The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0618 Tuesday, 4 July 2006
From: Nabie Swaray <
Date: Monday, 3 Jul 2006 09:18:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 17.0588 Shakespeare and Islam
Comment: Re: SHK 17.0588 Shakespeare and Islam
The Ottoman Empire as a major player in European conquest, as a
formidable foe that threatens Europe's expansionist ambition, and of
course, of her military might are factors that must have led to the
spread of Islam and a passionate interest in Islamic teachings.
Shakespeare refers to the Ottomans, now Turkey, as " The barbarous
Turks" who poses a threat to Cyprus, a Christian establishment.
Eventually, this immediate threat leads to the employment of Othello as
General to tame the " barbarous Turks." Today, the "September 11"
incident that led to the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York, The
Pentagon and other tragic incidents linked to Alqaeda have ignited a
love-hate interest in Islam. Some American Universities are not only
recommending courses in Islam but that student must read the 'Quran
itself as the source to understand the enemy. The entire world is
gripped in this dilemma, and the media continues to bombard us with
images and news about Islamic atrocities. The parallels are similar. If
the method of conquest and conversion employed by the " barbarous Turks"
are as frightening and threatening to the safety of the rest of the
world and her citizens, this and other factors must have fueled a
passionate interest in Islam. How can one fight a treacherous and
barbaric enemy if you failed to understand the source that motivates
him/her. This must have been the dilemma Shakespeare and even other
writers such as the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists had to face. If
Islam was becoming a threat and an overwhelming force at Shakespeare's
time, the audience, with an awe-inspiring attitude, thirst for knowledge
about Islam and the "Turks." As a result, Shakespeare must have found
Islam an interesting topic to write about. Today, we are gripped with
important and dominating subjects such as "Islamic Terrorists", HIV/AIDS
and other great issues. During the cold war, the spy novel thrived and
dominated the world of fiction. John Updike has a new novel, titled:
"Terrorists." Why did he choose to write a novel based on the subject?
The answer is, Terrorism is now the most popular subject and it has
dominated our lives since the "911" incident. Therefore, Islam, which
is linked with the rise and dominance of the Ottoman Empire at that
period must have sparked a global interest, especially when that part
of the world remained threatened by this unfamiliar enemy. I hope my
answer has shed some light on this question: Why Islam in Shakespeare's
three plays: Othello, Titus Andronicus and The Merchant of Venice.
Thanks, Cary DiPietro for bringing up this subject. I am very interested
in writing about Islam in Africa. There are other African authors who
have already treated this subject in some of their works. Here, I will
name a few: "Ambiguous Adventure" by Sheik Hamid Kane; "Bound To
Violence" by Ologuem; " The Dark Child" by Camara Laye; in film: the
most notorious is the Senegalese Filmmaker, Osman Sembene, in films such
as: "Cedo," "Mandabe" or "The Money Order" and " Xala." My play: " Worl'
Do For Fraid" published by Three Continents Press also addresses this
question-not the violence that is connected with radical Islam but Islam
as taught by the Sunii Muslims. My great grandfather was the first to
build an Islamic college in one of the Anglo-phone sub-Saharan West
Africa-Sierra Leone. This college inspired early British colonialists,
and the late Blyden the First in his writings discussed the spread of
Islam in my home town, Kambia. Islam became such a powerful force in
early colonial Sierra Leone that Governor Rowe was forced to practice a
policy of tolerance and compromise if Britain was to hold on to this
principality. But when Islam of the sword practiced by a tragic-figure
from Mauritania, Hyedara "Konthorfilli" came to Sierra Leone to spread a
radical form of Islam that involved the same violent methods practiced
today by Osama Bin Laden and Alqaeda, his rebellious group provoked the
British colonial government, it ended in tragedy. Records at the British
Museum are available that showed the savgery, brutality and terrorists
activities employed by Hyedara in spreading Islam from Franco-phone
countries to Anglo-phone countries in Sub-Saharan West Africa. The
climax of this conflict resulted in the death of a British District
Officer, a young Oxford educated in charge of Kambia District, a region
in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Hyedara's methods have
terrorized the African natives and conquered many territories. He was
bent on expanding his Islamic Empire that would infringe upon British
Rule and principalities. Hyedara's ambition to drive the British from
Sierra Leone resulted in his death. He and his men were poised to
unleash a reign of terror in order to subdue the rest of Sierra Leone.
On a very fateful day, he began his Islamic conquest to gain more
territories in Sierra Leone. The British Colonial Government was by now
greatly determined to stop his movement. The young district officer set
out to meet him at the Kambia Barracks. His method was to persuade him
not continue his conquest. Just when the young officer stepped forward
to ask him and his men to turn back, Hyedara drew his sword, cut off his
head and killed him. Although there were rumors about Hyedara's
invincibility and supernatural powers, the soldiers protecting the young
British officer, also slaughtered him. This ended the spread of radical
Islam in many West African countries. Although the British succeeded in
this, the spread of radical Islam is spreading like wild fire today in
the African continent. I have given you this account to show you that
Islam, not just as a religious force but also as a political force had
and continue to play a part in the conflict between the Islamic world
and Western World. Writers influenced by such events are bound to write
about it. This was the situation with Shakespeare.
Have a nice Fourth of July holiday.
Nabie Y. Swaray.
PS. My play about radical Islam I am working on is called: "The Day
Allah Died in My Father's House." The novel and Film I plan to write
about Radical Islam is: "Hyedara: The Prophet and the Sword of Allah. A
play like "Tamborine" also discusses Islam.
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.