By Abdul Rashid Ntawila
Bingu wa Mutharika’s call for cancellation of the August 17th demonstrations as a mark of respect to Malawi Muslims who are fasting in this holy month of Ramadan is not only laughable but also smacks of hypocrisy from the president.
This is hilarious indeed and it shows that the President has run out of ideas and urgently needs help. First and foremost, since when did Mutharika become a friend of Malawian Muslims? Has this man ever acknowledged Muslims in Malawi, apart from his few errand boys, Sidik Mia, Yunus Mussa and Jaffari Mussa?
Bingu’s track record as president is littered with anti Muslim initiatives despite the Muslims overwhelmingly voting him into power in 2004 against all odds, having been asked to do so by the then President, Dr Bakili Muluzi.
Under President Mutharika, Malawian Muslims have been reduced to economic spectators as his administration has systematically marginalised them. His first move upon ascending to power was to remove all Muslims who were holding high positions in Government and other statutory corporations. These included the likes of Joseph Aironi (IG Police), Ibrahim Milazi (High Commissioner to UK) Muhammad Kulesi (Ambassador to Libya), Yahya M’madi (Ambassador to Egypt), Rodrick Mulonya (Director General of TVM), Martin Jawadu, (Director MRA), Fahad Assani (DPP).
Then there was the case of Yusuf Mwawa, the only high ranking official from his cabinet and DPP successfully prosecuted for corruption despite there being others who had committed worse corrupt offences than him. Add to this the torture he unleashed on his previous Vice President, Cassim Chilumpha and the continuous persecution of his former mentor, Bakili Muluzi.
From an Islamic perspective, Bingu’s excuse doesn’t make sense because this is a peaceful demonstration by people who are demanding their economic and freedom rights. I guess it would be good to educate the President that one of the famous battles Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) fought, the Battle of Badr, was actually fought on the 17th of Ramadan, the very month and day that he is forbidding Malawians to demonstrate in order to “respect” Muslims.
This battle which took place in the Hejaz region of western Arabia was a key battle in the early days of Islam and a turning point in the Prophet’s struggle with his opponents among the dominant tribes in Makkah, namely the Quraish. Indeed the battle has been passed down in Islamic history as a decisive victory attributable to divine intervention or by secular sources to the strategic genius of the Prophet (pbuh). Moreover it is one of the few battles specifically mentioned in the holy Quran.
Therefore, as a Muslim, I urge the president to look for other excuses in order to call off the demos as this reason is very flimsy, designed to hoodwink and fool Malawians. Towing this line is not only insensitive but dangerous too as it could lead to sowing discord between the Muslims and their Christian brethren in this peaceful nation (peaceful until Bingu took over).
*The author is a Muslim scholar