A rebuttal of Devon Dick's article on Sam Sharpe
Valerie Dixon, GUEST COLUMNIST
Unlike Copernicus and Galileo who in the 17th and 19th centuries, respectively, upset the Church and their fellow astronomers, because they dared to reveal that it was the sun and not the earth that was the centre of the universe, Dr Sultana Afroz need not worry that she will have to wait until after her death to be vindicated.
It is no secret that we are friends and colleagues, and in an effort to get the monkey off her back, I had my DNA tested by a reputable company in Canada in their programme called the Genebase Ancestry Project. The first tribe to show up in the results of my mother's ancestry was Hausa. The Hausas live in northern Nigeria and were Muslims before the time of chattel slavery and are still Muslims to this day.
How can the Rev Devon Dick, therefore, declare ('Sam Sharpe's special significance', Gleaner, December 27, 2012) that "Maureen Warner Lewis, historian and linguist, has already debunked Afroz's claims in an article titled 'Jamaica's Muslim Past: Misrepresentations', Journal of Caribbean History 37 (2003) 294-316". Does this mean that I will have to sue Genebase Ancestry Project for misrepresenting my mother's ancestry, because the claim is that "the blood never lies"?
All that Dr Afroz was trying to say is that her research reveals that Sam Sharpe, a Sufi, a marabut/clergy and an imam (prayer leader), followed the Islamic principle of non-transgression (non-violence), while defending the dignity of the souls of the enslaved Africans during the so-called Baptist Rebellion.
This same principle, her research revealed, had been observed by the enslaved Muslim rebels during the Haitian Revolution, Bahia Rebellion (Brazil) and even in the southern states of the United States. Her work briefly examines the above-mentioned rebellions to show how enslaved African Muslims throughout the Americas followed the same principle of non-violence.
Rev Dick seems to be deliberately trying to mislead and misinform the public about the principles of jihad (struggle or resistance) against oppression, as the Islamic conviction is "persecution is worse than slaughter" (The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:191). One wonders if Rev Dick is trying to argue that slavery was not a horrific institution to resist.
Dr Afroz is talking about the same Sam Sharpe, the so-called Baptist deacon of the Montego Bay First Baptist Church, who at the same time had formed a secret society and detached it from the Baptist Missionary organisation.
oath-taking and martyrdom
Based on her research, Rev Dick needs to examine the position of oath-taking and martyrdom in Islam, as they played a prominent role during the rebellion of 1831-1832. Christianity is silent on these issues, as the crucifixion of Jesus ends martyrdom in Christianity.
It is said that fish can't see water in the same way that we can't see air - yet like 'truth', we are surrounded by it. Those who want to read her book Invisible Yet Invincible: The Islamic Heritage of the Maroons and the Enslaved Africans in Jamaica, may have to seek for it outside Jamaica, as the Islamophobes have managed to place it on 'The Index of Prohibited Books' - the same place where in the days of Copernicus and Galileo, books that threatened the Church and the status quo were placed.
Valerie Dixon is a teacher at the Regent College of the Caribbean (formerly Jamaica Bible College in Mandeville). Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.