23 September 2012

Tanzania: Rational Thing and Not Demonstrations is the Solution

LEARNED Muslims and spiritual leaders are not surprised by the blasphemous film that dominated the news this month.It is not new seeing an insane person create a lie and repeat it seven times to influence people to think it is true. But those who want to wipe the image of the benevolent prophet Muhammad (PBUH) often find themselves forgotten altogether. A good example is the case of the Satanic Verses.

Without doubt the film will soon die a natural death.Depicting the prophet in any negative way always raises curiosity about the prophet. The more people try to publish negative things about Muhammad (PBUH) the more curious are non Muslims into finding out about his life, achievements and successes.

The above postulate comes from a prominent Quran reader Sheikh AL hadi, who said that it was interesting that last year, after the month of Ramadhan there were many celebrations of prophet Muhammad conducted in the country. "It was three times the number we used to see in the past between the 70's and 90's," said the scholar.

Now that the dust has settled and many people had the opportunity to express their emotions and love for the prophet, it is time for the nation and Muslims in particular to contemplate.One important element of the reactions from Muslims over the negative film that was produced in the US is their appeal to the US government to make sure they hold accountable the person behind the blasphemy.

This of course requires amendment of the laws that will address blasphemous laws to extend and cover all religions.However, more important is the solidarity expressed by Muslims around the world. Islam does not allow Muslims to condone violence. They are only allowed to defend themselves when under attack.

Since the production was done through electronic medium, we saw scholars use the same electronic media to denounce the degrading the prophet. This ought to be emulated by the next generation.Maybe some people out there have resorted to provoke the Muslim community just because they want to brand the religion with new names.

After September 11, as if it was not enough to call Muslims 'terrorists', enemies of civilization provoked Muslims and then sat back to watch radicalism invoked.Seeing demonstrators on rampage attacking embassies and missions in the Arab world and Africa was something that excited enemies of Islam. Again, they wanted to prove their postulates that Islam is associated with fanaticism.

The demonstrators are a fraction of Muslims, who were bitter and again it was unfortunate that they fell for the trap once again exposing them as radicals.It is high time we learnt that there are many other effective ways of expressing our sentiments and concern whenever our religion comes under attack.

Let us use forums such as congregational prayers, news letters, magazines, TV programmes, Twitter, facebook, blogs and mosques to teach the public the true religion and status of the prophet.Recent statements by President Jakaya Kikwete and some Tanzanian Muslim leaders condemning the violence against American diplomats expresses the model of the character of our political and spiritual leaders in promoting peace and tranquility not only in the country but around the world.

It is important to heed to the call by the leaders that the issue of blasphemy that was conveyed by the film should be resolved through peaceful dialogue.It is again upon us Muslims to understand that the US is home to all faiths, including millions of Muslim Americans and is committed to religious freedom.

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this year said on Friday, September 14, "The United States Government had absolutely nothing to do with the inflammatory video circulating on the internet that has led to protests in a number of other countries. We absolutely reject its disgraceful content and hateful message."

A statement issued by the US Embassy states that: "Our Embassy in Dar es Salaam is proud to partner with leaders of all faiths. Mutual understanding, cultural and academic exchange programmes with Tanzania's interfaith community, including Islam, is one of the highest priorities of the US Embassy in Tanzania."

It further said that the US development assistance programmes allow the government to work jointly with religious, civic, and private sector leaders and support their efforts to bring a brighter future to all Tanzanians. For example, the US government, through the Millennium Challenge Corporation is supporting a major infrastructure project - a 100-megawatt underwater cable to improve power distribution to Zanzibar.

Through the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) malaria eradication the programme in Zanzibar has dramatically decreased the incidence of malaria on the Isles.The US President's Plan for Emergency AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) HIV/AIDS programmes has saved thousands of lives in Tanzania.

In addition, USAID's Feed the Future, a food security programme provides agricultural and economic assistance while improving the quality of life for all Tanzanians - of which the Muslim population comprises a significant portion.On people-to-people exchanges, the Embassy engages with Muslim youth at the Information Resource Centre, American Corners in Unguja, Pemba, and Mwanza, or through outreach programmes where it engages in open, honest dialogue.

Since 2002, the American people have invested $1,090,000 in grants to preserve and support Tanzania's cultural heritage, including the Kizimkazi and Micheweni mosques in Zanzibar and the Kilwa Kisiwani ruins through the World Monuments Fund. In addition, the American people have invested over $49 million in the Tanzania 21st Century Education Programme in Zanzibar and Mtwara.

The producer of the inflammatory film depicting negatively the prophet cannot be generalised to be representing the people of the US.I have, for instance, received several messages from Christian friends in the US, who have expressed deep sorrow over the offensive film.The American people who are exposed to Islam are always respectful of our religion. I remember an incident some years back while in Washington DC, a waitress at a restaurant served me pork.

Fortunately, a Christian who was in our company alerted me that it was pork. It was then that the manager came to apologise to us. It was obvious that the waitress, who served me was ignorant about Islam.It is a challenge therefore to all of us to reach out to the people of the world and teach them the true religion of Islam and how much our beloved prophet had accomplished his mission and left a legacy that led to the world civilization.

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