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Nobel laureate: England is a “cesspit” of radical Islam

February 4, 2010

Wole Soyinka

You might think Islamic terrorists are bred in, say, Afghanistan. Or maybe Pakistan. Yemen? Nobel Prize-winning author and activist Wole Soyinka says the place most likely to produce radicalized Muslims willing to blow themselves up is Britain.

“England is a cesspit,” Soyinka tells The Daily Beast. “England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence. And yet England allows it.”

Soyinka’s remarks come in response to fellow Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s Christmas Day attempt to bring down a jetliner by lighting a bomb in his underwear.

While most of his criticism is leveled at the U.K., Soyinka condemns the U.S. decision to place Nigeria on the terrorist watch list.

“That was an irrational, knee-jerk reaction by the Americans,” Soyinka said. “The man did not get radicalised in Nigeria. It happened in England, where he went to university.”

Playwright, novelist and poet, Soyinka became the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1986). Born in 1934 to a Christian family — his father was a clergyman and headmaster of a school — Soyinka has been a leading Nigerian democratic activist, spending time in prison and in exile.

According to The Guardian, the attempted Christmas Day bombing “has helped to raise fears that some British universities are becoming places in which young Muslims are radicalised.” Abdulmutallab, 23, was engineering student at the University College, London between 2005 and 2008, reports the Nigerian newspaper Punch.

“I doubt you can have the kind of indoctrination schools in America as you do in the UK,” Soyinka says. “Besides, there’s a large body of American Muslims in the US – the Nation of Islam – which has created a kind of mainstream Muslim institution.”

Riazat Butt, the Guardian‘s religious affairs correspondent, attempts to refute Soyinka’s assertions in a blog post, arguing that Britain has laws against the preaching of hate. She questions the claim Abdulmutallab was radicalized in an English university. And she challenges Soyinka’s characterization of the Nation of Islam as an “antidote” to Islamic fundamentalism.

Soyinka laments religious violence in Nigeria, a country evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. “Roaming hordes of killers are entering homes and dragging out people of other faiths and hacking them to death. In my youth, you heard, side-by-side, the church bells ringing and the beautiful, sonorous call to prayer of the muezzin.”

The current phase of world religious violence began in 1989, Soyinka says, when Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued the infamous fatwah calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses offended Muslim sensibilites.

“There was an escalation,” Soyinka says. “The assumption of power over life and death then passed to every single inconsequential Muslim in the world—as if someone had given them a new stature.

“Al Qaeda is the descendent of this phenomenon.”

Soyinka’s solution?  “Education. And rigorous punishment for those who feel, not ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’ but ‘I’m right, you’re dead.'”

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Candice Simmons permalink
    February 4, 2010 3:32 pm

    While I agree with Soyinka’s solution, I also agree with Ben Franklin when he says “he who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” And while those who kill in the name of God and for most other reasons should be arrested and punished, we must also be very careful to preserve freedom to worship whatever God, if any, you choose and freedom to disagree with all leaders–religious, political, social, etc.–in a non violent manner.

  2. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    February 4, 2010 3:49 pm

    Eloquently said, and beyond dispute. But I think the situation in England may be a little more complicated than the usual speech vs. security debate. Even some British fear their country has coddled radical clerics, in a misguided gesture toward making up for colonialism, allowing them to publicly call for violent jihad, radicalize the young, and send them off for training as suicide bombers. I don’t have time to research the validity of this assertion, but if true it points to the social equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, the classic example of speech that no rational society will tolerate.

  3. Candice Simmons permalink
    February 4, 2010 4:46 pm

    If all of that is true….

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 4, 2010 5:27 pm

      Obviously Wole Soyinka, a personage of weight and stature, thinks so. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t merit further investigation on the part of Americans before coming to their own conclusions. But if it is true, then doesn’t it put the onus on the U.S. State Department to pressure Britain into clamping down? I mean, we’re spending hundreds of billions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the so-called War on Terror. Americans are killing and dying. If Soyinka’s allegations are true, we can’t sit by and say nothing to our English cousins.

      • Candice Simmons permalink
        February 8, 2010 10:53 am

        We can and we should. Why should we police the world?

  4. Tommy permalink
    February 4, 2010 5:37 pm

    In a truly free society even hate-mongers get to have their say. Then the decision to act in a hateful way is left up to individuals. Sadly, many leaders (religious or otherwise) who spew hate are charismatic. Add naive impressionable followers and you have a recipe for murder. Attacking the religion will not help, actually that tactic will do more to drive these groups underground to the point they disappear from the radar. Then we only hear of them when it’s too late.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 4, 2010 9:50 pm

      We are thinking about this in American terms, though, in terms of the infringement of civil liberties that happened here under the Bush administration. Things are a bit different in England, where the laws are not the same as ours, and there is a greater degree of Islamic radicalization than there is here.

      For more, check out this relatively balanced story from the ABC News website:

      • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
        February 4, 2010 9:56 pm

        To all: I have removed a comment that linked to a blog making inflammatory anti-Islamic statements. That is beyond the pale of what we will allow on this website. In denouncing hate speech, we will not condone it in another form.

      • Dan Thrapp permalink
        November 26, 2010 5:38 am

        You need to wake up & look at the whole…..Islamic picture…..and begin speaking out against such a religion who seeks ONLY to dominate the world for allah god….! Do you have an education if so from where and what type of degree? Honestly……you are not a person to lead…..however if you listen and learn you might make a good follower! Please….. stop making your policing ideas and non-moral conscious and set down only to serve and not EVER lead!

  5. alexis permalink
    February 5, 2010 11:40 am

    I have heard some about this on NPR recently. Additionally, I work with some people who are from Israel and they often talk about how worried they are about this.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 5, 2010 12:06 pm

      Whenever I hear a story like this, no matter what the news is actually about, I always reflect on what a very odd, exotic people the British are, how thin the veneer of similarities between English and Americans.

  6. rachel permalink
    February 5, 2010 12:46 pm

    Thanks for another thought provoking blog Chauncey Mabe.

  7. rachel permalink
    February 5, 2010 1:00 pm

    This kind of free speech talk puts me in mind of Frantz Fanon, not that it is at all the same just that this is where my mind goes to, and “Wretched Of The Earth” for its shocking advocacy of violence, of the necessity of it. But Fanon is very smart and his arguments make sense, and it is about more than violence, it is much more complex than that.

    I think that Soyinka’s solution of education is a good one. But “rigorous punishment” is kind of like eye for an eye, or eye for a punch in the eye, no? But like he said it’s not: ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’ but ‘I’m right, you’re dead.’” And that is more like “Fire!” in the theatre and therefore something needs to be done.

  8. February 5, 2010 1:31 pm

    This is a very complicated situation. Britain is starting to change some things as to speech, and dress. They have one of the best security systems. They try not to live in fear. They believe what Candice said about Franklin. I think we are still a bit afraid over here. I am far more worried about bank robbing terrorists and gas station robbing terrorists, and things around me on a regular basis. The guy with the gun is the governor . The guy with the gun can play God. Our own in internal crime terrorism is 100 times more dangerous than the religious (fake religious) terrorists.

  9. Tommy permalink
    February 5, 2010 1:34 pm

    These ever present religious tensions (perpetrated and incubated by zealots) and the continued fight to soothe them makes me think of those Whack-A-Mole games at county fairs. A great big global Whack-A-Mole with a extremely creepy (yes, creepier than the norm) carnie watching us giggling to himself over our frustration.

    The best course of action is?

    Japan tried being all-inclusive with the Supreme Truth (Aum Shinrikyo) religious movement to the point of allowing members to hold office in local prefects and they were rewarded with a deadly subway attack for their understanding. America and Americans claim to be more in favor of religious freedom than their actions reveal. Any strange movements are forced underground leading these groups to build compounds and become more secretive. The Branch Davidians and The Church of Latter Day Saints both suffered from this persecution, leading to bloodshed and heartbreaking crimes by both followers, leaders and the government entrusted to protect them and their rights.

    I wish I had more faith that everyone involved would come together, but I don’t. So I am scared.

  10. February 5, 2010 4:57 pm

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  11. February 6, 2010 11:16 am

    Tommie I agree about Americans view of religions or other religions. Claims and reality of the ground are very different. It is to bad. Bad for a society.

  12. John permalink
    February 24, 2010 1:38 pm

    Radical Islam is also rampant in the United States. Fuad Kamal of Anaara Media in the Washington, D. C. metro area runs a recruitment and training network for young Jihadists in the U.S. and Canada. A computer expert and martial arts expert, Fuad Kamal has close contact with over 300 Islamic extremist groups. An explosives and munitions expert, Fuad Kamal has also produced training videos showing young female Jihadists how to slit throats. Fuad Kamal is a close friend and associate of Major Hasan, whom he met at the Salafi mosque in Silver Spring, Maryland. This mosque is a dangerous recruitment center for young Jihadists intent on destroying the United States. Watch Fuad Kamal carefully. He has helped launch past Jihads and is involved in coordinating future attacks in the planning stage against both Canada and the U.S.

  13. Dan Thrapp permalink
    November 26, 2010 5:14 am

    Absolutely, totally, & factually correct are your observations and opinions regarding Islam and England! England is a very tiny country geographically with a population density way beyond personal space needed for humanity to survive has a cohesive community! Given these two facts above England is the next battle ground in pushing Islam back! I have no doubt when the good English people wake up Islam will once “again” meet its demise as it did historically in Spain!
    It is never acceptable to hate Muslims, but it is acceptable to ruin the Islam within their bodies, minds, & souls! The good English people need to apply Islamic dual logic upon Islam and tell them we love you and we are peaceful…..however, only has each one of them is pushed outside of England! Muhammad is right war is deception so let’s apply Islam rules and let them live in Saudi Arabia! Learn Islam study it force it down their throats they will choke on it! Islam stands OUTSIDE of humanity therefore it must be punished as a threat unto human logic, kindness, conscious, & dignity!

  14. February 9, 2012 5:27 am

    Whatever the way you percive the Muslim faith there is a need to discuss it with others.


  1. Multiculturalism: Britain’s Civic Religion | GDS Blog

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