Because of its controversial actions, the movement has evoked responses from observers that range from "hostility" to "curiosity" (Forsythe 63). On one hand, Rastafarians have been criticized because of their belief that Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia, is God and that marijuana (ganja) should be used as a religious sacrament. On the other hand, the Rastafari have been praised for their continual resistance to and confrontation with oppression, racism, and the exploitation of the poor and underprivileged (Campbell 1).
Unfortunately, most early studies of the Rastafarian movement create a distorted image of the group. Jamaica's national newspaper, the Daily Gleaner's, anti-Rastafarian perspective led many to conclude that the Rastafarians were Black Marxist "racists" whose "criminality" was linked to drug-addiction. As an example of the distorted image, Morris stated the following:
They are vehement in their attacks on the government, the white man, imperialism and Christianity, and their eloquence is touched by that naivete which derives...from an almost total ignorance of the world, economic affairs, and any sense of history. This is not to say that they do not have a cause; it is simply to state that whatever case they may have, they parody it with their odd speech, dress and behaviour. (89)
Despite the often negative image projected in the press and other writings, the Rastafarian movement has grown at a rapid rate. In 1977, an estimated 75,000 native Jamaicans were followers of Rastafari (Davis and Simon, Reggae Bloodlines, 63). By 1988, Barrett conservatively calculated the membership of the... [continues]
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