Thursday, January 8, 2015

Le Petit Déjeuner: Des Crêpes

Photo: Cross
“What should we have for breakfast?” asks Chidera.

“Hmm, I don’t know. Bread? Fried plantain?” suggests Nkem.

“Oh, I know. Crepes! It’s been a while I had those.”

“Yes, me too.”

“Good morning,” greets Nonyem as she sashays into the kitchen.

“Good morning, Sleeping Beauty,” replies Chidera.

“Sleeping Beauty, indeed. Did your prince eventually find and kiss you?” wisecracks Nkem. “You were sleep-talking and mentioned the name ‘Teju’ a few times.”

“Did I?” laughs Nonyem. “There’s no ‘Teju’ in my life save my cousin, and I’m not into incest, if you know what I mean.”

“Hmm, so they say. You never know, maybe subconsciously you are,” teases Nkem.

“You’re not serious,” Nonyem replies, shaking her head. “Dera, what are you making?”


“Yay! Today is already starting on a good note. Speaking of crepes, any news about the gunmen who attacked the newspaper in Paris yesterday? Have they been caught?”

“Yes. Three suspects have been identified, two of whom are brothers. The youngest has turned himself in to the police. The brothers remain at large.” Chidera replies, shaking her head.

“That was a very gruesome and wanton attack. Why would anyone in the right frame of mind do that?” asks Nonyem in disbelief.

“Actually, they weren’t in the right frame of mind, and I don’t mean that clinically. Sane human beings just don’t go shooting people for drawing the Prophet Mohammed,” replies Nkem. “This isn’t even the first time Charlie Hebdo has been attacked. In 2011, the office was bombed after publishing a cover with Mohammed saying, ‘100 lashes if you’re not dying of laughter.’

“Why is it offensive to draw him?” asks Nonyem

“My friend, Kafayat, explained that according to the Hadith, it’s prohibited to portray images of the prophet for fear of idolizing him. But you know what I think is strange - the fact that Muslims, in general, have inadvertently created an idol out of his ‘non-image’. In a warped way, it’s as if his non-image is being revered so much so that some Muslims are prepared to kill and die to maintain it,” Chidera replies.

“Do you recall when, just before the Miss World pageant was to take place in Nigeria, some Muslims went berserk and rioted in Kaduna, simply because a journalist wrote in a newspaper that Mohammed wouldn’t mind taking one of the contestants as his bride?” says Nkem.

“It reminds me of Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. A fatwa was issued against him in 1989 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after his book was published, which forced him to spend a decade in hiding. Then there’s Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker, who paid with his life for producing a short film protesting violence against women in Islamic cultures. People need to understand the concept of free speech and why it’s important. The moment a group of people, be it the government or religious clerics, starts banning books or clamping down on self-expression, a dystopian society, like the ones depicted in the novels 1984, A Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, will emerge,” warns Chidera.

“But China clamps down on free speech, yet it’s not dystopian,” counters Nkem.

“True, because there’s a balance. By the way, is there any developed country that accepts unfettered free speech?” asks Chidera. “Westerners are under the impression that their governments will defend free speech at all cost, but that’s bullshit. Just ask Snowden and Assange how things worked out for them after spilling the secrets of Western governments. At least in China, no one is under the illusion that every speech would be entertained. That said, its citizens are permitted to travel abroad, and as they do – guess what? They glean information that isn’t accessible to them in their country.”

“The thing with China,” continues Chidera, “is that it has an enormous population, and can’t afford to have even 1% run amok. Plus, the Chinese government fears that permitting all sorts of information will undermine communism, which to an extent can be credited to lifting many Chinese from poverty. For my money, I don’t think democracy is the panacea for the problems and peculiarities every country faces.

“I think perfect examples of dystopian societies would be North Korea and Afghanistan under the Taliban,” volunteers Nonyem. “In the case of North Korea, citizens aren’t allowed to travel, so they’re largely oblivious to the world’s goings-on, and the only information they have access to is what their government feeds them. In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, schools and books were destroyed, music was banned, and life was so bleak and onerous under the Taliban’s repressive rule.”

“In the midst of all the anti-Islam protests happening in Europe, the people I sympathize with the most are moderate Muslims who want no part in the terror perpetrated by these Islamists,” notes Nkem.

“What I don’t understand is this: If you can’t accept or adapt to the attitudes and culture of your host country, then leave,” Chidera says. “It’s that simple. No one will prevent you from moving to Saudi-Arabia or any other Muslim country where your preferred form of Islam is practiced.”

“I know, right? Some emigrate to the West from hostile environments, and then expect their hosts to bend over backwards for them. I’m all for globalization and cultural exchange, but when in Rome do as the Romans,” quips Nonyem.

“As long as they’re not practicing slavery,” Nkem adds, modifying the age-old saw. “The actions of these Islamists give credence to far-right groups and politicians. Now, Le Pen and co. will have plenty of ammunition to promote their anti-immigration and anti-globalization agendas.” 

“The world is a ticking time bomb. There’s conflict and strife everywhere,” complains Nonyem in a defeatist tone.

“I have a theory, but I could be wrong. Every religion experiences bouts of madness. Christianity had its rendezvous with insanity during The Inquisition and the colonization of foreign lands. Now, that insanity has visited Islam. Maybe in 50 years’ time or so, radical Buddhists or Hindus will become the terrorists. Everyone will get their turn in the asylum,” Nkem philosophizes in jest.

“Do you think religion is the problem with most of the world today?” inquires Nonyem.

“I don’t know if the problem is religion per se, or that the heart of man is a dark, filthy place where, with the right stimulus, the blackness that lurks there can be precipitated. For some, the stimulus is religion, for others it is culture or some other element,” replies Nkem.

“So are you saying at the core we’re all evil?” asks Nonyem.

“Are we created holy?” retorts Nkem, rhetorically. “What I’m saying is, like the moon, we all have a dark side, some more than others, and it takes certain events to reveal it. Some of us are just better at hiding or repressing it in a bid to appeal to our finer qualities.”

“You’re such a cynic,” Chidera says half-seriously to which Nkem shrugs.

“Cynics, my dear, are only idealists with awkwardly high standards.”

“Nkem, let’s eat our breakfast before I lose my appetite talking about you and your cynicism,” Nonyem says to the amusement of her friends.