“I offer sacrifices to my ancestors on Friday because I am a Muslim”
The presence of four Egyptian Islamic missionaries in Magburaka, a small town numbering no more than 40,000 people, generated a strong religious fervor, accentuated in spring 1963 by the observance of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. In that season, Islam was on the march in Magburaka. Islam offered its converts in Africa a sense of collegiality and brotherhood unmatched by the highly individualistic tribal religions. In celebrating al-Fitr, which marked the end of Ramadan, the head of the Egyptian mission asked the author to be the keynote speaker at the dinner to be held in Magburaka Hotel. Aside from the daily prayer, which was purely Islamic, the Temne Muslims continued to observe tribal rituals, especially those pertaining to death and sacrifices to ancestors. The mélange, or syncretism, between Temne and Islamic beliefs and practices had taken place so harmoniously that only an outsider—the Egyptian missionary or the anthropologist—would take note of the apparent contradictions. Field data aside, the author was never absorbed into Temne ways, nor for that matter into Lebanese ways in West Africa.
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