Is it the beginning or climax of political fanatism or Christian fundamentalism in Malawi?
The burning/demolishing of almost 18 mosques in the North on 18th June 1999 soon after results of the 15th June 1999 General elections, has shocked many and left many questions unanswered. The destruction, burning and breaking of glasses in some mosques, among them Mhuju Masjid, Rumpphi Central Masjid, Rumphi Central 2(Ntangwanika Ibadah) Masjid, Nkhozo Estate Masjid, Enukwenu Masjid, Chisyombe Masjid, Chiwavi 1 Masjid, Chiwavi 2 Masjid, Chiwavi 3 Masjid and Upper Chasefu Masjid , done simultaneously within the same period of time on the same day in three major areas of the North namely Rumphi, Mzimba and Mzuzu convinced all that it was not done accidentally but it was well planned and co-ordinated.
The Muslim Association sent three delegations to the North. The reports backed with photos and video tapes which were shown to the Muslim Community at a specially convened meeting were very shocking: Masjids were either burnt, or destroyed or window panes broken.
The estimated cost of repairing/rebuilding them stands at U$450000. Muslims were harassed and forced to leave to the South and those non-Muslims of the North who were pro-UDF had together with Muslims, their property vandalised, food stuffs and business wares were taken - estimated at U$65000.
Vendors from the South in Karonga seem to have suffered most as their wares in the market were looted . Tenants from the South in estates are alleged to have been forced to leave for the South by some Estate owners as they were about to receive their annual dues for they were accused of supporting the winning party.
Some Muslims spent days in the bush and others found their way to the South. They hated any one who is pro UDF, who is a Muslim, who is Yao and who is pro Muluzi. Thus any attribute to H.E. Dr. Bakili Muluzi (the State President) if found in an individual, that individual became a target. Their crime, was Muluzi who is from the South, who is a Yao by tribe, who is a Muslim and President of UDF - had won the election while their party (Alliance) whose Vice President is President of AFORD who is from the North, a Tumbuka by tribe, is a Christian, had lost an election marked free and substantially fair by all international and local observers.
What surprised the Muslim world is not only the damage to the mosques but also failure by Government machinery to protect the victims, failure by most organisations and leaders (with the exception of the Catholic Bishops) to directly condemn the burning/breaking of the mosques. But worse still failure by the Diplomatic Community to openly condemn the turmoil at its initial stage was unbelievable. Several groups including Human rights organisations and Government started condemning only after the perpetrators had achieved their malicious wishes on the mosques. The Muslim Association of Malawi spent more time behind curtains calling for Government, Political party leaders and other groups to protect the victims and condemn the perpetrators.
All along the nation was meant to understand by efforts of the Western and local media that it is the Muslims who are violent, fundamentalists, fanatic etc. However, now the opposite has in Malawi proved to be true. Muslims were highly provoked but were calm and patient. It is not because they cannot win the physical and spiritual fight as others may imagine, but strategically it was not to the interest of long term Nation Building in Malawi.
Until now many questions are not answered. The search goes on. One thing is clear. The demolition of mosques in the North was a planned action by a group who has both political and religious fanatism as well as deep rooted hatred against Muslims. With time they shall be known and with time the punishment / curse of God – they will not be able to run away from it. With time too those who wrongly think the Muslims of Malawi are daft and do not possess God given guidance shall be proven wrong.