By Lusubilo Sichali, Nyasa Times
Some Muslims in the country have reacted angrily against President Bingu wa Mutharika’s public address on Monday when he suggested that since this was the month of Ramadan, the planned nationwide anti-government demonstrations on August 17, 2011 must be called off.
President Mutharika’s speech aired on the public radio and TV, MBC, centred on Ramadan (Islamic holy month of fasting) where he wished all Muslims in the country happy Ramadan.
However, he took advantage of Ramadan to call upon civil society, faith leaders and all concerned Malawians who have planned peaceful demonstrations on August 17 to stop the protest as a display of respect for the Islamic faith.
Malawians petitioned Mutharika on July 20, 2011 over the rising cost of living and the general deterioration of governance and economic situation, which has resulted in the unavailability of fuel and forex, among others.
Mutharika has not convincingly reacted to the concerns, prompting one of the top civil society leaders Undule Mwakasungula to declare that in the absence of convincing response from the Head of State, Malawians will go ahead with the planned second march code-named “Plan B”.
Reacting to Mutharika’s call to “respect Islam”, Jamani Linde, who is leader of Muslims calling themselves “Concerned Muslims”, should not display any passion for Islam when he has all along negatively viewed it.
“It is the Mutharika government that arrested former Head of State Dr. Bakili Muluzi last year during the same period of Ramadan. Dr. Muluzi is a Muslim and also being a former Head of State, Mutharika should have pardoned him until the end of Ramadan,” Linde bemoaned.
The Concerned Muslims’ leader also wondered why Mutharika has been dragging Muluzi to court on Friday’s when it was supposed to be an official prayer day for Muslims.
“Is that a kind of leader who today should claim that he respects Islam; he must not take advantage of us. We, Muslims of Malawi, must not be a scapegoat for calling on suffering Malawians to stop exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate,” he said, adding that even in the Arab world where Islam is the main religion, there are protests over dictatorships, citing Libya as an example.
He advised the president not to push Islam into state affairs because Malawi is a secular state and neither Islamic nor Christian.
Presidential spokesman Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba told Nyasa Times on Monday that Linde and like-minded Muslims had a right to their opinion and that, Mutharika is leader of all Malawians without regard to religion.
Billy Banda, the Executive Director of Malawi Watch, a human right organisation said the president’s call was very surprising and, to say the least, calculative.
“The president is trying to hide behind Ramadhan activities to run away from his obligation,” he said.
Banda also observed that the president was deliberately bringing in the religious hate aspect between the organisers and Islam as a religion adding that Malawi is a secular nation.
“The demonstrations have got nothing to do with religion and Malawi is a secular state,” Banda said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :