Feature Article of Thursday, 27 November 2008
Columnist: Mensah, Nana Akyea
*The news that Nana Akufo Addo has joined Muslims in Bolgatanga to worship at the central mosque during a tour of Upper East Region this week-end, should normally have passed without comment. In fact, on the contrary there were many nice things he said there that deserve commendation, even if it is obvious that he was there to campaign for himself. "Though I am a Christian," he is reported to have said, "I see my presence in the Region today a good opportunity to join you in prayers, since Muslims and Christians all worship the same God." - Bolgatanga, Nov. 22, GNA -
The need for peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians to consolidate national unity and progress in the country is a sine qua non, and Ghana must be proud of the peace existing between Muslims and Christians. As usual, we owe most of this to the vision and foresight of the founding father of modern Ghana, the Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah when his government passed a law that effectively proscribed political parties that were based on religious or ethnic backgrounds, a popular sport dear to the hearts of the Busia-Danquah tradition at the time. Separation of the state from the Faith is a cardinal principle we must firmly uphold in order to maintain this peace. It is in the light of this that mischievous attempts to smuggle the agenda of the Christian right in foreign lands into our local politics need to be condemned in no uncertain terms. Imagine what would be happening here in Ghana if we still had the Muslim Action Party and perhaps a Christian Democratic Party with Women's Aglow Prayer Warriors as its women's wing? The rivalry between the NPP and the NDC would have looked, by comparison, like a love story from Bollywood!
It is beginning to appear that the NPP has not yet digested its secular status imposed upon it by law. The merger of the MAP with the UP, the foundation of the NPP, is only effective as far as Muslims in the party do not insist on a formal association with the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) for example. Reciprocally, this harmony can also only be maintained if the Christians in the NPP do not also make any attempt to impose on the party, formal association with the rival international Christian organisation to the OIC, known as the International Democrat Union.
Sadly, this is exactly what is going on! Nana Akufo-Addo, it seems, despite his declared commitment to national cohesion and unity which informed his choice of Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, a Muslim as Vice President for Election 2008, is still endorsing the controversial membership of the NPP to an international organisation associated with Conservative Christian groups most of whose members and supporters are anti-Islamic!
The NPP, despite all the pretensions of separating the church from the state is formally aligned to a conservative christian organisation which has its aim of imposing their reality on the rest of us, moderate Christians and Muslims alike. Apart from the fact that the very idea of any group seeking to impose its will on the world is unacceptable, it is even more alarming, especially for Black Africa, when the support base of this group come from strange Christians like the Klu Klux Klan, Skulls and Bones of Yale (George Bush Jr. is a member!) etc. In the recent elections in the US, they all rallied behind Sarah Palin, (main reason for her selection by John McCain!) against Obama. For most of them, Obama was the most inappropriate candidate simply because of his race and his middle name, Hussein!
Not so long ago, Ghanaians were treated to a piece of news story with the tittle: Mac Manu elected VEEP of IDU, Accra, July 3, GNA. The storey went: "Mr. Peter Mac Manu, National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party has been elected as the Vice Chairman of the International Democrat Union (IDU). He was elected at the Party Leaders' Meeting held in Paris and hosted by the ruling party in France, Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP)... The statement said Mr Mac Manu received a lot of admiration and commendation for successes in his stewardship of the NPP and Democrat Union of Africa (DUA)."
Again, just this week-end, whilst being treated to the news of worshipping in a mosque we read at the same time, a message to the DUA of the IDU from the same person: Accra, Nov. 22, GNA - Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of New Patriotic Party (NPP), on Saturday urged African financial researchers and institutions to conduct research on the economies of their countries frequently in order to chart a unique course to prosperity and modernisation. ...These were contained in an address read on behalf of Nana Addo Akufo-Addo at the opening of Democratic Union of Africa (DUA) conference for its party leaders, being hosted by the NPP with delegates from Botswana, Cote D 'Ivoire, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Seychelles, Uganda and Lesotho in attendance."
Normally, there would have been no contradiction if a presidential candidate worships on Friday in a mosque and goes to worship in a church on Sunday. It is completely a different matter when you simply enter a mosque for votes and sending a message to be read on your behalf to an organisation that seeks to promote Christian values at the expense of, and over and above those of moderate Christians and Muslims!
The IDU formed in 1983 is a working association of conservatives, Christian Democrats and like minded political parties of the centre and centre right in the world. It was largely in reaction to the ascendancy of the Organisation of Islamic Countries led by the Christian far right in the West. The History Dictionary on the Religious Right defines the group as: "A coalition of right-wing Protestant fundamentalist (see fundamentalism) leaders who have become increasingly active in politics since the Supreme Court's 1972 decision in Roe versus Wade. Among its leaders are Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. The Religious Right sponsors a network of Christian bookstores, radio stations, and television evangelists. Opposed to abortion, pornography, and what it views as the marginalizing of religion in American public life, the Religious Right has also championed prayer in the public schools. In the 1980s it gave strong support to President Ronald Reagan.
Whilst it is not my intention to incite religious tensions, I have no pretensions to ignore dangerous bigots either! The attitude of the far right Christians like Pat Robertson to Islam explains the formation of the IDU to out-rival the OIC. The notorious American far right Christian leader has been very busy describing Islam as a violent religion that wants to dominate and to destroy, hence the IDU.
"The rhetoric is exactly the same as traditional anti-Semitism. All you can do is change the word 'Jew' to 'Arab' or 'Muslim,' " said Hussein Ibish, spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a Washington-based civil rights group. He said remarks like Robertson's and the Rev. Franklin Graham's comment to NBC last fall that Islam "is a very evil and wicked religion" are a "slightly warmed-over version of the hatred that led to the Holocaust."
This is a party that is not shy to belong to a world conservative, Christian democratic agenda, yet when Muslims in the party talk of a woman candidate they jaw-jaw about tokenism and having had eight insufferable years of the vice presidency already; and "the Separation of Church (or Religion) and the State", and "Ghanaians are in absolutely no hurry to have our country converted into a religious satellite of any other nation" and "unpardonably preposterous" and "totally hollow, disingenuous and practically unsound".
I hope that Muslim voters would also draw the line between where religious tolerance is unduly taken advantage of by "ideological fanatics and cynics parading in the guise of disinterested moralists" like Mr. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D whilst maintaining a particular status quo! An Akan dominated Christian one! What would be wrong with the Muslims in the Party insisting that the NPP must also be a part of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) since the Christians in the party have taken it to the Christian IDU?
Muslims also have legitimate aspirations of uniting their community to serve their common political, economic, and social interests. Despite the presence of secularist, nationalist, and socialist ideologies, in modern Muslim states, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia cooperated with other Muslim leaders to form the Organization of Islamic Conference. The OIC was formed in May 1971 in Rabat particularly after the loss of Muslim Holy sites in Jerusalem. According to its charter, the OIC aims to preserve Islamic social and economic values; promote solidarity amongst member states; increase cooperation in social, economic, cultural, scientific, and political areas; uphold international peace and security; and advance education, particularly in the fields of science and technology. What is wrong with this? And whilst we are at it, why not the OPEC? After all we've got the oil now?
As matters stand, it seems the double standards seem to have a life of its own. In the heat of the Vice-presidential nomination contest within the party, many were those who were happy to accept the possibility of a Muslim from the North of Ghana ever becoming an NPP flagbearer. This was ruled out as being out of the question. The option for another Muslim vice-president, received the dispirited response of "We have already had a Muslim vice president for eight long years! We must not let it become a tradition that the vice presidency become a preserve of Muslims from the North, for this will amount to tokenism.
This is what my own grandson, Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. an outspoken spokesperson of this school of thought had to say on the recent campaign by Hajia Alima for the Vice-Presidential slot on the NPP ticket: "there are also quite a remarkable number of well-performing "Christian" women cabinet members of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) who could also be equally justifiably, as well as viably, trotted out as meeting the criteria of gender balance vis-à-vis Nana Akufo-Addo's selection of a running-mate. And what is more, in a democratic culture, it is the proverbial majority that carries the vote; and it is beyond dispute that there are far more Christian women among the Ghanaian electorate than there are Muslim women; and so, at best, putting forth the candidacy of Ms. Alima Mahama on the grounds of her religious identity flagrantly prejudices our entire democratic process, for it is tantamount to the unsavory practice of "tokenism," and religious tokenism has no place in the kind of secular constitutional democracy that Ghana's Fourth Republic is about. Besides, our Fourth-Republican Constitution clearly stipulates the Separation of Church (or Religion) and the State."
I even feel tempted to go as far as to suggest the in view of the current financial crunch and the collapse of major banks in the US and Europe, we need to learn fast and escape the debilitating financial dogmas we have been fed on by the Christian West. It is instructive to note that banks that follow the Islamic principles on financial dealings are still standing strong, alive and well. Isn't it perhaps time that the NPP listens to genuine Islamic bankers and not the ones from the Bank of Ghana, the World Bank and the IMF, who say nothing as Maasa says na IDU be the best? In any case, I remain strongly convinced that unless ordinary Muslims begin to put pressure on their leadership in the NPP, assisted by moderate Christians, to pull out of this international Christian organisation, the religious harmony that this country seeks to guard so jealously, risks being compromised.
Perhaps the following parody may help explain the nature of the religious fervour separating the Church from the State in the Bush White House:
"President Bush begins each day at the crack of nine o'clock kneeling on the floor of the Oval Office in his Batman flannel feety-pajamas, holding hands with a group of Christian men. They kneel there for an hour (two hours on the Lord's Day or if there are enough doughnuts) just talking to our nation's Commander-of-the-Commander-in-
Chief, the Lord Jesus. This is the Presidential Prayer team. Rev. Pat Robertson, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Bob Jones Jr., Pastor Deacon Fred, Brother Harry Hardwick, President George W. Bush, and the Lord Jesus Christ (who invisibly attends, legs crossed and dangling over the side of the Resolute desk), They comprise the elite force of spiritual warriors that most Americans consider more important and able to inflict more damage than the entire United States Military.
The President, a born-again, spirit-filled, saved-by-the-dripping-blood of Christ Christian, understands the importance of praying while other folks are watching. "It just makes sense to me," he says, "to start each day by taking matters of national security to an invisible man named Jesus who lives on a cloud in a place so darn rich their Department of Transportation has done all their roads in gold. And no matter what Jesus inspires me to say, Jesus always ends up agreeing with it - which, I guess, kind of makes sense now that I think about it." The President is concerned that there are millions of people in the world who picked the wrong God. Presidential prayer team member, Pastor Deacon Fred explains, "The Ten Commandments are proudly displayed in just about every room of this Christian White House. Most folks don't even take the time to read them. If they did, they'd see that the first commandment says that you are not supposed to have any other gods besides the God in the Bible. And I'm sorry, folks . . . but Allah is not the same God!" Pastor Deacon Fred also expresses concern about people who visit the White House with flippant disregard for the second commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image." It is a well known fact that previous residents of the White House would accept graven images of Buddha from that Llama in Tibet called Dolly, and little idols of saints from Catholic priests and other sodomites. "That's all stopped now," said Pastor Deacon Fred as he used his heavy Bible to flick a piece of 17th century Meiping porcelain depicting someone other than Jesus off its stand to loudly smash onto the marble floor. "We've instructed the President to say simply, 'No thank you, Mr. Foreign Devil' and if an idol is forced on the President by a visiting dignitary, that individual is taken aside and given a crash course on respecting God's little rulebook of Ten Commandments. If the heathen idol-worshipper is from a Red Chinese prison, they will recognize some of the techniques of Christian persuasion we use in the bunker. And the Holy Spirit don't got no patience when it comes to so-called 'diplomatic immunity' when there is soul winning at stake, my friend!"
In recent days, the Presidential prayer team spends mornings engaged in imprecatory prayer. "For the Bible illiterate," notes Dr. Jerry Falwell, "that means 'prayers against folks that rub you the wrong way.' It's true that Jesus instructs us to love our enemies, but that doesn't mean we have to like them. In complete obedience to the Lord Jesus, I can tell you, I love to see my enemies dead. As a Christian, the President knows that Jesus will eventually slaughter them all and burn them in Hell, we're just trying to speed up the process.""
Are these the kind of people we should be doing business with? Christian or Muslim? This question is clearly for the flagbearer of the NPP, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo!
Nana Akyea Mensah