Some campaigns are circulating rumours, especially on social media platforms, pretending that once elected president this May Atupele Muluzi and the United Democratic Front (UDF) will establish an Islamic republic and introduce Sharia Law in Malawi.
These rumours are as unscrupulous and disingenuous as they are false and unfounded. Worse still, by these false rumours, these campaigners exhibit islamophobia and their candidates are, therefore, unsuitable for government in a religiously pluralist country boasting at least a 20 percent Muslim population.
It is not because Atupele Muluzi is the sole Muslim among those competing for the presidency that he should be singled out for religious bigotry.
UDF a `big tent’ party
The UDF, which Atupele Muluzi leads, was founded following its days as a `pressure group’ against the Malawi Congress Party (MCP)’s one-party dictatorship. It was basically a coalition of various voices, mainly from civil society groups, hungering for freedom, respect for human rights in general and free religious association as well.
The UDF is not a religious organisation, it is a political party. UDF membership has always included people of many creeds and faiths and has always espoused pluralist religious tolerance. The UDF is a ‘big tent’ party which welcomes people of many different religious backgrounds to achieve a diverse but harmonious community of communities within Malawi.
Even Uladi Mussa of the People’s Party (PP), competing against the UDF in these elections, acknowledged that the UDF is not a religiously parochial organisation. In fact Mussa was trying to dissuade his Islamic audience from voting for the UDF. His point was that they should expect nothing in terms of religious concessions to them from a possible UDF government.
Mussa was right on the one point that the UDF is not Islamic and is not trying to bring about a religious government in Malawi.
Running mate Chapola, a staunch Catholic
Any president of Malawi, who wants to establish Sharia Law, will have to go through a majority Christian Parliament. It would be an impossible task. The Malawi Parliament is more than 95 percent Christian and is projected to become more Christian after the forthcoming parliamentary election this May. The idea that a president will pass Sharia Law in such a Parliament is fanciful; not to mention the fact that such a law will be unconstitutional to start with. Even if Atupele wants it, which he does not, Parliament will not allow it.
Atupele’s desire and intention to promote a religiously harmonious and pluralist Malawi caused him to hand-pick a staunch Catholic in Godfrey Chapola as his running mate. If Atupele had intentions to establish an Islamic caliphate, he would certainly not be choosing a Christian as a running mate, let alone a ‘staunch’ Catholic.
Bakili Muluzi brought religious freedom to Malawi
The UDF was in government before. Bakili Muluzi, Atupele’s father, defeated the MCP tyrant Hastings Kamuzu Banda to become president and ran the Malawi government from 1994 to 2004.
One of Bakili Muluzi’s first acts as president was to allow back the Jehovah’s Witnesses who were banned by the MCP government.
Indeed under Bakili Muluzi, Malawi experienced a flourishing of new religious organisations. There were new and more visible Christian fundamentalist, evangelical and Pentecostal churches mushrooming all over the place. Bakili Muluzi did not see these organisations as a threat but, rather, as an aspect of Malawi’s improving social diversity and religious richness.
Bakili Muluzi is the father ofAtupele Muluzi. He is also the father of multiparty democracy in Malawi.
Malawi ready for ‘Agenda for Change’
Instead of making all these weird and unfounded allegation of Islamisation of Malawi by Atupele Muluzi, serious political commentators ought to concentrate on Atupele’s comprehensive Agenda for Change for Malawi.
Malawi is at her best when Malawians band together in unity for common national purposes that improve the society. Fanciful fabrications such as those we are hearing against Atupele Muluzi concerning alleged islamisation appeal only to the lowest common denominator. They are odious and anti-developmental.
The author is from Balaka Township, Malawi. He lives in Montreal, Canada