“Muslims, MBC battle rages on” screams the front page of today’s The Daily Times newspaper.
Simeon Maganga who wrote the story reports that despite the fact that the District Commissioner for Mangochi, the Chief Executive Officer and the Police Officer in Charge apologised in person, the Muslims in Mangochi are refusing to release the tv camera that they confiscated last saturday.
The reporter further says that the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), owners of the tv camera obtained a court injunction ordering the release of the camera but is failing to serve it to the Muslims for fear of a possible disorder.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Malawi) has added their voice appealing to the Muslim elders in Mangochi to return the camera.
But the Muslims are saying that they will only release the camera after getting apologies from the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) and Qadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM).
(According to The Daily Times newspaper, they have now added the Minister of Information and MBC management on the list of those who have to go and apologise to the worshippers).
At the onset, seeking an apology from MAM and QMAM is in my view misplaced. It was made clear to the worshippers by the police that the two organisations were never aware nor did they give any consent to the tv crew to proceed as they did. Their assignments ended on Friday at the sanctioned mosques and they parted ways there and then. How can the organisations then be responsible for actions that happened outside their mandate?
After interviewing several parties to the camera saga, I have observed that there are several underlying problems that are contributing to the Muslims – MBC stand off, these being organisational and political.
Organisational in the sense that the Muslims’ district leadership feels sidelined that their national committees does not involve them when carrying out activities in their territory. They were unamused that population activities were taking place in their district yet them being local leaders, were neither informed nor invited to attend.
The local leaders therefore have a grudge against their national committees hence the call for the top leadership to go to Mangochi to explain and apologise on why they conducted activities without the knowledge of their local committees.
The saga is also political in the sense that there has been a fear among the UDF rank and file in Mangochi that the ruling People’s Party (PP) is penetrating their stronghold. This fear was exuberated when PP officials, Minister Ibrahim Matola and Deputy Minister Ralph Jooma , came to the Mosque immediately after the cameras were confiscated.
The Muslims suspected that the Joyce Banda administration would like to take pictures of Muslims in Mangochi for the party to use the videos to go and seek donations from Muslim countries for their campaign towards the May 20, 2014 tripartite elections. Now Mangochi being an alleged UDF stronghold, it was unacceptable for the woshippers to let the crew film them when the pictures in their view, will be used to solicit funds to campaign against their beloved political party. Hence the new demand that the goverment spokesperson should go and assure them that there was indeed no ill intention by the MBC when they were filming them.
The other contributing factor is that Muslims are skeptical with the conduct of non-Muslims in Mangochi. There has been a lot of mistrust between the two camps there and it was therefore not strange that the Muslims reacted heavy handedly when the reporters, a man and woman unidentified as they were, just stormed into their holy place as they did.
Of course, we could all sympathise with the faithful had the matter not evolved with the above mentioned undertones. But having received personal apologies from the high ranking officials as mentioned above, can’t the local Muslim leadership now allow some common sense to prevail?
If there are scores to settle with MAM, QMAM and PP, should the tv camera still be used as a bait after it is now apparent that the crew acted without mandate from any one of them?
The senior officials of the UDF can also offer to mediate in the stand off. Who knows, with their strong political clout in Mangochi they can successfully secure the release of the camera.
Islam teaches us mercy and forgiveness and what is a better time for demonstrating these attributes than when someone has wronged us?
Islam rapidly spread throughout the world through the moral conduct of the Sahaaba and the Tabi’een and it is time that we live by their example.
Muslims in Mangochi have demonstrated enough of their strong will and resolve and everyone has understood what they are capable of accomplishing should they wish to do anything they feel like doing.
It is therefore now the time to release the camera unconditionally!