On 30th April this year, Muslims looked as if they were about to embark a new chapter of their community in Malawi with the elections of the new Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) Central Body.
Muslims ushered in a youthful committee and it was hope that the new blood would provide impetus to the needs of the community.
There was one particular excitement, of course, with the election of Idrissa Muhammad as new MAM National Chairman.
His manifesto was exactly what the people wanted to hear and was the leader most trusted by many Muslims to lead our community.
In addition, in his acceptance speech after he won the elections, the chairman said he would fight for transparency and accountability in MAM in order to regain donors’ confidence. He even went far to accuse the past regime of misusing the association’s funds, saying it is what has left the organisation with bleak accounts.
However, for many people today, that early optimism has all but disappeared.
After 100 days of Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad’s office, the people have become worried to see the chairman following the same footsteps of the previous regime… and others are even saying that the previous regime was far better than this one.
It is unfortunate and tragic for the Muslims of Malawi now to see that the accountability and transparency that the Chairman pledged is nowhere to be seen.
The Chairman is most certainly not practising what he preached. Instead, shady back room deals have become the hallmark.
The clear example of this is the current issue which has divided the Muslim community, where MAM executive members and trustees are accused of receiving money amounting to K50, 000 each from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) 2014 Presidential torchbearer Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika.
The chairman failed to tell the community what that money meant for – forcing people to speculate that the money was splashed as one way of asking MAM’s central body to lobby the Muslim community to support Peter Mutharika’s 2014 presidential bid.
If indeed this was really the intention of the money, then it is very unfortunate.
Of course, it is not wrong to receive money from a politician provided it proves beneficial to the Muslim community.
Muslims follow different parties and share different political ideologies. Therefore, it is difficult for MAM to FORCE all Muslims to support one party.
In other countries, what the executive members and trustees did would be called corruption or bribery. And I wonder why it should not be so in Malawi.
If MAM regime were transparent and accountable enough – seeing the problems rocking our Muslim community, the money would have been put together and pump it into the association’s account which is currently gasping, and later use it for the implementation of its programs.
Nobody would have protested against that, as it would have been beneficial to the community.
But, instead, the members just got the money, put it into their pockets, and say Alhamdulillah.
Of course, we hear that there are other few brothers who refused to receive the money and walked out of the meeting. But later, they were fired for “their misbehaviour culminating in contravention of the Constitution of the Association.”
The question goes in this way, is refusing to receive money from a politician, who after all is not a Muslim, ‘misbehaviour’ and a breach of association’s constitution?
These members knew disarray it would bring in our community had they received that money.
Worse still, these people were not given any formal written communication that they had been fired. They heard it on the radio and read it in newspapers after MAM released a press statement – in fact, even before hearing their side.
This was totally unprofessional and disrespectful to the members.
MAM must learn to solve problems using contact and dialogue. MAM should be in the forefront to encourage unity among Muslims but not be the source of troubles and divisions in our community.
The chairman is one of the renowned Sheikhs and he knows how to solve problems on the Islamic perspective.
He should not forget that constitution of MAM, Article 3, ‘OBJECTS OF MAM’, subsection (d) clearly states that the Association shall be ‘To solve disputes between Muslims by consultation, negotiation or arbitration.”
The Chairman must be tolerant if he really wants things to change in our community and for the Muslims to remember him.
As a leader, he has to know that the people will still stand and express their opinion on the things they are not happy with. They have a right to do so.
This right is accorded in the Preamble of the 1996 Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) constitution which clearly states that ‘The principles of freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam, should be fully observed by the Association.’
Muslims do not want leaders who do not listen to other people’s views, yes, Mr Know-it-all.
If there is a problem concerning the executive members, MAM should solve it using contact and dialogue.
Article 8 of the MAM’s constitution also gives Board of Trustees power to ‘settle disputes between the Central Body and any committees of members of the Association.’
But for this to be achieved, the Board of Trustees should also not be dormant. It has to know its duties invested in the constitution.
MAM chairman should consult the executive and board of trustees before he makes any decision regarding the association’s affairs.
Muslims do not want dictatorship in MAM. Learn to work as a team for the betterment of Muslim community.
We do not want to see the repetition of awkwardness that we have just seen when Biton Ajawa and Twalick Asedi who instead of handling issues from the Islamic point of view, went to High Court to obtain injunction, restraining MAM from implementing its decision of firing them.
What is that?
As Muslims, let us take Quran to be our guidance.
These people (Ajawa and Twalick Asedi) should acome forward and explain why they went to court on religious issues – because Ajawa, being an executive member of UDF, it gives an impression that he has some personal political interests in the new MAM.
Evidently, it is the way he used his resources campaigning for Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad. This was confirmed in Friday’s sermon which the chairman delivered on September 16 at Ndirande main mosque.
The chairman claimed that Ajawa is demanding him to support ‘divided’ United Democratic Front (UDF) and Atupele Muluzi’s 2014 presidential bid.
Ajawa also gave 10 days ultimatum to board of trustees chairman and his vice to resign because of receiving K50, 000 from Peter Mutharika.
Would we be wrong to conclude that his support to the chairman was that he wanted him to be his puppet so that he should be able to control him remotely?
Moreover, honourable folks, how can a mere co-opted executive member have such powers to demand the resignation of the trustees?
Please, do not involve MAM into politics, as it has been the case in the past regime because this is what has made the Association to failing to concentrate on important developments.
Associating MAM with politics will only be beneficial to the Top Brass and not to an ordinary Muslim from Mulanje, Balaka or Phalombe.
On MAM working with the current government, not a single Muslim would be against it, should it prove beneficial to the Muslim community.
The relationship between MAM and the government should produce fruits like the establishment of our own television station, Islamic University, to name a few.
MAM executive should also keep in mind that the Association is there “To co-operate and liase with the Government in all matters in the furtherance of any of the preceding objects and in particular to obtain recognition of the institutions of the Association by the Government of Malawi and to obtain assistance, financial or otherwise for such institutions, its staff and students” and “to make arrangements with the Government of Malawi for the duty free importation of supplies and equipment contributed by donors which are for free distribution and for the use and operation of the Association” as stipulated in the Article 8, subsections (r & v) of the MAM’s constitution respectively.
Nothing should be beyond that.
It should be aware that MAM does not belong to any political party. It is a religious organisation. That is according to the constitution.
Let us not play politics when the fate of the entire Muslim community here is at stake.
Nevertheless, for all executive members, including the chairman himself, have a right to support and join any political parties of their choice.
Nobody has right to dictate this.
***Views expressed in this article is solely for the Author and does not reflect to the views of Malawi Muslims Official Website or its Editorial Staff. The writer has used his right accorded in the constitution of Malawi to express his opinion***