Muslim association of Malawi was established in 1944. It is the oldest Muslim body in the country. When talking of any Islamic growth in the region and Malawi in particular. The Association and some other Islamic organizations have played a very big role. In order to provide a brief review of some of the indicators of Islamic growth in this country, the following areas will be scrutinized and these are : growth or development in the areas of Organizational capacity, Politics, Socio-Economic involvement , human rights, good governance , reproductive health , HIV and AIDS and Culture.
2. Organizational Capacity
The growth of Islam in Malawi can be seen from many angles among them is the way in which many Islamic organizations operate. Under this heading, few other sub headings can be discussed and these are: registration, effectiveness and programmes
Apart from the Muslim Association of Malawi, Africa Muslim agency and Lilongwe Islamic Movement among the few that are old, Malawi has registered in the past decades, a number of Islamic organizations. There are also a very good number of non registered Islamic organizations that are doing the work but they are not registered due to a number of reasons among them are. Ignorance on modalities of registration, lack of transparency and this can also be found in the registered organizations that are only known to individuals and benefit no one but themselves. The impact of not registering an organization is a lot just to mention a few is that an organization can not apply for any funding locally as well as internationally. Recognition is minimal therefore reducing representation in any activities of high importance in the country. While there is a great impact on failing to register an organization, there is also a bad impact of a registered organization if for example an organization fails to pay annual subscription fee for affiliation etc. Organizations do hold annual general meetings where affiliate organizations are invited to participate in elections of the office bearers regardless of the faith but Muslims have not done well in this part, something that needs to be done if we are develop in this regard.
Although some of these Islamic organizations have well delivered to the development of this country like building many praying houses called Massajid although there is a great challenge as well to civic educate the people on how to run these holy places and never to wait for some one who donated it to look after it. It has been observed that most of these Islamic organizations are not effective enough due to many reasons like those mentioned in 2.1 above. In addition to that, there has been lack of intervention; in the end duplication of work and programmes is a result of such ineffectiveness. To a certain extent another contributing factor of ineffectiveness is that as Muslims, there has not been a move to work as a block, if only the Ummah concept was to be understood, Muslims would have been rejoicing for they were going to be most successful in their endeavors. The recent strike by girls at mama khadija secondary school and failure to control the situation would be a very good example.
There has been progress in terms of programmes that Islamic organizations have been offering to Malawians Muslims and non Muslims alike. Some of these programmes like Education where we have seen a very good number of educational institutions that have been established in different parts of the country. These institutions have created employment to the citizens of this country while at the same time they have helped government in the education sector. However, there are some challenges that have been identified which can be mitigated if measures of good management were put in place. For example it is a well known factor that Education is one of the key challenges to Muslims not only in Malawi but the world over. Presently, Muslims in Malawi are the least educated hence the high illiteracy levels among them. In order to eradicate this problem, a well coordinated effective and efficient effort is needed at all levels. Some of the ways in solving these challenges is that the running of these institutions should meet the functionalism theory that each and every community member where these institutions operate should be part of the process. Allah Says "We sent not a Messenger except (to teach) in the language of their nation in order
to make (things) clear to them? Q 14:4.
Therefore if these institutions understood this verse, they were not going to hire foreigners who know nothing but for the sake of looking down upon capable Malawians who even if we look at their certificates Malawians were doing better in the Universities where these expatriates graduated from. But when they come to Malawi, they become heads of these institutions, principals, even if one is not an expert in that field or do not have any knowledge of the profession; he is made to head that particular Institution. This reminds me some time when Dr H K Banda asked the Malawians to work under the British until they had experienced their work and were able to do without the white people. The British went away and Malawians became ministers till today . The same happened in South Africa with Nelson Mandela although there are still questions of who runs the economy but the black South Africans have realized that they have a long way to go.
Recently there has been another blasphemous video of the Prophet (peace be upon him )who is the best creation but Malawian Muslims including big organizations argue that they can not protest because they have not watched the film but I do not remember one day when they did anything reacting to similar occurrences before...... anyway
It is a fact that Islam does not differentiate between State and Religion, the two work in tandem only that it has been difficult to work with people of the left school who have learned that the two are different things while they do the opposite. The Muslim political participation has developed in the sense that many people now understand that politics is everywhere and for people to lead, get education, work and survive they have to involve themselves into politics in one way or the other. The only challenge that has been there is that the Muslims have been taken for a ride all the time since Dr Banda's period. It is a known factor that People who helped Kamuzu a lot in and out side the Country were Muslims, The First democratically elected President of this country was a Muslim, these are historical facts that are not been recognized but it's a fact. The problem that Muslims have been facing is that individualism and self enrichment within these individuals is what has divided the Ummah and made them realize that politics is the game of Numbers. In here it has been observed that politically Muslims have realized that all Muslims should not belong to only one party or the so called ruling party. Since there are a lot of parties, there has been a need to join and participate and contribute under any capacity in all those parties that exist in the country. This has been evidenced by the on going wrangles that are between the Muslim Association of Malawi and others who feel that by declaring that we will work with government of the day some take this statement as saying they are cowards. Indeed every organization has its own politics, but when one says we shall work with you no matter what, and then it becomes difficult to criticize such a person when he/she behaves badly. In this regard we have not watched on how or what we mean by our statements. May be some questions need to be asked, the general elections are coming in 2014, how many Muslim members of parliament are there competing in all parts of the country? How many Muslims are they represented in all political parties because we have learned that Malawi does not belong to one party. So are we ready? Ready to govern or ready to be used? Or ready to provide names to be nominated for board membership, embassies like Egypt and not Japan or the UN, WHY? These are some question Muslims need to be asking themselves now? Peoples Party has few Muslims who have emerged winners but this is not the only party where all Muslims should belong, who is in United Democratic Party and other parties. Why are we not there? So if we are not there, then one day it happens that where we were not represented do we expect to have a Muslim representation when we were not there in the first place? We need to develop in this regard as well.
4. Social- Economic Participation
It will be difficult for one to analyze whether Muslims have developed in this regard . There are a number of factors that can be looked at and these are.
It is important to realize that most of the socio-economic challenges the Malawian Muslims multifaceted, some have been mentioned above like education and others will be discussed letter in reproductive health , human rights and governance issues just to mention a few. Therefore, for one to examine this area in order to find out whether Islam has developed needs an extra effort. All in all, one can take an example of the Malawi National Population census which took place, which Muslim organizations participated, on what capacity? May be to add on that, one could argue that participating in those activities whether voluntarily or through any means has a lot to benefit the Ummah some of the benefits are: we are doing ourselves a favour because no one will cheat you, we are helping the government in development, we are blocking false information that would have been given in order to minimize he National cake as it is always the case. Also one has to know that social economical participation or involvement is linked to many other aspects that have been mentioned before like education and poverty and these are the areas in which Muslims suffer greatly.
5. Reproductive Health
There are a number of issues that can be discussed under the theme of reproductive health like, voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC) against cultural, traditional and religious beliefs, family planning, and early and late child bearing, breast feeding immunization and nutrition, contraceptives, male and female condom use.
5.1 HIV and Aids
HIV and Aids Pandemic is killing the nation and Muslims are not spared although there is still a denial in most of our Muslim communities to accept it and get treated, to go for a Voluntary Test, or just to hear /learn or talk about it. Islam has done well in this regard and this can be viewed from their participation in National Aids Commission Programmes country wide, the birth of Mai Aisha Sisters Aids Network ...... and many other organizations advocating on HIV and Aids . Still there is a room for improvement like taking a proactive role in the implementation of these programmes .
Ever since world health organization issued a decree in 2008 that voluntary medical male circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV. Muslims in the country have not taken advantage to take the whole project and run it professionally. Thanks God that the exercise has seen many men accepting the knife without considering that they will become Muslims as previously alleged. The same with breast feeding where government officials in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) made the advice in the country that breast feeding was the best way to fighting stunted growth in children and builds a healthy family that culminates into a healthy society. Muslims should also have taken advantage and inform the government that not the six months exclusive breast feeding you are talking but the Quran Says 2 years and bring the family planning that Islam advocates at the same time.
5.2.1 Change of Mind set in Cultural and religious beliefs
Muslims can take a leading role in changing the mind set of some religious and cultural beliefs. There is a need to civic educate the people on certain cultural beliefs for they are detrimental to their lives. For instance, the tendency of denying medication alleging that their bodies can not be regarded as test tubes and examples of this are many in Malawi. There is lot of cases where government has complained that people deny taking medication because of cultural, traditional or religious beliefs. A good example can be the just ended breast feeding week where many women did not attend because of such beliefs among others. Furthermore, recently the USA Lama Linda University professionals from California in corroboration with the ministry of health and seventh day Adventist launched a two weeks campaign in Thyolo District which aimed at screening women whether they have signs of cervical and breast cancer which are the most prevalent form of cancer among women, with an 80% mortality rate. According to Kayanage .P MBBS writing in Malawi med journal 17;(2):43-44 argues that the study conducted in 1998 among the women attending family planning and under five clinic at the largest referral hospital in Blantyre Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital showed that knowledge on cervical cancer among this population was very poor, 11% of women interviewed knew about cervical cancer and none of them heard about smear pap test. Islam beliefs that every disease has its medicine, therefore Muslims should be taking a leading role in educating such people having such thinking in the country.
5.2.2 Community Participation
For the above to work better, if only Muslims understood that Allah says .. and hold on to the rope of Allah and do not be divided..... Although there are different levels of community participation, all of them recognize and build on the strengths of, and participation within the community, and assume that community members know best what their problems are and what solutions will work for them. Community workers or health professionals may assist community efforts through facilitating, rather than initiating or directing initiatives. Therefore It is imperative to know who one is talking to, for instance the programme will work effectively if proper training are given, workshops, different types of campaigns can be done to specific target groups with specific topics to Traditional authorities, Chiefs, Village headsmen, Religious leaders, Sheikhs, Older women, educators member of parliament ,Business community and the youth.
The themes discussed in this article are just a synopsis of many themes that can reveal if at all there has been a growth of Islam in this country. However, looking at the developments around the country, one may conclude that despites many other challenges. Islam is yet to Grow given the fertile land is has in this country.