Atupele supports religious pluralism in Malawi –Ambuje Likambale

Some campaigns are circulating rumours especially on social media platforms, pretending that once elected President this May, Atupele Muluzi, UDF, will establish an Islamic republic and introduce Sharia law in Malawi.

These rumours are as unscrupulous and disingenuous as they are false and unfounded. Worse still, by these false rumours, these campaigners exhibit islamophobia and their candidates are therefore unsuitable for government in a religiously pluralist country boasting at least a 20% Muslim population.

It is not because Atupele Muluzi is the sole Muslim among those competing for the presidency that he should be singled out for religious bigotry.

UDF Presidental candidate Atupele Muluzi  with Catholic Bishop Montfort Stima ..Photo Jeromy KadEwere
UDF Presidental candidate Atupele Muluzi with Catholic Bishop Joseph Zuza ..Photo Jeromy Kadewere

UDF a `big tent’ party

The United Democratic Front (UDF) party, which Atupele Muluzi leads, was founded following its days as a `pressure group’ against the Malawi Congress Party (MCP)’s one-party dictatorship. It was basically a coalition of various voices mainly from civil society groups hungering for freedom, respect for human rights in general and free religious association as well.

The UDF is not a religious organization, it is a political party. UDF membership has always included people of many creeds and faiths, and has always espoused pluralist religious tolerance. The UDF is a ‘big tent’ party which welcomes people of many different religious backgrounds to achieve a diverse but harmonious community of communities within Malawi.

Even Uladi Mussa of the People’s Party, the PP, competing against the UDF in these elections, acknowledged that the UDF is not a religiously parochial organization. In fact Mussa was trying to dissuade his Islamic audience from voting for the UDF. His point was that they should expect nothing in terms of religious concessions to them from a possible UDF government.

Mussa was right on the one point that the UDF is not Islamic and is not trying to bring about a religious government in Malawi. You may check Mussa’s arguments in the Nyasa Times article (uladi-asks-malawi-muslims-to-draw-a-line-between-islam-and-udf/)

Running Mate Chapola a Staunch Catholic

Any President of Malawi who wanted to establish Sharia law would have to go through a majority Christian Parliament. It would be an impossible task. The Malawi Parliament is more than 95% Christian and is projected to become more Christian after the forthcoming parliamentary election this May. The idea that a President would pass Sharia law in such a Parliament is fanciful; not to mention the fact that such a law would be unconstitutional to start with. Even if Atupele wanted it, which he does not, Parliament would not allow it.

Atupele Muluzi’s desire and intention to promote a religiously harmonious and pluralist Malawi caused him to hand-pick a staunch catholic, Godfrey Chapola, as his running mate. If Atupele Muluzi had intentions to establish an Islamic caliphate, he would certainly not be choosing a Christian as a running mate, let alone a ‘staunch’ catholic.

Bakili Muluzi Brought Religious Freedom to Malawi

The UDF was in government before. Bakili Muluzi, Atupele’s father, defeated the MCP tyrant Hastings Kamuzu Banda to become President and run the Malawi Government from 1994 to 2004.

One of Bakili Muluzi’s first acts as President was to allow back, to religious practice and freedom in Malawi, the Jehova’s Witnesses who had been banned by the preceding Malawi Congress Party government.

Indeed under Bakili Muluzi, Malawi experienced a flourishing of new religious organizations. There were new and more visible Christian fundamentalist, evangelical and Pentecostal churches mushrooming all over the place. Bakili Muluzi did not see these organizations as a threat but, rather, as an aspect of Malawi’s improving social diversity and religious richness. Bakili Muluzi is the father of Atupele Muluzi. He is also the father of multi-party democracy in Malawi.

Malawi Ready for an Agenda for Change

Instead of making all these weird and unfounded allegation of Islamization of Malawi by Atupele Muluzi, serious political commentators ought to concentrate on Atupele’s comprehensive Agenda for Change for Malawi (ACM).

Malawi is at her best when Malawians band together in unity for common national purposes that improve the society. Fanciful fabrications such as those we are hearing against Atupele Muluzi concerning alleged islamization appeal only to the lowest common denominator. They are odious and anti-developmental.

The author, Ambuje che Tom Likambale, is from Balaka Township, Malawi.

  • The views expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Nyasa Times. Contributors are invited to write on opinion columns on any topical subject.

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