The video below is certainly disturbing! Some of you may have viewed it the first time around when channel 4 first broadcast this documentary. For those who haven’t, the documentary focuses on a horrific practise from Nigeria, where innocent children aged any where between 7 months old and 2 years old are branded as witches. Religious nut Helen Ukpabio preaches a misguided brand of religion mixed with traditional African superstition which acts as tonic enough to whip her followers in to a frenzy, driving them in to the streets to brand as many children as they can. The branding witches/wizards is just the start of it though; once the title has been given, these pure children are forced out of their homes, chained for hours in churches without food in water and endure some of the most horrific physical abuse, sometimes leading to death.
I blogged about this some time ago; since first viewing the below film almost a year ago, the images portrayed of those suffering children haunt me still. There is another reason why I return to this topic though; I was desperate to blog about a number of heresies on TV at the moment (but as I didn’t want to give much profile to the pathetic state of a so-called man who leads the BNP), I thought it prudent to continue the theme of activism we had started the day before.
Every so often, I return to the Nigerian petition set up to end this practise, keen to see how things are coming along; I also chart the movements of the vile woman who continues to promote the abuse of African children through her films. What I notice continuously however, is how few Muslims there are behind such campaigns. Why is this; did Muslims not watch the documentary? Aren’t their Muslims in Nigeria and beyond who care about this? Or is it because the practise has become such an accepted part of African Christianity that no one feels the need to speak up!
Each year, I see Muslims from across the UK, digging deep in to their pockets to support the rebuilding of the local mosque (for the 3rd time this year), the feeding of the poor in Africa, and some other worthy charities that are suitably Muslim and will earn them brownie points in the next world. Only, these charities seem to fade in to insignificance the minute the eid prayer times are announced! Either the charities have earned so much during Ramadhan they need only appeal once a year, or we have placed our own self imposed avoidance of all things charitable outside of ramadhan!
Charity and the giving of zaqat/khumse is one of the corner stones of Islam, it is the raw material which established the thriving Muslim communities at the time of the Prophet (PBUH), and it is what purifies our own wealth and maintains our sustenance and, Insha Allah, increases it!
We know all of this; we hear it at majliss and lectures all the time! But some built-in desensitiser seems to dilute the information away from the portion of the brain that makes us act, because after each reminder, neither does the giving increase, or the awareness of the need for it!
I should stress here that when I talk about giving, I don’t just mean in a financial sense, (though there is allot more we could do there as well!), hadaith tell us, that even a smile is considered charity! A kind word, a little time; even signing a petition to stop the abuse of children in Africa!
Today, I finally got around to watching ‘the end of the wicked in full (the horror movie which lead to the branding of children as witches to be common place), the film would be rather laughable given its poor production and bad acting, were it not for the fact that the terror it created has been so wide spread and worse still, accepted by the masses. The practise of branding children as witches is not restricted to Africa either; Helen Ukpabio has her followers in London, and no doubt here in Scotland too! Her films are available to buy in most street markets located in those areas boasting a significant African population. They are watched, appreciated and acted upon, yet as Muslims we are intent on doing nothing!
Chari within an Islamic context is integrally linked with activism; to give to an International Charity and then expect others to carry out the work on your behalf is of little value! Sure we can’t all travel with aid convoys and cure the ills of the world, but we can protest, we can bang on the right international doors to make change, we can sign petitions and get involved in our own communities!
On one level, I should not be surprised that we do nothing about the witch children of Africa, when we have single parents, homeless people and disabled people among us all needing our time, our activism and our financial support, yet we do nothing for them. Media too has a part to play in this; on one hand, while Ukpabio’s films create hysteria, violence and terror, Western Media bombards us with images of poverty and apparent self-destruction in the developing world, so that we are left believing that poverty is simply inevitable; we can give as much as we want, but we will never eradicate it completely, so why bother!
It is true that we will not eradicate poverty if we continue the way we are going, but as another jummah comes and goes, we are gifted with another opportunity to review our giving and our activism. Giving doesn’t have to take much time, nor money! But if you watched this film and were moved, offer prayers for the children, tell your friends to watch it, post the links to it on your blog and encourage others to do the same. Give a few pounds to the organisations who support these children, or organise a charity bazaar in your local mosque. If you mosque is in an area with a significant population of African and Caribbean residents, perhaps you could speak to the local churches there about what you’ve seen, and what faith communities can do in partnership to stop these evil practises; and there you have it; charity with some dawa thrown in!
As one jummah comes and goes, don’t take for granted that another one will come on by! Reap the reward of this one before magrib and do whatever you can, big or small for those around you; its never too late to change our ways, if only we do it now. Friday night tends to be the night when deliverance services are carried out; these are Christian style services where exorcisms and abuse on children take place in an effort to “cure” them of their evil witch craft initiation. Let this weekend be the one where you shake the foundations of these practises for these innocent children by your duas and the nature of what you do. This change won’t come over night, but its amazing the difference 1 Muslim can make if he acts and continues to act with all his sincerity for the greater good.
So, if you share my pain, and you want a better life for these children, let us join hands and start now; and may Allah (SWT) bless us, protect these children and accept our humble efforts, now, and always, aameen.