WRITTEN MY MALICK MNELA
“Amai ndi a bambo, ine ndi Msilamu. Miyezi 10 yapitayo, anthu ena ku Lilongwe anapha wapolisi wina, Sergeant Imedi. Anangofika, ali iwe ndi Msilamu waku Mangochi. Basi kumupha! Kodi inu mungafune atsogoleri omwe akuchititsa izi atenge boma?,” Atupele Muluzi. Translation: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am a Muslim. Some ten months ago, some group of people descended on a police officer Sergeant Imedi. They shouted you are a Muslim from Mangochi and lynched him to death. Would you trust leaders championing this to take over government?,” Atupele Muluzi, speaking during a campaign rally in Chiladzulu. —————‐‐————–
Hey, wait a minute! Atupele Muluzi’s proclivity for throwing the Islam card to leverage his political position is getting tired and ineffective in earning him political mileage. If anything, it could drift him apart from part of his faith community and getting closer to soiling the name of Islam should some people choose to react to his sensitive, sensationalised and divisive remarks.
I just saw a video clip shot during his campaign trail to Chiradzulu, a district endowed with a reasonable population of the Muslim faithful. The young politician reminded those at the whistle stop rally that he was a proud Muslim. Masha Allah! He immediately linked his being Muslim to his pain on the death of Uthman Imedi, a Muslim police officer lynched and killed in the Msundwe riots in Lilongwe some months ago. Indeed, death of anyone in such circumstances – not only to a fellow faithful, but any other person – should be condemned in the strongest terms possible.
The killing of Imedi was barbaric and regrettable. Furthermore, his sad and regrettable death did not come about due to his being Muslim as purpoted by Mr. Muluzi when he blatantly chose to misrepresent the truth of the matter. I have raised my anger at the manner all politically motivated deaths, injuries and beatings have been registered for many years. Actually, my first time ever being admitted to hospital was in 2002 as a result of political violence administered by the then UDF Young Democrats.
I have three stitches as a constant reminder. Back then, I was a young journalist fearlessly reporting on the resistance and reservations people had on the third term bid of Bakili Muluzi, Atupele’s father. Ironically, as I was to know later, the lead perpetrators were fellow Muslims, then succumbing to the religious slanted propaganda in the country’s politics. Let me spare history and focus on the matter at hand. I could not imagine Mr. Muluzi would use the death of Imedi to incite rage and hatred against the opposing politicians. Sadly, the “Islamic puritanism” approach he has chosen in his political outbursts also pits Muslim against Muslim. This strategy can incite Muslims in two ways.
Firstly, it has potential to ignorantly prompt religious-political violence, between Muslims and among Malawians of diverse beliefs. Secondly, Muluzi’s political rhetoric anchored on the pro-Islamic narrative could prompt some of the Muslim faithful to do a quick inquiry into the past politically incited deaths, beatings and ostracisation, resulting in taking dirty linen to the public.
If Muluzi’s message is (intentionally or mistakenly) understood as an alert for retribution, some “jihadist” elements could emerge against those alleged or perceived to have sponsored the attacks that led to the death of their fellow Muslim. The other category is to do with the intellectual jihadists – standing up to scrutinise assertions that have potential to bring the name of Islam into disrepute thereby exposing their intentions and spark enmity. I believe I am a typical example of a Muslim who has been influenced the second way: provoked to relook the disadvantages of using the religious card in politics. Allah be my witness! It hurts to hear Mr. Muluzi singling out death of a single Muslim brother when he could have raised several names: all alleged to have been killed for political reasons.
I recall Issa Njauju. He was of immense contribution to Islam through his contributions at the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM). I personally knew Issah. We used to congregate together at Area 47 Mosque. We used to mock each other whenever we met. I remember vividly as if it was just yesterday when he would mock me for my alleged knack to meddle in other people’s business.
He kept reminding me that he watched his mouth when around me, or any other journalists. He would say it with a smile, which offered some solace. But he surely meant it and I knew. As a result, it left us to discuss Islam. He was a man of integrity to the extent that he guarded his tongue against slip ups. He was a brother in religion. He died a death suspected to have been politically motivated. Or if not politically motivated, suspicion is rife that politicians are responsible.
Would Mr. Muluzi, a politician, mention Njauju’s death? Death of an influential Muslim whose murder robbed us, Muslims, a true supporter and a benevolent faithful alongside that of Imedi, a selfless man who was martyred in pursuit of a peaceful Malawi, would make a stronger case if Islam was at stake. I bet it would not be in Mr. Muluzi’s political interests to mention the two names, one after the other, in highlighting the plight of us, Muslims, living in the dangerous city of Lilongwe where our brothers have been brutally murdered over time. Wait a minute! Just recently, three family members perished in a suspected arson attack said to be political in nature in Area 22 in Lilongwe.
The Tambalas – both parents and a child – from my home district, Dedza, died a painful death. However, Atupele chose to omit them as he eulogised a death with potential to incite anger against political opponents. I believe the omission is not in the interest of Islam. I strongly suspect it is political. I am also told Macdonald Masambuka was a devout Muslim. He and other persons with albinism were brutally killed in deaths that have been strongly said to be political (charms for electoral victory?!) or having something to do with politics (politicians being implicated).
I wish Mr. Muluzi was not narrow in his approach or shallow in his pursuit in the name of Islam. My heart is too heavy to write about Kalonga Stambuli. He, too, was a Muslim. He is said to have died for reasons some politicians will be more elaborate to explain. It is in the grapevine that he died on matters bordering on politics, like Imedi and Njauju. Just that Mr. Muluzi could not muster the courage to tell the whole story of Muslims matryed as a result of politics in Malawi. Fellow Muslims, do not allow politicians to sow seeds of division ahead of fresh polls.
A politician pursuing a segmented approach just to earn your votes based on demographics cannot unit us as a country after the elections. I am privileged to have worked in a couple of prominent Islamic institutions pivotal in dawah (propagation of Islam) in the country. I understand the Muslim demographics better. I understand the psychology politicians capitalise on in these areas. I have a very good grasp of the group-think dynamics at play among such population groups. I write from an informed position. I also know that those pushing this agenda do understand all these aspects as well. There are others even recruited to champion the brainwashing of their own against the perceived enemies.
Tell me: is Iqbar Omar less Muslim because he is UTM? Are Sidik Mia and Halima Daudi less Muslims because they are MCP? Is Mr. Muluzi more Muslim because he is UDF? All those mentioned above and many of us are at liberty to join political parties of our choice at any given time. I hope I have made a compelling case that religion, in this case Islam, should not be used for political gain. Muslims should reject being used as pawns.
The best thing for Mr. Muluzi Jnr is to preach unity as you did at Migowi as you continued on the campaing trail. One Malawi, One people should be the motto. Segmentation of people using sensationalised rhetoric has a way of backfiring. There are still fence sitters and roping them to the DPP/UDF side will require some semblance of sobriety and, of course, pre-ordainment (Qadir). Ramadan Mubarak! Sheikh Abdul-Mallick Al-Manthroud ibn Al-Munir Mnela Wali