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Let's be rational and stop this religious bickering

Sun, 5 Apr 2015 Source: Frankly Speaking

Unexpectedly, the main agenda of the nation (Ghana) has been focused on Christian-Muslim rights. In political communication, I would say my friend, President John Mahama, should have some reprieve from the barrage of attacks from his opponents about dumsor, the economy, and also the conflagration in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the Ashanti Region. Unfortunately, however, some have roped Mahama in here too, though he might not bother too much now for this as many would opine that the current issues about Christians and Muslims might not have too much impact on votes. But hey, those who see it that way are mistaking – what about if the current misunderstanding becomes a crisis and make elections impossible? So dear reader, you see, no matter how one sees the current agenda, it has the potential to impact on our national governance, hence we don’t need dirty politics to handle it. When I was in Classes Four and Five at the Breman Asikuma Methodist Primary almost two scores ago, my late mother was selling food items at the local Ahmadiyya School. Because of shortage of classrooms, we were going to school on shift – morning and afternoon – and for that reason whenever I was on the afternoon shit I spent the morning with my mother at the Ahmadiyya School. At the morning devotional period at the school assembly, all pupils joined in the recital of the Muslim prayers. Because I was there almost every school day, I ended up becoming very fluent in the Muslim prayers the pupils recited, though I wasn’t a Muslim. There were pupils in that school who were Christians but participated in the Muslim prayers. In my school, Methodist Primary, there were some pupils there who were Muslims who also joined the in the Christian prayers and singing. There are stories of many of our present national leaders who were in mission schools with other pupils and students of different faiths than those of the missions whose schools they attended. I learnt of one Muslim girl who went to Holy Child School in Cape Coast, a strict Catholic School, and became the school prefect without becoming a Catholic. The fact was that, that particular student never excluded herself from the rules of the school, which included morning worship as part of the school assembly, and at yet she never lost her faith as a Muslim. As is known by most Ghanaians, mission schools are set by religious bodies with the aim of providing education imbued with their own faith-based teachings about God. For that reason, each of the mission schools never deviates from their religious doctrines, and in most cases, pupils and students who opt for such schools undertake to abide by the school rules mostly based on the religious belief and doctrine of the mission. This practice has existed in Ghana for many years. Today, we have several schools set up by missions, and until very recently when government became part of the controlling authority of such schools, they were under the full control and direction of the respective missions. I must admit that in our days there was a clear difference between pupils of mission schools and those of local councils schools (commonly called the ‘Local Authority’ (LA) schools) in terms of discipline and comportment of pupils and students. I had my middle school education at the Breman Asikuma Presbyterian Middle School, and I can say that the discipline that was imparted to me continues to shape my life. With the recent demonstration by some Muslims in the Western Region and the subsequent directive by the President which has been challenged by the Christian religious bodies, followed by a response by the Muslim Council, Ghana is gradually pushing itself into an imminent religious clash. In the palace, mostly the chief would be the last person to speak to an issue. If the chief were wise, by the time he speaks, he would have taken note the feelings of many of the people around and the kind of judgement which would bring a lasting solution to the issue at stake. This is why I have previously in this column advised the President not to rush to be the first to comment about certain issues. The fact is, when the chief hurriedly shares his position on an issue and it turns out be rejected because that wasn’t the best opinion needed by the community, the chief becomes a laughing stock. The current anger of both Christian and Muslim leaders is based on the presidential fiat. I am Christian, but I have a Koran with both the Arabic and English versions. I read it some times not because I want to convert to Islam but I try to understand the belief of my Muslim brethren. Based on my understanding and respect for the religion of Islam, I never argue with Muslims about religious beliefs or doctrines, though I would want to convert my Muslim friends into Christianity much as they also want to pull me to their side. It seems the current debate is missing some basic ingredients. For instance, if I decided to follow my friend Alhaji Baba Musah of Nima-Maamobi to the mosque, I should not expect to hear “Yesu Kristo ye nkunimdi frankaa, eno nti yebedi nkunim daa, yebehim oo, …” being sang there, or the speaking of tongues. In a similar vein, Baba Musah cannot expect to follow me to the Sowotuom Central Church of Pentecost, where I worship, and expect to hear me reading the ‘al-fati7ah’: “Allahu Akbar, sub7aana rabiyya-al-3a6'iim, sami3a Allahu liman 7amida, Allahu akbar, sub7aana rabiyya-al-a3laa, Allahu akbar, sub7aana rabiyya-al-a3laa”. The simple reason is that Baba cannot force me to go to the mosque, neither can I compel him to come to my church. If we both decided to visit one another, then we must be prepared to appreciate the doctrine of one’s place of worship. The principle applies to sending your children to school. There are LA schools where there are no religious obligations to follow. However, if one decides to send one’s children to a mission school, one must not send the children together with the one’s own religious practices or doctrines. This principle had over the years worked for us as Ghanaians, so why the current tension? All of us must reason rationally instead of acting emotionally. Article 21 of the 1992 Constitution says that, (b) “All persons shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom; (c) All persons shall have the right to freedom to practise any religion and to manifest such practice." This constitutional provision does not take away one’s religious practice in one’s own home, meaning that I can’t go to the home of a Muslim and tell him use Christian prayers; in the same way a Muslim can’t come to my home and tell me I should say a Muslim prayer. We need to behave more rationally as a nation having in our mind the harm that has been caused by religious intolerance in other countries. Nobody needs to tell us that we are treading on a landmine by being intransigent without anyone realising that there are no absolute freedoms anywhere in the world and that when we all want a win-lose situation for ourselves, we all lose. Should we bring dirty politics, particularly our usual NPP-NDC politics into this, we are doomed. PS: Don’t we have Muslims and Christians in the Ghana Armed Forces and the Police Service? And don’t these institutions have dress codes? Do these institutions allow their members to choose their dressing based on their religions? Doesn’t the same apply to nursing professionals? Must we allow our nurses to dress according to their religious codes? I hope the Minister of Health is hearing me.

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Posted By Frankly Speaking to Frankly Speaking on 4/04/2015 12:33:00 pm

Columnist: Frankly Speaking