Minarets and spires (Sunday morning/Friday afternoon thought)

Central Dakar is home to one of the finest cathedrals in West Africa. Large, too. The Grand Mosque is a mere 10 minutes walk away. Bamako, Mali has a nice cathedral, within shouting distance of a major mosque. Both countries are overwhelmingly Muslim.

The reverse happens too. There’s a gigantic mosque next to one of the main bridges across the Ebrie Lagoon in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s very Christian metropolis and former capital. When Yamoussoukro became the new capital in the 1990s, the place was adorned with a replica of St. Paul’s Basilica (of questionable quality; I wrote about that here) and a giant mosque. They face each other across a modest distance.

My one neighbour is preparing for Christmas and the New Year. My other neighbour was in the midst of the tabaski festivities a few weeks ago. They will not be at each others’ throats anytime soon, as far as I can tell.

I just thought I’d bring this up in the face of the current controversy that is sweeping Europe. From a mildly amusing referendum that banned minarets in Switzerland to a typically French (i.e. incomprehensibly abstract) discussion about “national identity” to complete hysteria about Islam in (where else?) the Netherlands.

A visit to these shores would not go amiss. Something seems to be working here. I think it’s called “live and let live.”

Of course, this is no tranquil Arcadia. Conflicts abound but their analysis has often been staggeringly lazy. “Tribal”. Or “Muslims versus Christians”. Dig deeper and you’ll find it’s none of these things. Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire? It’s politics, folks, (as usual). Dammit: just like Europe…!

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