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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Columnist: Alfa, Abdur Rahman Shaban

Open Letter to Prof. Martey

: The Accra _ Mecca _ Accra Pilgrimage

Good day Mr. Moderator,

I salute you with the peace of religious fraternity and cordiality, typical of us Ghanaians. At least our general tolerance undoubtedly is miles ahead of what we hear of, see and read in the media of other religious jurisdictions.

And I sincerely hope and pray that we are able to sustain, maintain and insha Allah [if it is the will of God] consolidate the brotherly, peaceful and symbiotic ambience within which believers in one faith or the other and even atheists have coexisted over the years.

We woke up to news about how government had decided to ‘sponsor’ some 200 pastors for a ‘religious’ trip to Israel. The cost involved and the qualification criteria and more importantly the source of funding was going to be asked about in just a matter of time.

And that time came, when groups across the socio political and religious divide began calls for an inquest into what appeared to have angered the larger civil society in the face of mounting challenges at providing uninterrupted utility services. Fair point!

I beg to say, your entry into this issue especially by the time that the president had publicly declared that government was a mere ‘facilitator’ of a philanthropically sponsored trip, leaves too much to be desired.

Your views as always are yours and most welcome but Prof, on this instance, you totally misfired.

Your argument was to say the least fallacious and without locus.

Many may have drawn your attention on what was a sad gaffe that you would have avoided had you spent a while to ask a little more.

I wish to make my points on your near unpardonable gaffe in the face of what was clearly an issue that had little or nothing to do with Muslims.

I am personally; and admonish others not to be angered by your posturing when you asked that government should stop sponsoring Muslims to Mecca. I present you a compare and contrast format of the Israel and Saudi Arabian [Meccan] pilgrimages.

a. There were 200 persons involved in the Israeli trip whereas there are a thousand and over persons making the Hajj trip yearly. b. The Israeli trip was the first of its kind [I stand to be corrected]; the Hajj pilgrimage has been on for decades now.

c. Whiles the Israel trip was ‘customized’ for pastors, Hajj is open for all Muslims who can afford the journey.

d. Year in and out, the Hajj Board/Committee has announced fares for prospective pilgrims. The last of which was $ 3,100 cash to be paid, the Israeli trip was fully sponsored at least per what we know.

e. Government is/was supposed to assist at the diplomatic level to acquire visas for Hajj pilgrims and same would have been the case for the pastors.

f. Lastly, whiles admitting her role as a ‘facilitator’ of this trip, NEVER has any government ever funded the Hajj even at the level of pre-financing to be reimbursed. Every penny is paid from the pockets of prospective pilgrims.

We have in times past coexisted as brothers and very good neighbours at the inter religious level. That is a source of pride and a rallying point whenever politics threatens to create a deeper crack between us at that level.

The Accra – Jeddah – Accra ticket that pilgrims fly to and from the hajj, their accommodation and upkeep are catered for by the fares that the authorities charge. After all, it is a pilgrimage for those who can afford it.

There is a free component though and that is hinged to tickets that the Saudi government gives to be used as it were by officials of the hajj organizing committee. The disbursement of theses gratuitous tickets across political dispensation is sickening to say the least.

Where party lobbyists and loyalists are given multiple tickets they intend sell to others but that is a sad reality and we pray that a day comes when we can look back to a system less on nepotism, cronyism and favoritism. [So help us God]

From the above, I wish to notify [educate if you like] Rev. Prof. Martey and the many others who thought and sadly continue to think like him, the Hajj pilgrimage comes at a cost borne by prospective pilgrims.

May Allah accept that of those who embarked on it and may this year [2013] Hajj be a resounding success. May Allah bless our homeland Ghana.

Very Sincerely Yours, SIGNED Abdur Rahman Shaban Alfa