabs.  There is a rich literature of poetry that has come down to us from a time in which Arabian Peninsula lived in the twilight of pre-Islamic history.  The Arabs themselves call this period the “Age of ignorance or Jahilliyya”.  It is one of the earliest ideals the Arabs formed of themselves which is known to us.  And such ideal portraits do show the direction which a civilization strives to follow, the way it would take and what in its culture makes life worth living.  Their influence lingers on even when that culture or civilization has turned to other goals.  The word ‘honour’, ‘karama’, plays quite an important part and is not invoked in vain in the speeches of all modern Arab nationalists.  Even today it is able to excite the Arab masses, arouse their deepest feelings about their past, and to inflame them.  It is ‘honour’ which bids the Beduin Arab undertake a blood feud against the enemies of his family.  It is due to ‘honour’ and not to any human  sympathy that an Arab shows generosity to strangers, caring not whether the following day will bring poverty and hunger to oneself and to the whole tribe.  As a recompense for generosity one expects to have one’s praises sung by the guest, particularly if he happens to be a poet.10


The Arab culture historically gave to life another worldly aim:- noble connections, fame, courage, power and wealth creation, all are acceptable ambitions in so far as they are acknowledged as characteristics of the Arab civilization11.

The spiritual bases of the Arab pagan beliefs and of the new Islamic religious culture, diverge widely.  But one bond they have in common is the Arabic language.  It is not a question of inflexible traditionalism, but a creative renaissance.  In both eras the Arabic language was the creative nucleus around which and from these two opposed spiritual ideologies grew.


But the question is, “how far did the new Islamic religious culture influence, alter or even determine the culture or character of the Arabs? According to a writer, “the achievement of Islam in transforming the traditional Arabian culture can be summarised as the introduction of four basic changes:-  (1).  the expansion and refinement of human sensibility; (2) the extension of the spiritual world and the means to master it through tenets which satisfied both felling and mind; (3) a socially justifiable and at the same time militarily powerful political organization for which there had been locally no precedent, and (4) a new design for living or rather a new human ideal, a pattern of minutest detail that could be realized in a model life span from conception till after the day of judgement.

In the face of this impressive evidence of the complete cultural change which the introduction of the new faith into the life of the early believers must have meant, one would say that the Arabs of pagan times must have been basically different from those of the Islamic epoch.12


In the modern times, Islamic revivalism and Arab nationalism are both given a specific Arab accent according to the cultural climate of the Arab nation –state.

On the other hand, the term “African Culture” has a life of its own, so to speak; that is, it is a continuum of human behaviour, material things used as an integral part of this behaviour, and historical events in a cause and effect relationship; it flows down through time from one generation to another and accounts for the major historical movements on the African continent as a whole over the past 7,000 years.13


The first character of the “African Culture” is found in the essential components of traditional African societies.  It is useful here to state the main aspects of African social organizations and cultures as they exist at the present time.  All societies in Africa have always been in a state of slow change, but in the second half of the 20th century the rate of development has increased immensely.  Most societies are in transition from remembered traditional, small-scale, narrow-range forms to wide-scale ones that are part of worldwide economic and political systems; this change is often referred to as “breakdown” but is also part of the process of modernization.  Perhaps nowhere in the world is this process so rapid and so all pervasive as in Africa.14


Almost all Africans are small-scale farmers, who have traditionally relied on simple resources, tools and techniques, have been hampered by poor communications, and have not engaged in much widespread trade.  The principal exceptions were those few societies that had engaged for many centuries in long-distance trade and had elaborate exchange and craft facilities, communications, and the political superstructure to maintain their trade routes.15


During the past century this traditional picture has changed with the establishment of colonial rule and later political independence over most of the continent.  Africa has become part of the total worldwide system of economic production and exchange.  The former empires early lost their importance in controlling the main external market as other markets were developed in Europe, the New World, and across the Indian Ocean.  The consequences include the growth of peasant production and of the import of consumer goods; a change from a traditional equality in living standards to a marked distinction between rich and poor, especially in the cities; the growth of elites and class differentiation in both political and economic contexts; and the decline in the number of able-bodied younger men in the rural areas, creating a vicious cycle of impoverishment in both city and countryside.


The family is another component and foundation of African cultures. The forms of the family found in Africa are consistent with the forms of economic production. Throughout most of the rural areas the typical domestic group is the joint or extended family consisting of several generations of kin and their spouses, the whole being under the authority of the senior male. The size of the group varies, but it typically consists of the three to five generations of kin. It provides a stable and long-lasting domestic unit able to work as a single cooperative group, to defend itself against others, and to care for all its members throughout their lifetimes.  Polygyny is traditionally widespread as an ideal, its extent depending on the status and wealth of the husband:- Chiefs and rulers need many wives to give them a mark of high position and to enable them to offer hospitality to their many subjects.16


In most part of Africa these residential groups are based upon descent groups known as clans and lineages, the latter being segments of the former. The significance given to descent groups varies, but they are widely important in providing arrangements for heirs, successors and marital partners.


In the second half of the 20th Century this pattern has been changing, rapidly in the urban and poverty-stricken areas, more slowly in those areas less affected by economic and political development . In cities and in major labour-supplying areas such as most of Southern Africa, the joint or extended family is giving way to the independent elementary family of husband, wife and children. There is also a tendency toward the breakdown of family structure because of labour migration:- the younger men moving to the cities, leaving women, older men, and children in the impoverished homelands.17


Another component of traditional African social organisations and cultures is the political patterns of government. There is wide variation in both traditional and present day systems of government. There are three main types of traditional government. One is the simple organisations of the hunting band, as among Sangoan and Pygmies cultures in central Africa, in which the political group, the band itself, is essentially a single kinship unit link with neighbouring bands by ties of inter-marriage and consciousness of common cultural identity. What authority exists is held by the oldest men. The second type is the most widespread and comprises those societies that lack centralised political government and maintain political order and identity by other means.


Political authority in this case is typically not specialised and is not clearly distinguished from kinship and religious authority. Many such societies are based on clans and lineages, with most political authority being held by genealogically senior men in the clans and lineages. The third main type of political system is that of the traditional African states. These states vary in many ways:- in their size (from a few thousand to the many millions of the Ashanti or Yoruba), in the degree of political power held by the King; and in the ways in which the king is related to his subjects.18


Many of these polities had similarities to medieval European feudal states. They were highly organised, powerful kingdoms with complex institutions to define and control the power of the ruler, who had both political and religious authority. May were controlled by dynasties of many centuries with aristocratic courts and administrative bureaucracies that made them comparable to states in other parts of the world.


Most of these polities still exist but as dependent parts of new nation-states and with the former authority of their chiefs and rulers greatly curtailed or even abolished. All of them were weakened during the colonial era because the colonial governments monopolised political power, and others have been destroyed by the postcolonial independent national governments, which have often considered them reactionary and anti-nationalistic. The new nation-states are almost all those formerly created and given ethically artificial boundaries under colonial rule; they are mostly multi-ethnic, with varying forms of government based on democracy, socialism, military rule and so on.19 


Indigenous Religion is another component. The indigenous Religions of Africa have certain common features. All known include the notion of a High or creator God, remote from men and beyond their comprehension or control. This God is typically not attributed a sex but in some cases is male or female; often God is given an immanent and visible aspect as well. The most important “spiritual” powers are usually associated with things or beings with which people have day-to-day contact or that they know from the past. Thus, there may be many kinds and levels of spirits of the air, of the earth, of rivers, etc. There may be ancestors and ghosts of the dead who have achieved a partial divinity. There may be mythical hereoes who led the people to their present land and founded their society as it is  known today. A central element of every indigenous African religion is the cosmology:- Which tells of tribal origins and early migrations and explains the basic ideological problems of any culture, such as the origin of death, the nature of society, the relationship of men and women, of living and dead, and so on. Social values are typically expressed in myths, legends, folktales, and riddles; the overt meanings of these various oral statements frequently conceal sociological and historical meanings not easily apparent to outsiders20.


Furthermore, African culture is particularly found expressed in the arts which usually refers to the works of black, or sub-Sahara Africa, that part of the continent originally inhabited by Negro peoples who developed cultures quite distinct from those of Caucasian North Africa.  Within this huge geographic area are regions of radically different topography, climate, and natural resources. The economies of these regions therefore, also differ radically from one another, as do the customs, religions, languages, and artistic expressions of their peoples. There is startling diversity within each of the regions as well. It is common to divide sub-Saharan Africa into the following geographic regions:- the open grasslands of the Sudan stretching across the continent just south of the  Sahara, the Woodlands and forests of West Africa, the basin of the Congo River in Central Africa, the East African savannas, and the savannas and deserts of Southern Africa.  None of the these regions has a uniform culture.  The western Sudan, for example, is rich in sculptural styles and production, while sculpture has been little developed in the eastern part, where artistic expression is richest in music and oral literature.21


The European powers further divided the cultures of black Africa by creating colonies with boundaries that had little regard for traditional ethnic or linguistic groupings.  The contemporary literatures of English, French and Portuguese- speaking Africa, therefore, have a uniformity of theme and language that corresponds not to geographic regions or to ethnic affinities but instead to the rather arbitrary manner in which the colonial powers divided the continent.  Colonization also introduced European religion of Christianity, technology, and politics, which together with the European languages, created a historical division in the development of black African arts that may be deeper than its regional divisions.  Since the 19th century some cultural traditions of precolonial origin have disappeared, and, while others survive and indeed flourish, there has been every possible compromise with the cultural forms of the West.22


Despite its variety, African arts can be discussed as a whole for several reasons.  One reason is that, while the artworks of different peoples may differ in form, the traditional roles of art and of the artist in the cultural life of the people are quite similar throughout the continent, and quite different from their roles in non-African cultures.  Another reason is that the borders of modern African nations do not necessarily correspond to cultural borders, so that it is often necessary to discuss the arts not of one country but of an entire region.  In addition, all black African Arts, no matter how diverse, went through a common process of adapting to foreign cultures.23


African culture encourages creativity and promotes political or ideological significance, entertainment and aesthetic value in the Arts of sub-Saharan Africa.  It is difficult to give a useful summary of the main characteristics of the arts of sub-Saharan Africa. The variety of forms and practices is so great that the attempt to do so results in a series of statements that turn out to be just as true, for example, of Western art.  Thus, some African arts are found to have value as entertainment; some have political or ideological significance; some are instrumental in a ritual context; and some have aesthetic value in themselves. More often than not, a work of African art combines several or all of these elements.24


It is often assumed that the African artist is constrained by tradition in a way contrasting with the freedom given to the Western artist.  But although there are traditions of art in which the expectations of patrons demand repetition  of a set form in African art, there are also traditions of precolonial origin that demand a high level of inventive originality for example, Ashanti silk weaving and Kuba raffia embroidery. There are other traditions in which a standard form can be embellished as elaborately as the artist or patron wishes. The important point is that particular traditions encourage creativity.25


Another important feature of the African culture is the African literature.  The term African literature covers traditional oral and written literatures together with the mainly 20th century literature written mostly in European languages but also to an increasing extent in the many languages of the sub-Saharan region.  Traditional written literature is limited to a smaller geographic area than is oral literature; indeed it is most characteristic of those sub-Saharan cultures that have participated in the cultures of the Mediterranean.  In particular, there is literature in both Hausa and Arabic from the scholars of what is now Northern Nigeria; the literature of the likewise Muslim Somali people; and literature in Ge’ez (or Ethiopic) and Amharic of Ethiopia, the one part of Africa where Christianity has been practised long enough to be considered traditional.26


The relationship between oral and written traditions and in particular between oral and modern written literatures is one of great complexity and not a matter of simple evolution.  Modern African literatures were born in the educational systems imposed by colonialism, with models drawn from Europe rather than existing African traditions.  The modern African writer thus uses tradition as a subject matter rather than as a means of effecting a continuity with past cultural practice.27


Further, African culture is significantly pronounced in the poetic and narrative forms of oral tradition among those peoples living south of the Sahara, and are immently rich and varied.  They include myths (in the sense of symbolic accounts of the origins of things, whether the world, particular cultures, lineages, political structures, or gods), praise songs, epic poetry, folktales, riddles, proverbs, and magical spells.  The content of this material also varies considerably and includes children’s rhymes and oral history, as well as symbolic texts of profound intellectual significance.


An important feature of African oral traditions is their close link with music.  Poetry exists almost exclusively in chanted form or as song, and, among West African peoples with tonal languages (for example, the Akan and the Yoruba of Ghana and Nigeria respectively), much poetry is recited in musical form rather than spoken or sung.28

1.3              The term “Culture of Peace and Tolerance”

Though the very term “culture” may be used both in a wide and a restricted sense, in the case of culture of peace and tolerance it should be understood in the broader sense.  Such understanding is formulated by several UNESCO documents.  The Recommendation on Participation by the People at large in Cultural Life, 1976, explains “that culture is not merely an accumulation of works and knowledge which an elite produces, but is at one and the same time the acquisition of knowledge, the demand for a way of life and the need to communicate”.  Similarly, the World conference on cultural policies, 1982, stressed that the term culture was understood by the delegates in a broader sense as “ways of thinking and organizing people’s lives”.  Let me add that “culture” is not only a knowledge of certain values but also adherence to them, readiness to defend and follow them in everyday life.  In other words, “culture” should be understood as the creation of behavioural patterns.29


Culture of Peace and Tolerance has to be based on the recognition of the fundamental value of peace.  As proposed by the YamousssouKro Congress, 1989, it should be based on universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between men and women.  If we add to this enumeration such values as democracy, development, burden sharing and responsibility as well as non-violence and peaceful resolution and transformation of conflicts the list can be seen as relatively exhaustive.30


Tolerance, is precisely, the acceptance and toleration of difference.  It is the reflex of empathy, understanding and conciliation that prevents contradiction from degenerating into conflicts.  So what is happening to our capacity for toleration today? Are the conflicts of an inter-racial, inter-ethnic and inter-religious character occurring in so many parts of the world, often with such horrendous consequences, the sign of some general failure of tolerance? What are the political, social and economic factors that might help explain this phenomenon? What is the human potential for tolerance or intolerance? How can we promote tolerance within society? How can we build bridges and foster dialogue between cultures and civilizations? These are some of the very important questions that the global civil society and national and international public organisations or institutions will be debating in this decade of the century.


Who can doubt that tolerance will be an essential value in the world of the new century.  Global interdependence will place ever greater demands on our capacity for tolerance.  Indeed, if that capacity is not to be exceeded, we must make urgent and concerted efforts to address all those asymmetries and imbalances which today constitute the greatest threat to global human security namely, underdevelopment, poverty, ignorance, social and economic injustice, exclusion, discrimination and human rights violations, diseases, environmental damage and resource depletion.  If we fail to meet these challenges, if we continue to tolerate the intolerable, our efforts in favour of tolerance will be doomed to failure.  The future of tolerance will depend on how far the fact of interdependence is translated into a moral commitment by all, on how far we realize that we are all part of the crew on the same storm-threatened boat and must work together to ensure our collective survival.31


We all aspire to peaceful human co-existence and therefore wish to contribute to the struggle against the causes of violence and war.  Let me therefore remind us of three basic issues in the construction of a culture of peace.


The first issue is that of cultural pluralism.  Human communities are culturally diverse and each community generates ideas, symbols and values which make up distinct traditions.  Religions have contributed to the creation of the various cultural traditions.  In today’s world we have a clear awareness of cultural and religious pluralism.  But faced with pluralism we can react in one of two ways.  We can look on it as something negative and think that only our own tradition is the bearer of truth and meaning.  Or we can think that other traditions also contain truth and meaning.  It is believed that the recognition of other traditions as bearers of truth and meaning is the first step towards the construction of a culture of peace.  Recognizing the values of others is perfectly compatible with the belief that we are on the right path.  In this respect, accepting pluralism does not mean relativizing beliefs or aspiring to a syncretic culture built up out of contributions from the various religions existing today.  Pluralism must be seen as the recognition of the dignity of other cultural and religious traditions with the serene assertion of our belonging to a specific tradition.  Accepting pluralism implies that no tradition claims a monopoly over truth and meaning.  It also implies the recognition that others are just as well-disposed as we are to search for truth and meaning.  We must therefore respect our different beliefs at the same time as we find the way to reach a general consensus allowing us to accept each other as individuals and communities driven by a love of truth and the search for ideas, symbols and values that favour the dignity of individuals and the dignity of peoples.  The culture of peace is built on an initial sympathy, in the sense which makes it possible for individuals and groups from different religious and cultural traditions to accept each other mutually as bearers of gifts that can be communicated and shared.  This attitude of sympathy does not mean doubting the value of our own tradition, but simply recognizing that all human culture are united by the same profound aspirations.32


The second issue is that of the balance between local culture and universal culture.  Cultural traditions no longer in isolation.  Cultural relations considerably affect the development of each culture.  Small cultures, in the demographic, political and economic sense, often become dominated cultures or marginalized cultures.  In addition, the technological culture of the more economically developed societies affects all the traditional cultures and exerts a considerable pressure towards uniformity.  Technological culture’s drive for universality appears something positive and unquestionable.  But it is important to examine the limitations and contradictions of this cultural model I believe we are all interested in the construction of a universal cultural space, but we must be free to decide the characteristics of this space.  We must be able to agree on the ideas, symbols and values that can be accepted by all cultures.  Our interpretation of reality and of ourselves must include scientific knowledge but can not be reduced to scientism.  Technology is only positive when it is part of an ethics serving individuals and human communities.  Market laws must not be the supreme rulers of international relations.  The media must not contribute to cultural domination but to democratic participation by all cultural groups.  This is the moment to remember that the cultural model we hope to build is one that makes the life of each cultural community compatible with an invitation to universal collaboration in the search for answers to shared problems.  Cultural uniformity would lead to an authoritarian and totalitarian universe.  Our aim is a democratic universe which recognizes the relative autonomy of each specific culture.  For this reason we share the aspirations of the various cultural and religious traditions to assert their identity along with the aspirations of peoples to self determination.  The defence of cultural identities is often presented as something regressive.  Wee must explain that it is no more than an essential condition for the culture of peace.  There cannot be peace if we construct a world that fails to respect the dignity and identities of all cultural traditions.  At the same time, each culture has universal values to contribute.  Universal culture must not be thought of as the victory of one culture over the others but as a united, democratic construction of ideas, symbols and values acceptable to all cultures.  Universality is not a denial of individual cultures but the participation of each cultural tradition in the understanding of shared problems and in the envisioning of more humane futures.33


The third issue is closely related to the specific messages of each religious tradition.  Human individuals and communities must be called to a special wisdom which will reveal to them their dignity, inspire love and fraternity in them and draw them friendly into the cosmic reality.  The religious traditions are precisely the space in which it is possible to be initiated into this wisdom comprising the backbone of all cultures, it is obvious that the one contribution that religions can make to a culture of peace is to offer their conceptual and experiential wisdom.  We live in an age which is characterized by the persistence of evil.  Violence and war seem to be engraved on humanity’s future and on our hearts.  The wisdom religions have to offer, can help to overcome the sceptism or mutual suspicion, hatred and nihilism that threatens us.  Along this path we shall find elements for a culture of peace.  It is obvious that religions must contribute to the construction of freer and fairer societies.  It is good if everyone recognizes that the religious traditions are in favour of freedom and justice.  At a deeper level, religions promote an awareness of one’s own dignity and of the dignity of others, a connection with the mysterious energies that allow love and solidarity and the art of establishing harmonious relations with all the beings of the universe.  All religions are rich in people who offer examples of wisdom.  They are called prophets, mystics, saints, enlightened ones, the blessed, or other names.  They are outstanding testimonials to the culture of peace.  They have left violence and war behind them.  They are resistant and strong.  They proclaim peace and create settings for peace.  They have hope and live with joy.  Whatever the case, the wisdom of religions can offer paths by which to reach that true joy that seems so inaccessible in modern societies.  Religions offer paths and energies to turn utopias into realities.  Without religions, peace would be exclusively utopian.  The power of religions can make peace a reality within our reach.34


Against this background, the difficulties of understanding what might be meant by “culture of peace” are further magnified by the fact that culture, like peace, can and has been defined in many ways.  Therefore, what is meant by a culture of peace will almost certainly vary according to the concept of peace that is used.

A culture of peace, therefore, would be a culture that made peace possible, or that made war between or within states increasingly unlikely, until eventually inter-state and intra-state war-would cease; such a culture would also be a culture that sees peace as a balance of forces in the international system that promotes increased economic, social and political interdependencies between states, enabling change to be dealt with non-violently at the state level, such that the globalization process, in line with the above mentioned integrationist arguments, should strengthen the culture of peace.35


If the culture of peace is interpreted in the feminist framework, then the cultural conditions necessary for peace do not exist in any country.  Physical and structural violence at the micro-level, in the community and family, on the streets and in the schools, are widespread, and the cultural, social, political and economic changes required to create a feminist culture of peace represent a major challenge to every national society on earth, as well as in most, if not all, institutions, including many religious institutions.  The feminist theories represent a shift towards value positive perceptions of peace which stress holistic, non-hierarchical interaction between human beings.  A feminist culture of peace, based on personal, experiential analyses, requires fundamental changes in societal values, world wide, if the conditions conducive to the creation  of peace, in the feminist sense, are to be achieved.  The HIV-AIDS issue highlights the centrality of culture in overcoming micro-level structural violence.  The Los Angeles Times quotes Dr. Jonathan Mann of Harvard University, who was the first head of the World Health Organization’s Programme on AIDS, as saying that “even if all the envisaged educational and control programmes were implemented in developing countries, they would fail to halt the impending catastrophe because they do not take into account human rights issues, especially the rights of women.  No matter how hard we try, traditional public health programs cannot make up for the negative impact of this difference in societal status and realization of rights.”  Likewise, issues such as domestic violence and child abuse, which have been highlighted by feminist scholars, will require similar fundamental changes in cultural values.  While much feminist scholarship has stressed micro-level violence, such as wife beating, there has also been a focus on macro structural questions, such as the pervasive effects of patriarchal structures.  As a consequence, feminist conception of a culture of peace will also require societal wide changes in personal cultural values.  Patriarchy is seen as a pervasive violent structure that acts against women in all of society’s major institutions, including marriage and divorce, business institutions, community organizations, and political institutions.  Feminist non-violence involves peaceful behaviour between individuals as well as between states.36


In a non-violent struggle therefore, one has the goal of not dehumanising one’s opponent and vice versa, since it is this dehumanisation which is part of the process that people go through before justifying using violence against other human beings in the world.  Hence non-violence should not be seen as passive, but rather as active struggle against unjust practices, policies, institutions and laws.


1.4              The term “Globalization”37

Globalization is still a complex, controversial and narrowly understood phenomenon.  It has become a way to read world dynamics and the process of world history.  What are not clear, however, are the meaning of globalization, its various dimensions and expressions, and above all, its development implications.

The most vociferous postulates made about globalization are that the phenomenon is:- market driven; creates a world without borders; can lead to increased interdependence; offers enormous opportunities for economic growth; and reduces inefficiency through creative development.

But the above claims are flouted by the following considerations, namely that:-


1.                  The world is borderless only for capital and right technological services;

2.                  Tariffs walls hamper the movement of agricultural and textile production from the poor developing countries to the rich industrialised nations;

3.                  Competition has left many countries of the developing world out of the race; and

4.                  Prospect of the developing countries catching up is hampered by low technological evolution and limited capital.38


The current view that globalization promotes increased interdependence is not sufficiently credible as it often creates more dependence and reliance by the developing countries on the markets of the developed and rich countries.  Due to such vulnerability the developing countries are more responsive to negative external schocks; and the root cause of the real (not perceived) effect of globalization underlined above is a consequence of the asymmetry and bias in the global system, which is often directed against Africa and the rest of the 3rd World.39


Globalization has been built on the foundations of liberalization policies, typically including lowering trade barriers, raising interest rates, devaluing currencies, privatising state owned enterprises, eliminating subsidies and cutting government spending some countries have undertaken largely autonomous liberalization, but for most, these policies have been implemented through Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) of the World Bank and IMF, trade rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and investment rules under Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT).40


These foundations of globalization are being challenged visibly by protesters world wide, and by those that have borne the costs but have seen little of the benefits, by researchers that have documented the costs and questioned the benefits, and even by voices from within the system.  This challenge is not surprising given both the lack of evidence of the success of liberalisation and the mounting toll of casualties in developing economies like ours.


Further, globalization may lead to apparent improvements in economic growth, but can also encourage exploitation and oppression as well as violations of economic, social and cultural rights of many within a state.  There are at least three reasons for this argument:-  the type of investment, the basis for investment decisions, and the type of economic growth.  First, for most developing countries, particularly those in Africa, economic growth is often fostered through large scale external investment which comes from globalized economic institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank or Transnational Corporations.  A great deal of the investment arising from gloabized economic sources for the purposes of “development” is allocated to certain types of projects, such as the building of dams and roads.  There is little or no investment in primary healthcare, safe drinking water and basic education.  Second, decisions about investment by the globalizd organizations are based almost exclusively on financial concerns, including generating profits for banks in developed states and for other multinationals.  As such, these concerns are external to the state in which investment is made, and subsequently fail to focus on social welfare within the state. A classic example is an infamous internal World Bank memo written by the then Chief Economist of the Bank, that:- “globalization is only a threat to weak or capriciously governed states which fail to set the rules that underpin markets and permit them to function”.  However, the World Bank’s support of a role for the state in the decision making process of economic globalization is problematic because the state’s role is seen purely in terms of allowing markets to flourish.  Indeed, the World Bank’s concern for the role of the state is purely self-interested.  In this context, to attract development assistance, domestic reform must be in accord with the World Bank’s own economic philosophies, rather than in terms of the social welfare or the protection of human rights of the people in the state.  The third and final reason that globalization does not necessarily promote economic and social rights is because there are different types of economic growth. The UN Human Development Report 1995 dealt with impact of damaging forms of economic growth. It found that it includes:- “that which does not translate into jobs, that which is not matched by the spread of democracy, that which snuffs out separate cultural identities, that which despoils the environment, and growth where most of the benefits are seized by the rich.” An example of damaging economic growth is where crops are planted for exports to gain foreign exchange revenue while the people are deprived of their staple diet. This has happened in both Zimbabwe and Brazil. This is certainly contrary to the rights to self-determination which protects people’s means of subsistence.41


What is needed therefore is not globalization of the world economy but global equity as the only assurance of shared peace and prosperity. Our future is deeply linked and we must undertake collective action to realize the goal of universal prosperity, as enshrined in the UN Charter of 1945.


2.     Impact of the Religion or culture of Islam on the Arab-African Cultures and its contribution to the promotion of the culture of peace and Tolerance.

2.1       Understanding the link between Religion Culture, and Peace.

There is a very little fine line of distinction between culture and religion and in a number of respects, the two concepts converged. According to Encyclopaedia Encarta, religion is defined as “peoples beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life; a particular institutionalised or personal systems of beliefs and practices relating to the divine; a set of strongly – held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by; an object, practice, cause, or activity that somebody is completely devoted to or obsessed by.” The definition of religion could therefore not be limited to the personal beliefs and rituals between an individual and his God, but extends to how those personal beliefs influence inter-personal life. Thus in a number of religions, it is difficult to make a distinction between the social, economic and political lives of the people and their religious beliefs, because the latter to a larger extent influence the former. This is true of both the traditional African religions as well as the universal religions like Islam and Christianity. To this extent, it is difficult to draw a clear line of distinction between religion and culture. However, since the emergence of modern nation-states, there has been concerted efforts to separate religious beliefs from politics social and economic lives of the people, with religion and religious beliefs increasingly confined and relegated to a sphere of private choice.42 

One way of looking at religion is as part of culture through socially learned behaviour. In this way, religion is shared by a group of people, learned and passed down from one generation to the next, and is clearly reflected in both religious organizations and beliefs. “Socialization” is the process through which culture is learned, including our religious beliefs and practices. The agents or institutions of socialization include language, religion, politics, economics, education, family and media.43

Cultures, and human civilizations are shaped not only by political and economic forces, but also by religious and spiritual forces. Throughout history spiritual visionaries and religious leaders have had a powerful influence on the shaping and maintaining of world views and culture. The teachings of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, for example have had a profound effect on social evolution.

The great world religions include members from different races, nationalities, and ethnic backgrounds. Their loyalties and identities transcend national boundaries. They are global communities in microcosm, with shared values, beliefs, and social agendas.44

Of course, this does not mean that religion’s role in human interactions is always positive.  The very features that contribute to a sense of belonging for some may contribute to a sense of exclusion for others. Religious differences have an occasion turned into self-righteousness, divisiveness, and fanaticism or extremism, contributing to conflicts, hostilities, and sometimes brutality, atrocities, and war. Organised religion has sometimes been a tool of the state, used to manipulate people’s loyalties toward blind obedience and unquestioning allegiance to state power. Sometimes it has been indistinguishable from the state, wielding political power for its own gains. And one does not need to be a Marxist to know that religion has sometimes been an opiate, numbing people into acceptance of hunger, poverty, and injustice, and thus making them impotent to effect change.45

The fact that organized religion can and has sometimes been such a powerful force in war and human destructiveness suggests that it can also play a powerful role in building and sustaining systems of global peace, human rights, social justice, and ecological balance.  There is ample evidence that religion and spirituality have been humanizing and constructive forces in history.

Despite some major variations between different religions, and between religious experience in different historical periods and societies, there are some important similarities in or commonly shared aspects of religious experience. Religions have evolved from a sense that they are our unitive experience of “the holy, or whole, or of the ultimate, sacred, and unknowable”; they constitute the means by which societies interpret life and develop and reinforce codes of morality and conduct in keeping with those interpretations and the requirements of community life; and they constitute those beliefs and practices by means of which a group designates and seeks to deal with its deepest problems of meaning, suffering, and injustice.46

In these understandings of authentic religion and spirituality, then, world order is not something peripheral or outside the realm of religion, but rather at its deepest core of interest, experience, and concern.

In his explorations of the rise and fall of great civilizations, the historian Arnold Toynbee found that religion and spirituality played a significant role in bridging the time/space between the fall of one civilization and the rise of another. The “creative minorities” that helped build new civilizations form the ashes of the old were often operating from a strong conviction or spiritual impulse. In contrast, civilizations that lost their spiritual core were not long sustained.47

If we accept Toynbee’s conclusions about the importance of religion in the rise and fall of civilizations, we are led to certain conclusion about the importance of religion in the development of any truly new world order or global civilization in our time. Inner spiritual growth and transformation may be as, or even more, important than external political changes in global system. Put another way, inner spiritual growth, and the development of more democratic, effective, and humane global systems, may be inseparable parts of a holistic world order. They develop in conformity to one another and are mutually reinforcing. The nurturing of a deeper, global consciousness, and the harnessing of spiritual and moral energies for a more just and humane world order, are vital aspects of its healthy development.

In addition to the meanings, spiritual experience, and moral/ethical considerations religion brings to questions of world order, there is also the power of its networks and institutions. The major world religions have worldwide networks of organisations, educational and medical institutions, alumni, research institutes, local communities, and social and civic-action projects. They can and often do operate across national boundaries with greater ease than many government officials, unbound by the constraints that often tie the hands of governmental actors. They can be major actors in the development of a more peaceful, equitable, and ecologically sustainable world order. They can contribute important scholarship and professional expertise to help resolve some of the grave issues that confront humanity. Their members, programs, and institutions put them in touch with leaders and shapers of public policy. They can be important partners in the development of a more humane and just world order.48


2.2       Impact of the Religion or Culture of Islam on Arab Culture.

To ‘urubah, literally means Arab Culture, Islamic culture stands in a special relation. In some of its elements, Arab Culture was condemned by Islam in the most emphatic terms:- Such as idol worship, female infanticide, slavery etc. Other elements of it became constitutive of Islam, of its new vision, new ethos and culture. It is a principle of the phenomenon of culture, as it is, of that of revelation and religion that it takes place within a matrix, a crucible which serves for it as context as well as matter. In the case of Islam, ‘urubah certainly was such a matrix. But strangely enough, the offspring (Islam) affected the matrix (Arab culture) for more than it has been affected by it. With the emergence of Islam, Arab culture was transformed radically, but it remained all the more inseparable from Islam. Inasmuch as Islam is inseparable from its liturgy, worship and prayer, it is inseparable from Arabic language. On becoming a muslim, or growing up as one, every person is taught some portions of the Arabic Quran and to enable him to perform his ritual duties. A minimum of Arabization must accompany any Islamization. A measure of Arab culture is necessarily a constituent of Islam, and hence of Islamic culture.49


The question here is:- Why did Islamic Culture, which addressed mankind and aimed at universality, appropriate the Arabic language to itself, declare it inseparable from itself, and thus impose upon mankind a substantial part of the sub-culture of the Arabs? Granted that revelation must have a language for its message to be revealed, why did Islam not distinguish its message from the language of revelation, the content of revelation from its form.


There are three reasons why the Quran’s linguistic form was declared inseparable from its ideational content. The first, repeatedly advocated by the emotive theory of language, though only in the last few years since its discovery in modern times, repeats and elaborates what the Quran has ascribed to itself in plain, clear terms, namely, the power to move the audience, to appeal to their emotions, to stir their intuitive faculties into apprehending the meanings presented and/or acting upon the imperatives pronounced. The Quran called itself Dhikr (Literally means a recitation for the purpose of remembering and minding the content recited). This points to the fact that the Quran is inseparable from its Arabic form, and hence, that Islam is ipso facto inseparable from the Arab culture.50


The second reason for this inseparability is that certain elements of Arab culture have, by virtue of their being embedded in the Arabic language or their constituting Arab culture at the advent of Islam, passed on to Islam as internal to its matrix. Hospitality, verve and quick presence of mind, loyalty, courage, individual liberty and pride, the highest value of personal morality, have passed virtually unchanged from Arab culture to Islam. Arabic Culture’s belonging to and discipline by the tribe with all the resultant social cohesion, passed to Islam complete, but with the tribe becoming the universal Ummah of Islam, the world brotherhood under the moral law. Eloquence, goal of all the literary arts, in prose or poetry, the distinctive excellence of all Arabs and the prime vehicle of aesthetic expression and enjoyment, remained unchangeably true of Islam as it was of Arab culture in pre-Islamic days. Thus in the realms of personal and social morality and of aesthetic experience, significant areas are commonly constitutive of both Arab Culture and Islam.51


There is yet another reason for the inseparability of Arab Culture and Islam. Having been the matrix of revelation, Arab culture could have abandoned, and could have been abandoned by Islam, as Christianity abandoned the matrix of Jewish culture in which it was born and Judaism and Jewish culture went their own old way after giving birth to Christianity. Islam and Arab Culture were destined for another career together. The new revelation turned its attention to the matrix and therein effected radical changes. Apart from the values already mentioned which constitute many of its constitutive elements, Arab culture underwent a genuine rebirth. The Arabic language, the repository of the categories of consciousness and the moulder of its forms, received a radical and decisive influence from Islam. The Islamic revelation gave Arabic a new crystallization, new categories of thought, new conceptual forms, new terms, concepts and meanings. Islam gave an Arabic body to the literary sublime, and set it as the insurpassable ideal of the art of letters. Arabic grammar, syntax and construction were derived from the Quran and continue to govern the language fourteen centuries later. The divine status of the Quran as God’s revelation sanctified the Arabic Language and preserved it unchanged, thus eliminating any serious problem of hermeneutics. The Quran, together with the mass of pre-Islamic poetry which was collected by the first generations of Muslims especially in order to establish and preserve the understanding of the Quranic meanings, succeeded in establishing Arabic syntax and lexicography for all times.52


Moreover, the Arabic phrases of the Quran, its figures of speech and forms of expression of gratitude, of wonder and amazement, of fear, hope, love and tenderness, of anger and determination, of hardness and might have impressed all the shades of human emotions with an indelible Arabic mark.

Whether Muslim, Jew, Christian or other, whether literate or illiterate, every Arabic speaking man and woman possesses a fair capital of these linguistic forms of the Quran. It does not matter whether or not the person is conscious of this Quranic legacy which he carries everywhere with him. It is inseparable from his consciousness.


It was this Arab culture, embodying the Quranic revelation and essentially affected by it that became the matrix of the whole subsequent history of Islamic thought and letters.  So that it is impossible for that legacy to be reached by any muslim anywhere except through mastery of this gateway of the Arabic language. The Quran made Arabic the figurization of Islamic thought. In it, it embedded its own categories of spirituality and morality, so that to Quranize a mind is to Arabize it, and to Arabize it is necessarily to Islamize it.


There is nothing more damaging to this identity of Quranization – Arabization than the introduction of Arab nation-states or the sentiment of  Arab nationalism which differentiates the Arab Muslim from his muslim brothers belonging to other ethnicities53


2.3  Islam and Cultural Changes in Modern Africa and in Afro-Arab relations.


Islam as a culture certainly makes claim to a meta-cultural claim to truth, to goodness and beauty, and purports to speak for all humans and for all times.

Its claim is that its contents are essential to humanity as such, that its values are absolutely valid for all men because they are true. This absoluteness of Islamic culture did not make it intolerant of the ethnic sub-cultures of its adherents, of their languages and literatures, of their folk customs and styles. But it has distinguished the culture of Islam from the local custom, the provincial content, which Islam tolerated even to the point of regarding it juristically acceptable, by which  it has always kept in the place proper to it. Such a position is one of subservience to the culture of Islam, which was assigned the status of determining the essence and core of Islamic civilization in toto. The world’s crossroads of cultures and civilizations all participated in Islamic culture, building their unity and hence their definition on the culture of Islamic culture, and, under its guidance, continued to keep, develop and promote their hundred ethnic sub-cultures. Therefore, the standpoint of Islamic culture, is not that of cultural relativism. This is more pronounced in African Islam or how Islam impacted on African culture and Afro-Arab relations.


The Islamization of Africa has been a long, uneven and, indeed, complex process. Islam’s first contact with Africa was with Ethiopia rather than Egypt and the rest of North Africa. Prophet Muhammad in the very early days of Islam advised some of his initial followers to emigrate to Ethiopia to avoid persecution in Mecca.  Emissaries also seem to have been sent to the Ethiopian monarch by the Prophet of Islam and some stayed back, never to return to Arabia. They seem to have been well received there and even protected by the Emperor, despite strong protestations by their adversaries. Tradition has it that the Prophet called for a special prayer, probably the first and only one of its kind in Islam, when the Christian Ethiopian Emperor died. This special relationship with Ethiopia is perhaps a partial explanation of why muslims did not attempt either a conquest or a vigorous Islamization of the country. Infact, it was not until the 9th and 10th centuries that the Muslim Kingdoms of Shoa and Ofat emerged.55


However, it was the muslim conquest of Egypt, also in the 7th  century A.D., which initiated a more fundamental process of Islamization in Africa. Islam entered Egypt in A.D. 640, after the death of Prophet Muhammad and by the end of that century had reached the Atlantic. Then it took centuries to consolidate its gain and only gradually turned to the South.  The process of Islamization in Africa continues to the present day, and is of several phases, varying in depth and style of the spread of the Islamic cultural heritage.56


Unlike the rest of the continent, two processes were underway in North Africa. Islamization was one and Arabization was another. By Islamization we refer to the process by which the people of North Africa were converted to the Islamic religion and became Muslims. On the other hand, by Arabization we refer to the acculturation process by which the North Africans became, among other things, speakers of the Arabic language as well as being absorbed into other aspects of Arab culture. However, Arabized and Islamized North Africa tended to over emphasize its myth or origin or link with the Arabian Peninsula.57


Islam registered its initial impact on East Africa at approximately the same time it did in North Africa. It did so primarily through trade across the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean into the Horn of Africa and the East African coast, not through armed conquest as was the case in North Africa.  Islam spread from the north southwards across the Sahara, largely through peaceful migration and trade from around the middle of the 11th century onwards.  In contrast to the Christian missionaries, the carriers of Islam generally went overland into tropical Africa.  This was a period of deeper penetration and consolidation of inner East and West Africa through trade, settlement and proselytization.  In the late 17th century the principle of Jihad was mobilized through parts of the sub-Saharan area to establish and consolidate a multiplicity of Islamic theocratic states culminating in the Sokoto Empire of Northern Nigeria and the Mahdist state in the Sudan.  Among the Arab/Muslim influences in Africa, therefore, must be included the role of Islamic Statehood in sub-Saharan Africa.58 


The consolidation of Islamic States in sub-Saharan Africa resulted, according to J.S, Trimingham, in the disintegration of some social and ethnic groups, and it eliminated organized cults, thereby leaving Islam as a credible force and cement for social cohesion.  Peaceful conditions and facilities for communication later enabled Muslim traders and teachers to circulate freely and propagate their faith at a period when the religious and social structures of many traditional African societies were disintegrating under the pressure of various social and economic factors.59


Islam’s adaptability to varying local circumstances made it acceptable to Africans who had religions of their own; for example, drum and dancing became part of Islamic celebration in parts of East Africa, to the chagrin of Muslim purists there.  Indeed, Islam of the East African coast bears strong traces to indigenous African religions in the prominence of beliefs in spirits and spirit possession, ancestor worship, witchcraft and sorcery, al of which have been maintained by a local oral tradition of Islam which has coexisted with the more orthodox written legal tradition.60


Islam in Africa flourished where there was some basis of urban culture, together with trading relations which ultimately stemmed from towns and cities.  Trade with Arabs by way of Saharan caravans, brought medieval West Africa into touch with the world of Islam, and with Islam came Arab culture and civilization.  For a while, Islam remained by and large, a religion of trading towns.  Here it transmitted techniques of credit, commerce and political organization which had expanding local influence, especially in the financing of long distance trade and in the development of centralized administrations.  In these respects the influence of Islam was uninterrupted and fairly widespread.


In what ways then has Islam enhanced Afro-Arab political cooperation? Islam has provided an important link between Africans and the Arabs.  The religion is basically an Afro-Asian faith since the majority of Muslim peoples and nations are to be found either in Africa or Asia though there are individual Muslims elsewhere on the globe.  Both Africa and the Arab World are part of the underprivileged or the third World.  Both Africans and Arabs were once subjected to European colonization or domination.61


In the modern period, Africans and Arabs have co-operated politically, especially with regard to the issue of decolonisation in black Africa and in the Middle East conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis. This co-operation has been partly enhanced and facilitated by the periodic meetings of the Organization of the Islamic conference (OIC) and partly through the Muslim elites meetings and interactions during hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Median.  However, Islam has also been a potential source of stress in Afro-Arab relations especially with regard to the Chadian, Eriterian, and Ogadeni conflicts. Islam continues to expand in black Africa and it will continue to draw the black Africans closer to the Arabs although it will sometimes be a source of tension in Afro-Arab relations.62


2.4  Contribution of Islam to a Culture of Peace and Tolerance63.

Since the beginning of mankind, people, through the Prophets, have received revelations, with the purpose of leading them away from their unhappy ways.  As these prophets are considered carriers of divine messages, Islam recognizes them all.  Principally, the content of these messages is God’s love towards His creatures, when He bids, in their own interest, to follow His ethical and religious commandments.  The whole of mankind is called to walk on the road to the homesteads of peace”, in the expression of the Holy Quran.64


How this is to be done, and what the Islamic religion says about the making of peace, can be summarized in the image of the three interconnected circles of peace.  The individual, who, according to the teaching of Islam, is fully responsible for his deeds, can gain an ever increasing peace within himself thanks to his sincere efforts to act responsibly.  His efforts aim at the three circles of:- (1)  Peace with himself; (2) Peace with his fellow creatures and the rest of creation, and (3) Peace with God, the all transcendent power, which creates and makes everything possible.


Islam accepts the earlier revealed religions and shows that people create the peace of God whenever they strive for moral behaviour and for an active love towards their fellow men.  The word Islam itself, as you may know, stems from the same root as the Arabic word Salaam, meaning peace and salvation.  Muslims greet each other with salutation, “Peace be with you”.  And at the end of each of the prescribed five daily prayers, the faithful turns to the right and then to the left side, where the two halves of the world lie, and wishes them peace.


Islam teaches that man can be the starting point for peace.  This is the case whenever he does not search it only for himself but also for those around him.  He has to believe that he will receive the necessary spiritual strength in accordance with the divine revelations.

In his important work for peace, man is assisted by reason if he will listen.  Human reason, as the Islamic philosopher and mystic Al-Ghazali pointed out, is “a sample of the light of God”.  The Holy Quran demands of the individual a judicious medition on himself, on the history and the aim of mankind.  This is because God, in the words of the Quran :- 32:8, “when He shaped man, He breathed of His divine Spirit into him”.  The individual way to real peace; because in doing so, he follows the impulse to justice and mercy.  This inspires him to act in favour of the oppressed of this world and for the good of those around him, which is essential for the existence of mankind.65


We herewith come to the question regarding the goal.  To him who sincerely believes with all his heart, the world, with its desirable but perishable treasures, cannot be his ultimate goal.  The objective which appears before him is that justice and mercy may be victorious, as his heart demands.  His goal is God’s promised “homestead of peace”.


In this context, the Quran calls the representatives of the religions to agree to served God alone, “to join no other gods with him neither to take any other lord than God alone” (Quran 3:57).  God demands justice and mercy towards all men.  Religion shows people how, by following these commandments, they will not lose their liberty but rather gain it, thanks to peace and inner strength.  Still, they are free to decide whether they wish to choose this way.  The Quran says:- “Let there be no compulsion in religion”(Quran 2: 257).


The goal of religion is to construct a peaceful community.  Our world today has grown conscious that a culture of peace is absolutely necessary.  A culture of peace is built on the will to peace.  From the Islamic point of view, this is the educational goal of all religions.  Therefore, the religions, while preserving their identities, should unite their efforts towards the same objective in competition of good deeds.  Unless all individuals with the will to peace unite their efforts towards peace, we shall not attain our goal, that is, a future of peace.  It can only become effective in a community which reserves space for the struggle towards good inherent in all men, space for the human freedom.  As the Quran puts it, it is in such a community that men can “enjoin justice and forbid evil” (Quran 3:110).


The diversity of mankind, of its religions and cultures, must by no means become the cause of animosity amongst them.  On the contrary, it should be the impulse, the motor for a development of humanity which expresses itself through tolerance, respect and kindness precisely towards those who are different.  Clearly the effort to understand quite different people helps us to practice patience with ourselves and with others and to expand our spiritual horizon.  It brings us closer to the goal of a culture of peace which can only be built on humanity.  Peace can only be reached by peaceful means.  But these peaceful means require all our forces.66


The Quran contains a parable on how this is to come about.  It compares the elementary disposition of two individuals.  One is passive and incapable of accepting responsibilities, a good for nothing.  The other, on the contrary, is active and untiring in his fight for justice, inspiring others with his example.  For giving his full measure on God’s paths, he receives God’s sakina, spirit of secure repose (Quran 48:4 e.t.c).  This, in turn, augments his strength to fight for the way of God, which is the only way to peace.  Thereby his spirituality will grow incessantly.


The struggle for peace can only be successful if we leave room for it.  This means that we must concede to others the same objective as we have.  Otherwise we would already have abandoned the way to peace.  We have to pursue peace not only as a goal but also as a way, if we wish our efforts to be crowned by more than a fleeting success.  All the while we must not forget that there is no other enduring peace but the peace which is God’s gift and His promise.  The faith which makes us struggle to act well is the requisite for the peace we seek.


This is especially true when we are confronted with foreign people and cultures, with a way of thinking at first very difficult to understand.  We should not consider this task of confronting strange manners of thought as a burden.  It may very well result that thanks to this confrontation our own way of thinking receives the deepening it needed in order to really take roots in our own cultural heritage.  Strictly speaking, all great cultures have gained their greatness precisely through this living interchange with other cultures, through mutual interchange and not through oppression, by getting to know other countries and people, not by obliterating them.  The Quran (49: 13) proclaims it to be one of the objectives of creation, that the different people of the earth “might have knowledge of one another”.  This is the reason underlying their creation.  Thus they were granted the peace which they needed in order to keep their realms together and to expand them.67


The Quran contains quite precise empirical indications about the way in which peace may be preserved and cultivated.  The will to peace essentially must have no limits.  Consequently, this disposition towards peace must include our enemies:-  “If they lean to peace, lean thou also to it” (Quran 8:63).  Yet even if the enemies show no will to peace, and a fight in defence of one’s own rights becomes necessary, no immoral deeds may be committed (Quran 2:190).  In this respect, Islamic tradition gives precise instructions, as for example, regarding the protection of the civil population and the civilized treatment of prisoners.  Inhumanity and terrorism are on principle forbidden.  The prescriptions go further still:-  one must even try not to become a temptation for one’s enemies (Quran 60:5).  Thus the Quran commands the Muslims to show towards all an exemplary behaviour.  Only those enemies are excluded “who have warred against you, or driven you forth from your homes” (Quran 60:9).


The starting point for peace, as mentioned already, is man trying to act justly.  Once man has set out on this way to peace, he will receive the necessary firmness, without which no battle for peace can be waged (Quran 47:8).  The more the spirituality of the individual is thus fortified, the more he can accomplish.  The supreme happiness is to be able to return good for evil and to make a friend out of a former enemy. Otherwise, how should we ever break the chain of hostility? Yet Islam, which besides the need for justice upholds the need for mercy, demands from no man more than he is capable of.  But the smallest good deed, says the prophet Muhammad, is not to be despised.  Even the longest voyage begins with one first step.

Islam is a religion of peace and knows no intolerance. It demands, as we have shown, respect for all religions and to render, on principle, justice and mercy to all men.  These demands are grounded on the unity of mankind and on our common goal.


A master narrative on the Quran’s attitudes toward non-Muslims dominates both classical Quranic exegesis and orientalist studies.  According to this narrative, during the Meccan period of revelation, the Quran’s message is generally one of tolerance toward non-believers, whether polytheist Arabs or Jews and Christians.  This position, according to this narrative, was dictated by the Muslim Community’s military weakness. But when prophet Muhammad relocated to Medina the Quran becomes increasingly belligerent towards non-Muslims until finally, near the end of the revelation, it commands war against polytheists until they convert and against Jews and Christians until they submit to Muslim domination.  This narrative can be, and has been, challenged by studying the evolution of Quranic views on tolerance.  That if the Quranic text is considered as a whole, the apparently belligerent verses emerge as limited in scope and application while an ethic of pluralism, best expressed in Quran 5:48 is consistently upheld.  According to this verse:- “To you we sent the scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety; so judge between them by what God has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the truth that has come to you.  To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way.  If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He has given you; so strive as in a race in all virtues.  The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you differ.”68


Now in the above verse, toward the end of the revelation, we find once again the metaphor of competition, struggling, racing toward a goal, captured in the imperative verb “istabiqu”.  Though each community advances along its own path toward a common goal, it is not the goal but the journey that is the real focus of this verse.  The journey is the test, and this test is not one of conflict among rival and competing faiths struggling for hegemony.  Nor is it a religious cold war, a journey of the deaf and the mute.  In this verse, the Quran affirms that the problem of religious and moral diversity is not a hindrance to be overcome, but an advantage to be embraced, a necessary facet of God’s unknown plan for humanity.  The journey can be meaningful only if there are a number of  travellers, for just as human beings urge each other toward evil, so human beings urge each other toward the good, tolerance and peaceful co-existence.69


Both Islam and Christianity enjoin their believers to be tolerant, just, and to extend kindness, magnanimity, and benevolence to each other even in anger.  Hence, Christians and Muslims are entitled to worship in their respective churches and mosques in peace and security.  Similarly, they both have the rights to their cultures and their sentiments and sensitivities.  In Afro-Arab world, the case has consistently been made that Afro-Arabs are a religious people and that whatever the religion they practise they all desire to live in peace and worship in peace.  Hence religion as a source of conflict is the result of intolerance, fanaticism and politics.


In terms of contribution of Islam  to a culture of peace, we are justified in saying that Islam makes a contribution to the preservation and cultivation of peace, thanks to its ethical commandments and the reasons on which they are based.  Its most important contribution centres in a call to the faith of the heart which makes itself present in man’s every good deed and presupposes it.  Freedom but and faith not only are not mutually exclusive, they postulate each other and they create peace, according to Islamic teaching.


Peace has to be possible for everybody.  But how can the so-called world order create peace if it does net respect the weak nations? Such a world order stands on clay feet, because it cannot command confidence and it weakens the will to peace.

The Prophet Muhammad pointed out the need for human solidarity.  In a parable, he depicts the whole of humanity assembled on a ship.  Part of it, on the upper deck, the rest on the lower deck.  Those who were below had to fetch their water from above, until one day they grew tired of this situation.  They bore a hole in the ship in order to obtain water. But the people above must stop those from below.  They must help them, says Prophet Muhammad, otherwise mankind in its totality is lost.


The collaboration between all people of this earth which is becoming increasingly necessary, demands that we shake off the negative vision of the past, abandon ingrained enemy images and prejudices.  It requires that we turn to the future and to a positive, creative thinking which grasps the now common problems of the present world correctly, permitting us to solve them effectively in a common effort.  Humanity finds itself on the ship Earth, embarked on a trip into space for which reason must take the helm.


3.         Challenges facing Arab-African Cultural/Religious values/norms in the context of Globalization


In this part of the paper, two main challenges will be addressed:-  of protecting cultural and religious rights, and of promoting inter-cultural communication and inter-religious dialogue.

a)         The challenge of protecting cultural and religious rights

Globalization poses a serious challenge to cultural and religious rights in two main ways:-  through the concept itself, and through its processes.


As a concept, globalization challenges the concept of statehood.  States, especially Afro-Arab States, no longer have the firm economic, military, technological and to a large extent political control over its territories, as they use to before.  Events, whether political, economic or technological that happen in one country may have instant and far reaching effect in a number of countries.  Non-state actors, like multinational corporations and multilateral agencies are taking the centre stage in the control of world economy, technology and even politics.  Thus, since the custody of the traditional rights, is entrusted in the hands of states by international law, their current weak position in the face of globalization erodes a lot of confidence in their capabilities to protect these rights.  This poses the general question as to the readiness of the emerging international economic law to deal with the shifting pattern of responsibility as it relates to the protection of religious and cultural rights.  Secondly, the process of globalization itself has continue to threaten the substance of religious and cultural rights in two main ways:-  one incidental and the other direct to the process.70


The economic and technological process of gbloablization carried with it, the incidental danger and threat to religious and cultural rights.  The breaking down of economic and technological barriers, which allows free flow of trade, market, investment and technology (particularly information technology) across borders, comes along with it, serious threats to cultural and religious rights.  For example, free market brings foreign goods and tastes to different societies; investments, particularly in the  extractive industries, may expose closed and highly cultured communities to foreign life that may lead to the systematic destruction of the cultural life of the affected communities; and more seriously, the exposure to information technology, particularly the internet and international television cable stations has led to the systematic erosion of many a traditional and religious cultures in many societies.  In many non-Western Societies and “through the mass media, especially the electronic media, the culture of violence and sex displayed in western movies and music as well as advertisement have been popularised to such an extent that in many instances, they have displaced indigenous cultural forms and practices.  This could lead to the destruction of cultural diversity and variety which has always been one of the worthier attributes of human civilization”, if left unaddressed.


In the recent past, the zeal to globalize world’s politics and culture has been most unrelenting. Backed by economic, political and military might, the West, through the instrument of democratisation and human rights, has been emphatic in its efforts to reshape the world’s cultural and political philosophy.  The neo-conservatives within the current American Administration have since been talking of reshaping the world, especially the Arab-African World, in the ‘American image’.  Writers of the Western philosophical leanings are talking not only of globalisation of values, but also of the internationalisation of religious liberties and standards.  But the fact still remains that “culture is harder to globalise than politics or economic activity”.  The recent conflict among the Anglican communion over the ordination of gay priests in the USA must be seen as part of the difficulty in the standardisation of religious norms71.


One instrument of globalisation that has come into direct conflict with cultural and religious rights is the issue of human rights.  While most societies across the globe will readily accept the principles of human rights embodied in both national, regional and international human rights documents, a wide gap of difference exists as to the nature and extent of the application of these rights.  The consequences of this divergence in the perception of ‘rights’ is reflected in the controversies surrounding the international protection of human rights.  For the non-western societies, a number of questions in this respect remained unanswered.  For example, today, more than 46 States of the World have majority of Muslim populations, 15 of which have constitutionally declared Islam as the religion of the State and 5 are specifically designated as Islamic Republics.  Many Muslim states currently apply Islamic law or the Sharia either fully or partially as state law, and there is continued agitation in one form or another for its restoration or full application in some others.  This cultural assertion by Muslim States, largely African-Asian, forms part of the general Islamic Revival in the Muslim World and a resistance against international norms perceived as being contrary to Islamic principles.  They contend that international human rights treaties and interpretations of their norms by the mechanisms in charge, do not take into account the cultural and religious values of the Arab-African or Muslim World’s civilizations.  Hence many Muslim States in Africa and Asia or Arab World have differed with the UN treaty bodies mostly on issues of gender equality and the concept of family, marriage, divorce and inheritance, as well as relating to death penalty, religious freedom, and some aspects of children’s rights.72


Perhaps more disturbing to the globalisation thrust into the area of cultural and religious rights is the extent to which stronger nations of the West, particularly the USA and UK, are willing to load it over the weaker nations, using military right.  The recent events in Iraq are a grievous source of concern, violative of Iraqi’s cultural and religious rights as well as their rights to human dignity and to self determination.  Forceful military intervention has always come with the potency of destroying physically and psychologically, decades or centuries of civilizations and cultural pride.  The reports of the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners of war by the US forces through, inhuman or degrading treatment, is both dehumanising and a desecration of the Iraqi Arab/Muslim religious and cultural values.

Current global events show that, people who felt culturally and religiously threatened by the forces of globalization are increasingly falling back on ethnic and religious lineages, sometime in a violent manner, for protection.  This makes the difficult task, and probably makes the object of globalization even more difficult to come by.  This situation raises more, the prospects for concerted efforts towards the protection of cultural and religious rights.  When properly harnessed, both cultural and religious diversities are part of the enviable asset of mankind and veritable vehicle for human development.  The challenge for international law is to fashion an appropriate legal regime to deal with the greater or more effective way of protecting the cultural and religious rights against the agents and processes of globalization.


b)         The Challenge of Promoting intercultural communication and inter-faith dialogue


Intercultural communication deals with what happens when people from different cultures, including religions, come together to communicate, interact, and even negotiate with each other.  Individuals each carry around some different version of culture in their heads, based on socialization (or learning) by the different agents or institutions of socialization in their culture, including religion, and based on different individual and collective life experiences.  This world view provides a sense of values and meaning about life.


It is often the case that in everyday interactions, individuals, even from the same culture, can misperceive each other.  When they came from totally different cultures, including different religious traditions and belief systems, the danger is even greater.  It is thus a basic tenet of intercultural communication that, the message sent is often not the message received.  It is understable that individuals tend to expect others to behave the way they would in a given situation or say what they would say in that same situation.  When they do not, there is a strong tendency to interpret the motivation or meaning behind the behaviour of the other person in terms of what that behaviour would mean in one’s own culture rather than in terms of what that behaviour actually means in the other person’s culture, since the other’s culture is not really understood.73


As long as an individual remains uninformed about another person’s culture or religion, that individual remains vulnerable to repeating this problem over and over in their intercultural  and inter-religious interactions.  One important component of a solution to this problem is to become better informed about another person’s culture and religion so that it is at least possible to interpret another’s behaviour and words in the proper cultural and religious context within which they occur.  Such a strategy will also contribute to an appreciation of the rich cultural and religious diversity that exists in this world and help to counteract the tendencies to judge other’s actions and words incorrectly and negatively.74


A central problem in intercultural communication, including interactions between peoples from different world religions, is to confuse the map (one’s own particular version or interpretation of culture or religion) with the territory (an ultimate experience of “Reality” or “God” or “Spirit”, as opposed to the relative or limited experiences of daily life).  Becoming conscious of being socialized into different religions and cultures, couplet with an awareness that individuals as a consequence carry around different versions or maps of “reality” in their heads, can contribute to becoming more tolerant of the different versions or maps of reality that others also carry around in their heads, while also recognizing that something much more basic and essential underlies all the apparent outer diversity.75


In looking at diversity, it should also be noted that it is a basic principle of systems theory that the more complex a system is, the more diversity there needs to be within the system for it to maintain itself.  The discussion of globalization and cultural diversity above suggests the evolution of a more complex global system with increasing diversity within it.  It is a thesis of this paper that such diversity is ultimately a strength, not a weakness, but only if it is consciously dealt with.  Otherwise, we will expect people from different cultures to think and behave the way we do, and when they do not, we will tend to misinterpret and then judge their beliefs or behaviour negatively, thus creating misunderstanding and conflict between peoples.  Nonetheless, cultural diversity in the global system, like ecological diversity within an ecosystem, is ultimately an asset, if it is valued and contributes to openness to learn from other groups and cultures.  Another thesis of this paper is that every culture, just as every religion, has something important to contribute to the world’s peace, and no culture has all the answers.  Thus every culture has both strengths and weaknesses.  There are thus important things that we can each learn from each other, if we are open, sincere, and humble enough to do so.76




It is evident from the above analysis that human civilization is the product of mutual enrichment among cultures.  Culture in its most meaningful sense implies tolerance, since openness to others is the condition of creativity and spiritual development.  Unfortunately, culture can serve as an alibi for closed minds, encouraging intolerance and hatred between individuals and peoples.  The fact of human diversity, and even more, uniqueness implies a divergence of views and interests, which makes conflict inevitable.  But conflict can and must be solved through patient dialogue and peaceful discussion.


The Arab-African cultures, as largely influenced by Religion, especially Islam, has equally contributed to the promotion of the culture of peace and tolerance, despite the various causes of religious extremism and intolerance in the Arab-African World today.  The sharp edges of racism, ethnicity and globalization must therefore be cut through the sincere promotion of global equity and respect for cultural and religious diversity.


Hence the need to promote the following:-


1) Dialogue among cultures:-  This dialogue can and must be the answer to the growing danger of various manifestations of intolerance and violence or war today.

2) Promote Good Governance:-  promotion of good governance at all levels of authority in the Arab-African World is imperative.  This is because good governance is an essential building block for meeting the objects of sustainable human development, prosperity, peace and security.  Good Governance comprises respect for the rule of law, effective state institutions, transparency and accountability in governance, respect for human rights of individuals and groups, and the meaningful participation of all citizens in the political process of their country and in decisions affecting their lives.

3) Eradicate Abuse of Power:-  Eradication of abuse of legal power is achievable by sensitizing all law enforcement and security officials or agencies and all those in power or position of authority about the implications or resultant consequence of such acts.  That abuse of power is a threat to not only the existence of law, but also to the corporate existence of society.  It is, in fact a betrayal of trust of that power.  The solution of course, lies in the knowledge that the exercise of legal power must be in the interest of the survival of human beings; that it must seek the protection of human beings; it ought also to be in the interest of justice, maintenance of peace, order and stability in society and the world at large.



1.                  Ladan, M.T., “A culture of tolerance and peace; in the New Nigerian Newspapers, Kaduna, Monday, May 17 and 24,2004 at p. 10 each.

2.                  Ibid, at P. 10.

3.                  See the classic definition of culture provided by the 19th century English anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor in the first paragraph of his book:-  Primitive Culture (1871), and in his book:  Anthropology (1881).

4.                  In their book:- Culture:-  A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions (1952), U.S . anthropologists A.L. Kroeber and Clyde KlucKohn cited 164 definitions of culture.

5.                  See The New Encylopaedia Britannica, Vol. 16, Encylopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, USA, pp. 874-880

6.                  Ibid, Vol. 1, at p. 1034

7.                  Ibid, at p. 1034.

8.                  Supra note 5.

9.                  Ibid.

10.              See Ati, H.A., The Family Structure in Islam, (1982), Islamic Publications Bureau, Lagos, at pp. 1-12.

11.              See Islam in Africa:-  (1993) (N. Alkali, ed.), Spectrum Books Limited, Lagos, at pp. 232 to 234.  see also The Arabs:-  their history, culture and place in the modern world, (1963)

12.              Ibid, at p. 233.

13.              See G.P. Murdock, (1959):- Africa:- Its people and their culture History, McGraw Hill Book co., New York, pp. 1-35

14.              Supra note 5, at p. 63

15.              Ibid, at pp. 63-64.

16.              Ibid, at pp. 63-64

17.              Supra note 5.

18.              Ibid, at p. 64

19.              Ibid, at p. 64

20.              Ibid,

21.              Supra note 5 at p. 134

22.              Ibid at p. 134

23.              Ibid

24.              Ibid at p. 135

25.              Ibid at p. 136

26.              Ibid at pp. 136-7

27.              Ibid at pp. 135-6

28.              Ibid at 136-8

29.              See Ladan, M.T., “A culture of Peace and Tolerance”, in the New Nigerian Newspaper, Kaduna Nigeria, Monday 17 May and 24 May, 2004, at P. 10.


30.              Ibid, at P. 10, 17 May 2004

31.              Ibid at 27 May 2004, P. 10

32.              Supra note 29 at p. 10

33.              Ibid, 24 May 2004, at P. 10

34.              Supra note 29.

35.              See UNESCO, Paris, France, and Centre de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, The Contributions By Religions to the Culture of Peace, (1994) 12-18 December, at pp. 1-15.

36.              Ibid, at pp. 85-89

37.              See A.Y. Seita, “Globalization and the Convergence of Values,” in 30 Cornell Int. L.J. 429 (1997), pp. 435-439.

38.              See Globalization of world Trade and Developing Countries, a paper presented by the Faculty of Law, University of Benin, Nigeria, at the 40th Annual NALT Conference, in Lagos, May 16-19, 2004, at pp. 1-20

39.              Ibid at pp. 5-6

40.               Ibid at pp. 10-15

41.              Ibid at PP. 12-20

42.              Supra note 35 at PP. 1-15

43.              Ibid at PP. 25-40

44.              Ibid at PP. 41-43.

45.              Ladan M.T., supra note 29

46.              Ibid at p. 10

47.              Supra note 35, at pp. 39-51, 84-90.

48.              Ibid at pp. 81-90

49.              See I.A. Faruqi, “Islam as Culture and Civilization”, in Islam and Contemporary Society, (1982) (ed. S. Azzam), Islamic Council of Europe, London, and Longman Group, London, at pp. 140-3

50.              Ibid, at pp. 140-1

51.              Ibid at pp. 141-2

52.              Ibid, at pp. 142.

53.              Ibid, at pp. 143-6

54.              Supra note 11, at pp. 232-3

55.              Ibid at P. 233.

56.              Ibid at pp. 232-4

57.              Ibid at pp. 234-7

58.              Ibid at pp. 238-239

59.              Ibid at pp. 240-1

60.              Ibid at P. 240

61.              Ibid at P. 241-146

62.              Ibid at p. 244-246

63.              Ladan, M.T., supra note 29

64.              Supra note 49, at pp, 140-6

65.              Ibid at pp. 145-6

66.              Ibid at P. 146

67.              Ibid at P. 145-6

68.              See Journal of Human Rights Vol. 2, No.1, March 2003, Carfax Publishing Co., UK, at pp. 81-6.

69.              Ibid, at pp. 90-101

70.              Supra note 37, at pp. 435-446

71.              Ibid, at pp. 4440-6

72.              See Ladan, M.T., Human Rights and the Administration of Justice under the Sharia in Nigeria and the practice of Muslim world, in the Press, ABU Zaria, 2004, at pp. 80-120.

 73.              Supra note 35, at pp. 25-45

74.              Ibid, at pp. 49-72

75.              Ibid, at pp. 79-102

76.              Ibid at pp. 88-96.



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