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Wole: Retelling the Issue of Race and Religion

Yugoslavia in southern Europe is populated with almost 20% of it as Muslims being brought into this region by the Ottoman Turks in 1989. This race has established Islam even on the eastern and western part of the country. Ottomans did not stay that long; they left again to populate Islam on other places. It was then that Islam began to sink of power, when the Ottoman Turks were defeated in the second siege of Vienna in the year 1683. Because of the peace agreement in Karlovac declared in 1699, the resident Muslims at that time spread all throughout.

Believers shifted faith in other religions majorly Christianity, some stayed secretly, and some decided to die with conviction. Some were able to defend themselves with other influences in 200 years. After the victorious years some of them were executed during the World War II, which inflamed to them the psychology of cultural discrimination (Sacirbey, 1991). They had a notion that they are hated, and their cultural heritage is not given importance, which at that time is really true.

The play Death and the King’s Horseman is enveloped with discussions involving cultural conflicts and clashes which would induce damage in the physical and social aspect of humans. The play showcased the British and Yoruban conflict, which reflects the faith to faith conflicts mentioned in the Yugoslavian Islam’s experience of world war. Wole Soyinka subjects the readers into the view of everything is interconnected. The suicidal act of Elesin was regarded as a mutual social responsibility, Elesin to the society and the society to Elesin.

The communal act as Soyinka portrays, was applicable in the case of those Muslims who decided to die together with their co-Muslims who were, as mentioned in the first paragraph, executed because of the reason that they are Muslims. The conflict, in connection to the Yugoslavian Muslims’ ‘extermination,’ was derided with the idea of Christianity, that deciding for a suicide is something personal, with which it was emphasized that there is no connection between the death of one person with another person, as contrasted with what was thought of by the other Muslims as societal responsibility.

This was not an issue for racial conflict, but the hate for religions. The Western world dictates that suicide’s power is only in the physical realm, whereas with that of the Yoruba’s claim of the metaphysical component of suicide. In the colonial occupation, where Christianity and the ideology of the Yorubans are forced to unite, the claim for the suicidal act of Elesin is more likely to happen. There is somehow an intersection of their claims, meeting halfway. There is a mixture of what is going to be accepted as ‘true’ regarding what occurred in Elesin’s mind.

Elesin in himself was confused on what he is going to accept, whether he will not do it, or he will (Soyinka, 2008). He was strangled by the thoughts coming to his mind, which mirrors the accepted norms and the colonial integrity of the colonizers. Religion has always been a part of the culture. It, no matter how we try to conceive that religion and politics should be separated from each other, influences our way of thinking and the decisions that we make at the end of the day.

The Muslims of Yugoslavia concludes that their presence as a group at the time their integrity was destroyed by the colonizers influenced them t to think that they were racially discriminated, as they were assassinated as a group. This was the atmosphere established in the story. Issues of race and religion have always been controversial and unsolved because of the debatable conclusions that each party makes.

In the case of those who empathize with the terrorism felt by the Muslims after being under the Ottoman Empire, the case is racial; but in the eyes of those who are responsible for the hatred felt by them, religion is the main reason. Racial arguments are because of the strong ties of brotherhood Muslims keep among themselves, for others religious arguments are what should be the basis of analysis because what is different between the colony and the colonizers is religion. Death on the King’s Horse dwelled on both sides in the presence of Olunde.

He represented those who are dwelling on both sides, which made him a channel of redemption of the British, as well as saving the culture of Elesin from a total crash.


Sacirbey, N. (1991). The Muslims of Yugoslavia [Electronic Version], 1. Retrieved May 24, 2005, from http://www. wakeup. org/anadolu/01/3/muslims_of_yugoslavia. html Wole Soyinka: Death and the King’s Horseman. Planet Papers. Retrieved May 24, 2008, from the World Wide Web: http://www. planetpapers. com/Assets/1463. php

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