Liberia: Muslims denounce constitutional proposal to 'Christianize' Liberia
Liberia is expected to hold a Constitutional Referendum prior to the crucial 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections. But debate surrounding one of the propositions which calls for declaring Liberia a ‘Christian State’ appears to be causing discomfort in the country, particularly in the Muslim Community.
As The Public Agenda is carefully following the debate, it has afforded Mohamed M. Komara, a prominent personality of the Muslim Community the opportunity to compile this report following a press conference held by the National Muslim Council of Liberia (NMCL) over the weekend in Monrovia, saying that the proposal aims at imposing all features of prejudices against all other faiths as well as to award accompanying preferential treatments of national life to the Christian religion.
The National Muslim Council of Liberia has suspended its membership in the Inter Religious Council of Liberia (NMCL), with immediate effects. In a press release issued in Monrovia on Friday at its headquarters, the National Muslim Council cited as reason for severing its long standing inter-faith collaboration, the position taken by the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) to support the proposition that intends to create Liberia as a Christian Nation.
According to the National Muslim Council, ‘it finds it unfortunate at this critical juncture in our post conflict history that the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) will take an institutional position to support “Liberia’s national identity as a CHRISTIAN NATION”, as articulated by Reverend Arnold Hill, heading a seven man delegation at the hearing conducted recently by the House Joint Standing Committee of the National Legislature, headed by Chairman on Good Governance, Representative Larry Yaquoi of Nimba County.
In a wisely worded statement, the National Muslim Council (NMCL) disclosed that “it has become unequivocally clear to the Muslim Community of Liberia over the last few months that the LCC has embarked on a carefully crafted plan to create a “Christian Nation”. This plan, the Muslim Council says, aims at imposing all features of prejudices against all other faiths as well as to award accompanying preferential treatments of national life to the Christian religion”.
“As the Inter Religious Council of Liberia was founded to foster ideals contrary to those now being pursued by the LCC, the NMCL is compelled by the prevailing realities to suspend its participation in any future activities of the Inter Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL);” a group of which the NMCL is a founding member.
The release further revealed that the Inter Religious Council of Liberia “Was established by Liberia’s legendary religious leaders, in the distinguished personalities of Arch-Bishop Michael Kpakala Francis, Sheikh Kafumba F. Konneh and Arch-Bishop Nah Dixon, amongst others”. According to the press release, those renowned religious leaders of Liberia established the Inter religious Council of Liberia (IRCL) to serve as a “Monument to assist post war Liberia to engender religious tolerance and human fraternity”.
Plight of Religious Fanatics in contemporary political discourse
For those who have nothing but harmer, every problem is a nail (to be hammered or pounded). This old adage describes the plight of religious fanatics in contemporary national political dialogue of Liberia. They fumble now and tomorrow to convince any rational critic that the cause of the abysmal state of national affairs, marred by grinding poverty and perennial sociopolitical malaise, is the absence of a Christian Nation’s social engineering, its political machinery and economic planning. For the rational observers, such as Boima Dukuly, “This argument of the Christian religious fanatic is weak and invalid because Liberia’s leadership profile and major government appointments since independence in 1847 continue is dominated entirely by the Church.
The 1980 military coup was executed by Christian soldiers and the government they toppled for the egregious crime of rampant corruption was led by a Christian (Tolbert) who was president of the World Baptist Alliance. Yet another Baptist (Charles Taylor), with the support of mostly Liberian Christians, waged a dehumanizing war against a sitting Baptist president (Samuel K. Doe) for nepotism and corruption.
The death of E. J. Roye, the rivalry or envy between mulatto and dark skinned settlers, as well as the unfavorable impression created by those early Christians on the natives are misdemeanors that helped shape the present day ethos or character of the Liberian society and set the stage for perennial scramble for gains, social inequality and injustice”.
“When this historical audit is conducted on the religions in Liberia, Islam, Christianity and African Traditional Religion (ATR), which one of them will pass the moral test to appeal for a constitutional amendment to skew the laws in its favor”? He asked.
Egalitarian Principles are Liberia’s foundation, Not Christian Principles
(See 1847 Constitution, Article I, section III)
“All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictate of their own consciences, without obstruction or molestation from others….” This article clearly points to the secular foundation of Liberia.
A Muslim scholar (Mohamed A. Dukuly) says that a “Secular State does not mean there is No God. A secular state recognizes God, but it only declares to officially be neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. Atheism, unlike secularism, does not recognize God. While the secularist says there is God but that the Nation should not establish a religion or interfere in religious affairs, the atheist or atheism denies the existence of God. So Liberia, like the overwhelming majority of the world’s advanced, progressive and civilized Nations, is a Secular State, that recognizes and respects God, but that does not use religious edicts and decrees to rule its citizens.
“Secularism means that religious groups do not interfere in the affairs of the state while the state does not interfere in the religious affairs of the citizens. Secularism seeks to protect freedom of religious belief and practice of all citizens. Secularism does not curtail religious belief or practice, rather, it ensures freedom of thought, conscience and practice apply equally to all citizens, believers and non-believers. Democracy thrives only in secular societies for it is only in such societies that there is fairness and equality amongst the citizens”.
Christian Nation vs Unification Policy
Chapter III, Article 5 (a) of Liberia’s Constitution stipulates that “The Republic shall aim at strengthening the national integration and unity of the people of Liberia, regardless of ethnic, regional or other differences, into one body politic; and the Legislature shall enact laws promoting national unification and the encouragement of all citizens to participate in government”.
On May 14 of every year, Liberia observes a National Unification Day as national holiday. The annual observance clearly supports the country’s Unification Policy that was formulated to unify the nation against every possible division of, discrimination and distinction amongst the Liberian citizens on the consideration of ethnic differences, regional and religious rivalries, amongst other debilitating social and cultural chasms and maladies.
This is why true nationalists and rational critics of the proposed Christian Nation, such as Jurah Sannoh, Archie Sannoh, Mamelsee Kaba, amongst others; and even the truly eminent non-Muslim rationalists, are vehemently against the call to Christianize Liberia.
The illegal and immoral origin of “Proposition 24”
So, if this is the case, then why a call for Christian Nation and how did it become so important as to reach to the house. According to Ali Sylla, Mohammed A. Dukuly and others, during gathering of the view of Liberian people by the CRC on the constitution, only in 9 of the 73 electoral districts of Liberia the Christian State was suggested. This means that 64 electoral districts of Liberia don not want any Christian State in Liberia. Ali Syllah, Jurah Sannoh, Mohamed Dukuly and other true democracy advocates say that Proposition 24 is not the will of the majority of Liberians and, thus, it is undemocratic and unpatriotic as well as illegal and immoral for CRC and its masterminds to impose Proposition 24 on the Legislature and the Liberian people.
They say if “Democracy is the will of the people and if the House/National Legislature truly respects the will of the majority of Liberians they represent, they should throw out Proposition 24 through the windows”.
Proposed Christian Nation vs the genuine fear of rational critics
Though Liberia is still a Secular State and is not yet a Christian Nation, and even though the Liberian constitution still stipulates that there shall be no “State Religion”, critics such as Jura Sannoh, are quick to point out the glaring contradictions in government attitude regarding the application of the organic law of Liberia. “Governments of Liberia, assign national status to mere Christian holidays in Liberia, without any corresponding respect for holiday of Muslims”. Jura Sannah, an outspoken critic, says because of this “There is great danger of sectarian rivalry, religious bigotry, intolerance and grinding suppression in the proposition to declare Liberia a Christian Nation”.
If viewed from a historical vintage point, the proposition to Christianize Liberia is really terrifying. Although nobody knows the hidden motifs of the proponents who are trying to make Liberia a ‘Christian Nation’, the history of the world and its religions can provide us some omen. According to a professor at the UL, before the Treaty of Westphalia in 1814 or thereabout, which led to the creation of modern nation states, the Church held complete power over what is now modern Europe. The laws or religious edicts emanated from the Popes and were known as Papal Bull”.
Other renowned scholars, such as the legendary author of Egypt, Professor Mohammad Kutb, amongst others, stressed that the true reason behind the SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE in the Christian World was the dogmatic, harsh and draconian way the church ruled in its Nations. Any rational thought, different religious belief, scientific reasoning (social or natural) that went contrary to the view held church was termed heretics and condemned. Even the products of scientific observation or discovery were subjected to the whims and caprices of the religious clerics. In some, if not most instances, the holder of such view who stood firm to defend his point was punished by death, usually burnt alive at the stakes.
The devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know
While very few Liberians are speaking against the specter of religious fanaticism and latent conflicts imbedded in the proposition to Christianize Liberia, it is prudent to remember the adage that “The devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know”. If secularism recognizes God and only prevents sectarian rivalry, religious disputes, bitter religious strife and the subjugation by State Religion of all other citizens who believe and practice otherwise, it is better to stay with the Secular state we know than the religious state that is still unknown and is disguised under the sleeve of its known and hidden proponents. Europeans did not oppose the subjugation of political authority to the rule of the Church because of disbelief; rather, it was the many horrendous and egregious abuses meted out against free conscience and reason by the priestly clerics. Rational critics say, Liberia does not deserve another round of inhumane treatment, deprivation and grinding oppression visited upon its people since the dawn of colonialist-settler hegemonies; and probably that is why 64 electoral districts — 84% of the total electoral districts of Liberia — don’t know where CRC manufactured Proposition 24.