The Attorney General (left) with the National Chief Imam
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Dame, yesterday gave the assurance that he will take a leading role in ensuring that appropriate regulations are enacted that would lead to the upholding of the values of religious tolerance in schools and the country at large.
He took issues with the absence of such regulations in schools in the country, as he tackled the recent misunderstanding over the Ramadan fasting at the Wesley Girls’ High School.
He gave the assurance when he led a delegation to the residence of the National Chief Imam Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu following an invitation extended to him by the cleric to discuss growing religious intolerance in the country.
Government, he said to the relief of his hosts, is “committed to ensuring the prevalence of religious tolerance in the country.”
“Ghana will continue to be an oasis of peace,” he said, adding that “I am aware about recent developments which threatened the peaceful coexistence of the religious groups in the country. Indeed I grew up in a mission school, Adisadel College, where there were Christians as well as Muslims. There were no challenges as each practiced their own faiths. Although the Sunday church service was institutionalised Muslims were free to practice their faith without inhibition.”
We should all, he said, observe the changes that come about in society and act accordingly.
His aspiration as the chief legal advisor to government, he said, is to work towards religious tolerance.
According to him, Ghana’s strength lies in the prevailing religious tolerance within her confines, a reality which has seen the appointment of a Muslim Vice President in the person of Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, a personality who the AG added serves as a symbolic bridge between the two faiths.
The appointment of a Muslim Supreme Court Judge, meritoriously is another evidence of the interfaith peace prevailing in the country, he told the Chief Imam who responded with ‘Allahu Akbar!’ to wit ‘God is Great!’
While recognising the MoU towards restoring and enhancing trust between Christians and Muslims as per the recent engagement between leaders of the two faiths under the auspices of the Peace Council, the AG gave another assurance that government will ensure that “all goes well in our common quest for the prevalence of peace.”
“Ultimately we must allow for the prevalence of the basic rules and regulations of schools but while doing so we must not derogate the faith of others,” he said.
On a recent report that he discussed the succession plan for the next Chief Imam with a guest, he said the whole issue was misrepresented.
He recalled how a gentleman called on him in his office in the person of Sheikh Abu Fail Maikano of Prang, a leading member of the Tijanniyya sect of Islam.
The young man, he said, asked him about what was being done about a succession plan for the next Chief Imam to which he asked his guest “who would be your successor as head of the Tijanniyyas when you are no more? Will one of the members of your delegation succeed you? He said no, explaining that his successor will come from his family. I then told him that if that is the case he should not be concerned with who becomes the next Chief Imam,” the AG said.
Continuing, the AG said government has no business about who succeeds the National Chief Imam, the subject being as he put it, the responsibility of members of the Islamic faith.
In Christianity too, he said, government has no hand in who heads the Methodist, Presbyterian or Catholic churches. “The state is not concerned about who heads the sects or faiths,” he stressed.
“Following our discussion with the young man, social media was agog with a misrepresentation of what I said during the engagement,” he said, adding that “I am not on social media, I am not on Facebook and Twitter. An investigation was carried out subsequently and the fake accounts deactivated thereof,” he disclosed, adding “the misrepresentation was of concern to the Vice President.”
He said that all that the government does is to ensure that members of the faiths practice without inhibition, pointing at the facilitation of the annual Hajj of Muslims and the construction of the National Cathedral evidences of such official efforts.
He promised to continue to work with the Association of Muslim Lawyers on issues pertaining to Islamic norms where necessary.
The Chief Imam, on his part, expressed gratitude for the assurances and visit of the Justice Minister, and prayed for the continuance of peace in the country.
The Holy Quran, he said, enjoins Muslims to avoid remarks which are harsh and have the tendency to disturb the peace, saying “God has favoured us with peace and so we should reciprocate the gesture by being grateful to him so he would shower more blessings upon us.”
The Chief Imam gave his guest a copy of the translated version of the Holy Quran and fabrics as mementos of the visit.
The Justice Minister was accompanied by a Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Tanko Amadu; the Solicitor-General, Helen Awo Ziwu and Ms. Yvonne Bannerman, a senior official of the Ministry of Justice. Also in the entourage was Lawyer Musa Ahmed.
Supporting the National Chief Imam to host the guests were some members of his advisory board such as the Chairman Alhaji Gado Mohammed, Alhaji Sardauna Kadiri English and Alhaji Sidik Jimala, including a representative of the Chief Imam of the Ahlun Sunna Sect of Islam.
By A.R. Gomda