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Islam, Christianity, and Africa

The BBC broadcast a program in 2001 in which it was strongly suggested that Christianity and Islam had two very different impacts on Africa. The BBC (2001) stated that Islam, which tolerated native African cultural and social traditions, made conversion easier and was ultimately less upsetting and more beneficial to Africa than Christianity. This position appears to be valid when one considers the interaction between the cultures of West Africa and Islam and Christianity and the Congo.

Albert Hourani (1991) reported that in Africa, Islam spread along trade routes during the tenth through the thirteenth centuries. It had earlier penetrated parts of Western Africa as Muslim conquerors acquired new territorial holdings. Where Islam interacted with Africa, Karen Armstrong (2000) says that the influence was generally positive in that Islam permitted polygamy which was well established in Africa and Africans were accepted into the Muslim world as equals. According to the BBC (2001), whereas Christianity rejected polygamy and many other traditional African beliefs, Islam tolerated them.

It is also wroth noting that Islam already contained a broad spectrum of different racial and ethic groups and did not discriminate against groups on the basis of race. Christianity, in contrast, appears to have taken the position in much of its missionary activity that the indigenous peoples of Africa were in some critical ways inferior to Europeans (BBC, 2001). Christianity in fact retreated from much of Africa in the seventh century under the advance of Islam although it remained the chosen religion of the Ethiopian Empire and persisted in selected areas in North Africa (BBC, 2001).

In the fifteenth century, Christianity entered Africa again at a time when Islam was already established. In those areas where people had already converted to Islam, Christian missionaries found few converts. The BBC (2001) points out that Christiani...

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Islam, Christianity, and Africa. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 12:46, April 26, 2019, from