Posted by Nelson Dafe, Benin City | 31 October 2013 | 5,183 times
A university don, Prof. Matthew Uwajeh, has berated the Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM) over what he describes as the ‘disquieting’ aspects of its activism.
Uwajeh, speaking recently in a passionate interview with News Express in Benin City, is particularly irked by the movement’s position that religion is incompatible with humane values. He also opines that the group is wrong to support gay rights in Nigeria, insisting that the Nigerian society is overwhelmingly heterosexual and detests homosexuality. “One can very well be a humanist without being a promoter of gay and lesbian rights,” said the Professor of Linguistics.
While presenting a 2011 article he wrote in which he offered academic arguments against the humanist movement’s anti-religion and gay rights positions, Uwajeh expressed concern about the group’s seeming disrespect for African traditional sentiments about religion and sexuality.
In the article titled ‘Cultural Relativism Versus The Humanist Movement’s Universalism’, Prof. Uwajeh argues the case for Cultural Relativism, which is the tenet that claims that specific good values are relative to the particular culture of humans concerned. He therefore demands that the NHM and its liberal Western supporters have to respect the fact that, unlike Western societies, the Nigerian society is a heavily religious one and is essentially heterosexual, “and therefore deeply suspicious of homosexual tendencies.”
“Extremist humanism, which would interdict all religion as an anti-human addiction, is just as dangerous for humanity as extreme religiousity,” Uwajeh writes, adding that “belief in God is not necessarily bad, or good, in itself . . . but may be applied to good or bad ends.”
He adds that “there is nothing intrinsically humanist about being anti-religion. Indeed, it may well be the case that being religious in some form or the other is intrinsically human since human societies everywhere are generally known to spawn religious beliefs in innumerable guises.”
Prof. Uwajeh, a former Head of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), is also scathing in his criticism of the NHM’s pro-gay rights stand. He speaks with disdain about “that guy (Leo Igwe) who is promoting homosexuality in Nigeria.”
To Uwajeh, “The Humanist Movement overstates its case when it preaches to the overwhelming majority of heterosexuals that they are inhumane for detesting homosexuality itself . . . The truth of the matter is that the heterosexual overwhelming majority would consider themselves deeply affronted, if by the quirks of some newfangled fashion they were constrained to watch, as normal practice, a woman passionately kissing another woman on the lips in full public view, or a man doing the same with another man. And the Humanist Movement does beg the point at stake in the human rights controversy when it purports that ‘there is nothing wrong’ with such aforementioned practices for flaunting of one’s sexuality: they are WRONG, just to the extent that the overwhelming majority of the members of a society are offended by such acts.”
Prof. Uwajeh also takes a sly dig at Western governments and liberals who argue that it is unreasonable and homophobic not to accord equal rights to gay people in African societies as heterosexuals. His words: “Reasonableness or the lack of it has nothing whatsoever to do with heterosexuals’ attitude to homosexuality itself, as a sexual or sex-related condition. For illustration, it is neither reasonable nor unreasonable of me that I do not like cheese: it is simply a question of my taste that I do not like cheese. Similarly, here in Nigeria, some communities eat dogs as an exquisite delicacy, and there is no Nigerian law I am aware of against that culinary practice; but you are not allowed to eat dogs, or cats for that matter (another special treat for some Nigerian communities) in the United Kingdom. There is absolutely nothing inherently reasonable or unreasonable about eating dogs; it is just the case that you may eat dogs in Nigeria, since the Nigerian society’s members are not against the practice; but British laws, on the contrary, do prohibit the same practice because the British society’s members detest the eating of dogs-and not because they are suffering from ‘dogfleshphobia’! So, the issue of heterosexuals' negative attitude to homosexuality itself, as a sexual and sex-related condition, is definitely not a matter of their being unreasonable or of suffering from any homophobia.”
In concluding, Prof. Uwajeh emphasises that the NHM must admit that without a ‘God’ which is universally adopted, there are no ‘a priori’ criteria for determining universally good human values. “It follows,” he says, “that all human values choices are societies-specific, and hence cultural – subject to individuals’ vested interests for their selection, subject to competition from other candidate values, and subject to changes as they wane in relevance through foreseen as well as unforeseen forces, and become jejune.”
•Photo shows Prof. Uwajeh.
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