Thursday, 29 June 2017

President Akufo-Addo's advice to Muslims to be wary of religious extremists

The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has entreated Ghanaian Muslims to be cautious of persons who hide behind the religion to perpetuate heinous crimes in the society. Speaking at a ceremony to mark this year's Eid ul Fitr, the President urged the different Islamic groups in the country to work towards peaceful co-existence, and be wary of ideologies that may pervert a beautiful religion like Islam for selfish and destructive ends. The president's call is in the right direction but it must not be seen as being addressed to only Muslims but rather adherents of all religions in Ghana, and indeed the world at large.

Frank Sinatra, in the Playboy Magazine, of February 1962 stated inter alia that Christ is revered as the Prince of Peace, but more blood has been shed in His name than any other figure in history. That, there were men of God who destroyed the educational treasures at Alexandria, who perpetrated the Inquisition in Spain, and who burned the witches at Salem. And that over 25,000 organized religions flourish on this planet, but the followers of each think all the others are miserably misguided and probably evil as well. There have been many instances in the past where some religious leaders capitalised on the vulnerabilities of their followers and led them to take certain actions which are most despicable.

One typical example occurred on November 18, 1978, when more than 900 followers of Rev. Jim Jones participated in a mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. The current trend however is the emergence of religious extremist groups like Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, ISIL, and the Lord's Resistance Army. These groups have wreaked havoc and continue to do so on many nations across the world. Thousands if not millions of lives have been lost as a result of their activities. Luckily for Ghana, despite the existence of many religions, adherents have lived in harmony for all this while. It is a marvel to some, how Ghanaians of all religions continue to live in peace and unity. Above all, they inter-marry and cohabitate.

However, this is no time for complacency. We cannot regard ourselves as too different from our neighbours where there is religious conflict. It is a fact that Ghanaians just like other people, are very passionate about their religion. It is no surprise therefore they accord their religious leaders with much respect and are more than willing to take anything and everything from them line, hook and sinker. Indeed, they consider it a sin to challenge or to subject anything from the pastor or Imam to scrutiny. That is where the fear lies. What happens when a pretentious priest misleads his followers? Thankfully, both the Bible and the Quran have warned against false prophets and given indications of how to identify them. In the book of Matthew chapter 7 for instance, Jesus warned against false prophets, who come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly, are ferocious wolves. Jesus again stated that false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect. The Quran portrays Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets which is understood by mainstream Sunni and Shia Muslims to mean that anyone who claims to be a new prophet after him is a false prophet. Armed with these truths, Christians and Muslims have no reason to fall prey to these false prophets. Religion is very important when religious doctrines are applied appropriately.

Just as the President stated if citizens really live by their religious creeds, it will show in the country’s level of development and behaviour in public life. The ethical foundation of religion must give citizens the impetus to enjoin right and forbid wrong. The practice of religion must not be limited to prayer and worship only but must be a way of life that citizens should be able to use positively in providing the guidance that is needed for the progress of the country. More importantly, a true believer must be able to decipher a genuine prophet from a fake one. We must strive to reject fake prophecies and wrongful teachings. Religious extremism ordinarily should be a positive phenomenon, when adherents uphold the true values and teachings of the religion to the highest. But unfortunately, that has not been the case.

The current situation is a disservice to the great majority of believers who have thrived and continue to assert religion as a call to love and serve humanity.


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