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Malawi Muslims Reject Homosexuality Vote

Published: 22/02/2014 04:47:49 PM GMT
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LILONGWE – As debate on whether to decriminalize homosexuality or not rages on in Malawi, the Muslim community in the Southern African nation is against proposals to hold a national referendum to decide on the matter, describing the move as a threat to the “sanctity of religion”. “This proposal is a threat for the sanctity of religio...(more)

LILONGWE – As debate on whether to decriminalize homosexuality or not rages on in Malawi, the Muslim community in the Southern African nation is against proposals to hold a national referendum to decide on the matter, describing the move as a threat to the “sanctity of religion”.

“This proposal is a threat for the sanctity of religion. We can’t therefore support any move which is there to undermine our religious values and uplift anything which is forbidden before God. We reject this proposal in totality,” Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad, Chairperson of Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) told OnIslam.net.

Recently, the country’s two influential umbrella organizations for Christian Churches, Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) and the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) proposed  a referendum to enable the majority of Malawians to decide on whether to legalize homosexuality or not.

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This development followed a move taken by some human rights organizations to seek the intervention of the courts on the same. However, the court ruled against them.

Homosexuality is illegal and criminalized under sections 153 and 156 of the penal code [laws of Malawi].

“By holding a referendum on this matter, it means we are respecting the views of people who are in sin. As believers, we shouldn’t create a room for sin to flourish.

“As Muslims we will not be part to any machinations to hold a referendum on this issue. And in the event that the referendum has been held, we will mobilize all Muslims in this country to shun it,” Sheikh Muhammad said.

“Both Islam and Christianity are very straight forward on homosexuality and homosexuals. Therefore, by calling for a referendum, we are bowing down to pressure from people on an issue which is sin before God. Therefore, we can’t be part to this.”

Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi after Christianity. It accounts for 36% of the country’s now 16million population.

In recent years, the donor community, alongside activists for human rights both local and international have been exerting pressure on the Malawi government to decriminalize homosexuality.

In 2010, the country’s first gay couple got arrested and subsequently jailed. But a presidential pardon following an intervention from the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki moon saved the couple from serving the prison sentence.

Solidarity

The Catholic Church, the country’s largest Christian denomination, has said it stands in solidarity with the Muslim community, while reiterating its commitment to fight “vices which are ant-religious and immoral”.

“Homosexuality is among serious challenges which are threatening to eclipse the power of religion,” Fr George Buleya, secretary general of the Episcopal conference of Malawi (ECM), a mother body of the Catholic Church told OnIslam.net.

“We should therefore as believer stand in solidarity and rise up to fight these threats; otherwise, we’ll wake up one day defeated. The Catholic Church in Malawi will fight all vices which are undermining our religious values.”

Father Buleya added: “As Catholics, we can’t compromise our stand on homosexuality at whatever cost. We would like to reaffirm our commitment to make Malawi a truly religious country. Our stand on this proposed referendum is emphatically NO”.

On his part, Dr. Jodder  Mbewe, General Secretary of Malawi Council of Churches defended the proposal referendum, describing it as a “step in the right direction” to put the debate to rest.

“By proposing for a referendum, we are not in any way trying to go against the teachings of the Bible on homosexuality, but we would like to accord the majority of Malawians and opportunity to decide on this matter, once and for all,” Mbewe told OnIslam.net.

“Allowing only a few people to sit in court to decide on behalf of the majority of the Malawi populace, who are guided by teachings of either the Bible or the Quran, is a stab in the back,” said Dr. Mbewe.

“This debate is holding back the progress of Malawi in many aspects. Much attention is being focused on this matter. We would like therefore to put this debate to an end through a referendum,” he added.

So far, there has never been any response from government on the proposal.

“This proposal has not been brought to our attention. The cabinet hasn’t got anything to this effect. We can’t therefore comment on this proposal until it’s been tabled before cabinet,” Information and Civic Education Minister Brown Mpinganjira, a devout Christian, himself told OnIslam.net.

Sheikh Dinala Chabulika National Coordinator of Islamic Information Bureau (IIB) which provides civic education on issues affecting Muslims in Malawi said homosexuality wasn’t popular among both Muslims and Christians in the country.

“What we have observed is that it is only a few people who are pushing for this for selfish interests. This thing is not popular in the country, because it’s a sin to both Muslims and Christians and it’s also illegal.

How can we then promote something which is against our religious conviction and is not allowed in Malawi?” wondered Chabulika.

“Both the laws of God and those of the land are telling us that this shouldn’t be promoted. why then should we waste our time and resources to hold a referendum?”

“Sin shouldn’t hold this nation to ransom. We should not glorify things which are there to benefit a sizable grouping of people, but whose consequences have a large and lasting bearing on the whole nation,” Sheikh Muhammad said.

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here

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