But this crudely racist travesty wasn't produced by some Neo-Nazi milita outfit in Bumfucque, Alabama. It is the handiwork of a British journalist with impeccable progressive credentials, and it is brought to you, complete with very high production values, by Al Jazeera.
The segment opens with a backdrop of dancing Africans apparently performing a traditional Vodou ceremony, the Al Jazeera presenter, doing an unintentionally hilarious send-up of Troy McClure, intones:
"Hello everyone, this is People and Power, and I'm Samah El-Shahat. On today's program: Magic and Murder." [They really could have used some Sammy Terry-esque organ music right here.]Already, one has many questions. Such as: Since Al Jazeera has a large and loyal viewership in Saudi Arabia, and other similarly enlightened Muslim nations (nations where large majorities believe in the use of caning, or cutting off people's hands as part of the normal functioning of "justice", and even that changing one's religion should be treated as a crime punishable by death!), why does Samah El-Asshat say that acts of barbaric violence based on superstitious beliefs "might sound like a practice from another century", when in fact they sound like everyday occurrences in the Muslim world, as everyone knows.
[We now see on the screen an African woman holding a child in her arms. She beings to speak...] "I can't bear the thought that even though it is so hard for a woman to give birth, she could kill her child."
[Cut back to the studio with Samah El-Shahat.] "Can you imagine being so afraid of malign and evil spirits that you could allow your own child to be killed to save your family and community? To many it might sound like a practice from another century, but in the West African republic of Benin the murder of so-called child witches still occurs today. Of course infanticide is illegal in Benin, but accusing someone of witchcraft, allegations that can lead to the deaths of children, is not. And changing perceptions isn't something easily achieved in a country where the belief in sorcery is widespread and often seen as fundamental to the nation's heritage and identity. Charles Stratford has been to investigate this disquieting phenomenon."
Also note well how the narrative is, from the beginning, framed in terms of claiming that belief in magic leads to the murder of children!
But let's return to the program, which now switches over to crack reporter Charles Stratford's dispatch from the field:
[After shots of ominously boiling pots and what appears, non-ominously, to be a goat skin staked out on the ground, the camera focuses in on a black man (is he supposed to look ominous?) squatting in a thatched roof hut...] "The ritual has been practiced for centuries." [a small bell is rung, and then the man produces a chicken who appears to have some idea of what is coming next...] "A traditional healer, or so-called witchdoctor, recites incantations to the village spirit. He wants guidance on how to heal members of his community who believe they've been cursed." [Then the chicken starts to squawk, and the scene cuts to what looks like a few moments later, with the chicken's blood now spattered on the ground next to some cowry shells...] "After the sacrifice, the consultation continues. He searches for signs in the shells. The spirit is a source of good, which he can use to fight evil. But that evil is sometimes possessed .... by children."From this it goes to an interview with a man identified as a "traditional healer - witchdoctor", who states plainly that he has never killed a child under any circumstances. But then claims, vaguely, that some "elders" are involved in such killings, "but nobody will tell you who is doing the killings."
Indeed, throughout the entire 24 minute "documentary" we are never once told of even an allegation of a specific instance of a child ever being killed! Instead we are treated to lurid third hand reports which are passed along in a way highly reminiscent of Geraldo Rivera stationed breathlessly outside of Al Capone's vault.
There is not one piece of actual evidence ever presented that in any way connects the practice of Vodou in Benin (or anywhere else) to violence against children. But this Al Jazeera after-school-special does not attempt to convince. Rather it merely appeals to a certain kind of prurient racist mentality that is eager to be regaled with stories of primitive African savagery and superstition.
Meanwhile, there does exist, tragically, a mountain of well-documented evidence demonstrating a very clear correlation between (1) the spread of Pentecostalism in certain parts of Africa, and (2) acts of violence, including killings, of (at least) thousands children who have been accused of witchcraft by Christians. In fact, the recent UNICEF report on "Children Accused of Witchcraft" explicitly warns that the phenomenon of violence against children accused of witchcraft is "often falsely associated with 'African tradition'".
I might write more about this later, but I'm not sure if I can bring myself to even think about this any more. It's such a toxically perfect shit-storm of vile racist garbage and unfiltered religious bigotry. If you are up to it, you can check it out for yourself here.
Much more on the phenomenon of "child witches" in Africa can be found here (scroll down to "The Christian Roots of the 'Witch Children' Phenomenon in Africa").