From Signonsandiego.com, with thanks to Twostellas:
SOKOTO, Nigeria – Saluted by sword-waving Muslim warriors on horses and camels, African presidents and emirs on Sunday celebrated the 200th anniversary of a holy war that launched the sub-Sahara’s greatest Islamic empire and urged an end to rising Christian-Muslim violence that has killed thousands here.
Appeals for peace – evoking six years of fiery religious rampages by machete-waving mobs in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation – overlaid a day of musket-blasting pageantry in Sokoto, capital of the 19th-century Sokoto caliphate, or kingdom.
Later on in the article is a bit of history that sounds a lot like today’s headlines:
Itinerant preacher Shehu Usman dan Fodio had catapulted the kingdom into being with a 1804-1808 holy war launched against infidels and wayward Muslims.
The June 19, 1804, battle of Tafkin Kwatto, a village about 60 miles from Sokoto, was widely seen as the war’s turning point.
The victory of what some historians term West Africa’s “French Revolution” sparked copycat jihads across the arid savannah plains of Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic and Sudan.
But even amid a day of gunfire and pageantry, the celebrants were quick to insist that any resemblance between those days and today was purely coincidental:
In rare public comments, the current sultan of Sokoto declared that the 19th-century jihad fighter’s cause had nothing to do with the rampages of today.
“I wish our own leaders would hold these values close to our hearts and entrench unity and peaceful coexistence,” Sultan Mohammed Maccido told the crowd and the warriors.
He mourned “the loss of intolerable numbers of lives, and destruction and loss in property” in Nigeria’s religious violence.
Sokoto today is part of 12 predominantly Muslim states that have adopted strict Islamic Shariah laws since 2000. Christians in Sokoto are few.
Dan Fodio is still widely revered by Muslims as a hero for spreading piety and Arabic literacy. Yet some Christians remember his uncompromising attitude toward nonbelievers, for whom he was once quoted as saying “there is no free place of the intellect.”
Battle sites and burial grounds for Dan Fodio and his followers have been turned into monuments and mausoleums.
“He fought for Islam. He captured many places and spread knowledge,” said Muhammadu Tambari, Dan Fodio’s great-great-great grandson, an ostrich farmer.
“The jihad we are doing now is teaching and preaching to our children and the children of others. Spreading Islam,” Tambari said. Modern day religious violence had no value, the jihad fighter’s descendant said – only “creating more problems.”
That’s certainly true. Now if only Tambari could convince his fellow Nigerian Muslims.