virus: Sierra Leone

KMO prime (
Sat, 12 Oct 1996 16:42:04 EDT

I heard a story on All Things Considered this past week about the African
nation of Sierra Leone. According to the story, Muslims and Christians
have peacefully co-existed there for hundreds of years. This was only
possible because Sierra Leone's brand of Christianity and its brand of
Islam are uncharacteristically tolerant of other religions. Islam in
Sierra Leone comes in a particularly mild variety. Women do not wear
veils, and participate in public life in ways that Arab Muslims would
find shocking. One Muslim woman interviewed attended a Catholic
missionary school as a child and she laughed and good-naturedly recited
the Lord's prayer to show that she remembered her Christian training and
accepted it as part of herself and her heritage.

This seemingly stable balance has recently been upset by the introduction
of American Protestant evangelical movements. The big name
televangelists and a horde of wannabes have set up operations in Sierra
Leone. These protestant evangelists stress the importance of seeking new
converts. From a memetic perspective, I'd describe the evangelists as
programming new hosts to devote an inordinate amount of resources (for
Sierra Leone) to depriving other meme-complexes of propagative resources,
i.e. hosts.

This introduction of an intolerant variety of Christianity has sparked an
intolerance arms race. In an environment in which no one is using
intolerance as a propagative strategy, mild intolerance works well and
spreads quickly. Consequently, Iranian muslim fundamentalists have
recently directed their attention and resources to producing a new,
intolerant, generation of muslims in Sierra Leone. They've set up
schools in the city and brought in poor and orphaned children from the
country side to be trained in the new schools. The higher-ups in these
new fundamentalist-leaning Islamic movements in Sierra Leone would still
seem liberal and unacceptably tolerant to their Arab counterparts, but
this arms race is just getting started. I'm certainly not rooting for
either side, but I expect that in an intolerance arms-race American
televangelists will find themselves out-classed by Islamic

Did anyone else hear this story? Does anyone have any information to
add? I would certainly welcome any factual corrections or additional

Take care. -KMO