Opinion: Who Is To Blame On Malawian Muslims’ Low Government Representation?

It is over a decade now since the Muslim community has been crying foul over their low representation in government. Some Muslims have been blaming each President that comes into power for not considering them in government’s key positions despite providing almost half of the electorate.

Sadly, some of them do not know the root cause of the problem and perhaps suggest best ways on how the problem can be curbed.

Islam was the first religion to be introduced in Malawi around 1880s. Today, though they are in minority, the country has the highest Muslim population in Southern African region. Today, 36 percent of Malawi’s 14 million people are Muslims, according to Muslim sources.

Education as a Main Factor

Unlike their Christian counterparts who brought in formal education, Muslim missionaries focused much on Islamic teachings.

Christian missionaries established several primary, secondary schools and universities in the country. History tells us that joining Christianity and/or practicing Christian customs was a prerequisite to get enrolled into the mission schools at that time. This has had a major negative impact on the growth of Islam in the country as the education made many people to join Christianity.

At the end, the country had few educated Muslims because some Muslim parents could not afford their children to denounce their religion because of secular education. The children had to be sent to madrassa. So, education should be one of the factors as to why Muslims have low representation in government.

Take a look at the time when the country had an opportunity to be led by a Muslim President Dr. Bakili Muluzi. Christians supported him because they knew that there were few Muslims who could take up government’s key positions at that time.

Christians were more advanced with the education that’s why you could see that they were able to achieve their mission. Interestingly, some quarters of Muslim faithful accuse Muluzi of sidelining them in government’s appointments during his reign.

But indeed, how many people were educated at that time to hold such positions? What could a ‘political Mufti’ have done?

We are all aware that by the time Muluzi was taking over this country some few Muslims were abroad to pursue studies and by the time they were coming, his tenure was coming to an end and that their Christian friends had already shared big positions in government.

So, in this case, who is to blame? Muluzi, Muslim missionaries, parents or government? By the way which government? Whose government? Led by who?

Have you ever had time to find out why some of those Christians who supported Muluzi’s first tenure did not do so when he showed an interest to stand again 2009? If not, find out. Don’t have time? Well, I will give you one tip – because by 2009 the country had many learned Muslim professionals and it was obvious that Muluzi could have appointed many Muslims in his government.

 Investment for the Purpose

Today, as the country approaches every general election, Christians invest a lot into candidates of their faithful. They give them enough resources to carry out their campaign properly while Muslims are fighting each other because someone is representing a certain party which someone is not affiliated to.

Why those Islamic organisations can’t say “Well, we will not build mosques and provide Ramadan hampers for the next four years so that the money should be used in educating Muslims and perhaps keep some for future elections campaign,”?

Ok! Let me tell you one thing, as Muslims spend resources in providing food gifts such as Ramadan hampers, our friends are sponsoring students in local colleges and universities using the same money in order for them to be economically independent and subsequently drilling them to become decision makers at different levels in the country. Whilst our Muslim kids in the villages are throwing akini rice particles at each other which they receive from Muslim organisations, in sharp contrast Christian kids use pens and text books to do the same.

I am not saying the distribution of food stuff is useless but this is time of priority. Education! Education! Use that money to educate those who receive food hampers so that they become independent. Surely it is the time we teach how to fish rather than stick to alms giving. You face it, it’s a reality!

We need to encourage our children to pursue both Islamic and secular studies if we are to make strides towards a fair representation in government. However, by doing this, we have to bear in mind that our friends are spending sleepless nights towards ensuring that their children attain the required education.

The problem we have is that with the few schools we run, interestingly we are failing to achieve the desired results though getting massive donations. For instance of all the secondary schools that are run by our organisations, one could tend to wonder how on earth only about 20 students have made it to the public University, a number which is equivalent to those students admitted to UNIMA from a single secondary school .

Islamic organisations in Malawi should emulate a good gesture from Islamic Zakaat Fund IZF. While we may admit that there are some loopholes in the program of sponsoring students to study abroad, IZF has helped a lot. If there are few Muslims who are educated today, it is because of sponsorship though some want to hide-anyway that is a topic for another day.

However, the program has not yet solved the problem completely because some students find it hard in order to get employment in both Government and Private sector because most of the papers they brought in are written in Arabic. This forces some to do some courses locally when they come back for them to be recognised while others get sponsorships to go to other universities abroad that are recognized by Commonwealth. Otherwise, most of them end up working in Islamic organisations as madrassa teachers; imams etc. and get paid peanuts as that is their only option.

So, the Muslim community needs to invest much in education. We have had enough of mosques. If we want to build a mosque, let there be a secular school as well with vibrant teachers who are well paid. Otherwise we won’t stop bemoaning lack of Muslims in decision making positions in Government.

Unfortunately, most of the Islamic organisations in Malawi are not interested in investing into their employees. If you find one investing in a certain employee, know that it is because of the personal interest but not public benefit. They don’t want other people out there to benefit from the same knowledge but himself only which is a different case with our friends of other religions. Yet, the money is for the Muslim community.

Wise and Visionary Leadership as a Solution

Of all things that have been mentioned above to be achieved we need unity of purpose. This is where the issue of wise and visionary leadership comes in. The Muslim community needs a leader who will promote unity and not hypocrisy. Remember, in his last sermon Prophet Muhammad (saw) said Muslims are all one. An Arab is not superior to non-Arab and non-Arab is not superior to an Arab. A Whiteman has no superior to a Blackman and a Blackman has no superior to a White man.

So, we need a leader who will take use of prophet’s teachings and apply in his daily activities for the betterment of Islam in the country. There are no “native” nor “Asian” Muslims in Malawi. As long as we all citizens of this country, we are Malawians and Muslims – no adjectives.

Anyway, that was my opinion and will remain so.

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