Saturday, February 27, 2021

Radical Muslim youth want greater say in Botswana’s political economy

A confidential debate document passed to the Sunday Standard shows how a Botswana based Islamic advocacy organisation, the Botswana Muslim Supreme Council (BMSC) plans to mobilise indigenous Batswana Muslim converts chiefly the youth across the country in an effort to effect social change.

The ultimate plan is to have Islam play a greater role in Botswana’s cultural, political, social and economic spheres.

The document entitled “Muslim vision 2020” details how the Muslim organisation intends to tackle a number of ‘sensitive issues’ to bring about change.

The document states that the general feeling among Muslims is that the status quo needs a degree of improvement and that it will take meticulous planning as well as dedicated resources to establish a reliable network of institutions.

“Muslims in Botswana have longed for Islam compliant institutions for a long time now. This is in spite of the wealth that has been endowed upon the Muslim community. It is unthinkable that we should still be struggling due to lack of access to basic provisions especially with regard to health, education, economic, welfare, and worship facilities,” reads the document.

BMSC says its future strategy must address critical issues concerning Muslim development.

“There are some sensitive issues that need to be tackled in order to pave the way for such development. To achieve the ideals of Vision 20/20, there is need for mobilization of resources and expertise in the various fields of activity,” says BMSC.

The document also states that the intention behind the vision is to lay the ground work and the basic systems for the wholesome development of a viable and healthy Islamic environment that will allow a good establishment of the necessary institutions.

It is a fact, BMSC says, that a number of people who convert to Islam are increasing at a considerable rate.

“This means that by 20/20 we will be dealing with a greater need of Islamic services given that shortfall is already being felt today,” states the document.

According to BMSC, when Batswana exercise their freedom to choose and embrace Islam, they experience an unexpected cultural shock.

“This is due to that Islam has been laced with Indian cultural practices which may be in conflict with Setswana customary practices. This confuses and alienates the new converts from both their own kind and their new family,” says BMSC.

The Council says Muslims, especially indigenous Batswana, need to know the similarities between the Setswana and Islamic cultures to deal with the inconsistencies that they get exposed to in their new life in Islam.

On education, the Council says there is very limited access to Islamic education locally.
Facilitation of basic Islamic learning is of paramount importance for the establishment of a focused and knowledge based Muslim community.

“An outline of a policy governing the Muslim political affiliation and representation needs to be developed. Muslims need a strategy towards establishment of a lobby group. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of our campaign is the establishment of Islamic health facilities,” reads the document.

BMSC says a robust yet effective welfare system has to be put in place for the benefit of poor Muslims and non-Muslims.

“A Zakat Fund must be established and a system of collection and distribution of Zakat must be constructed in compliance with the Islamic Law). Zakat is the amount of money that every adult, mentally stable, free, and financially able Muslim, male and female, has to pay to support specific categories people.”

The Council says that accurate record keeping in all Islamic centres to develop the much needed Muslim statistics and databases that may guide development will be needed.

The youth, BMCS observes is the driving force behind the campaign.

“To achieve our vision we need to dedicate our efforts towards a systematic mobilisation of indigenous Muslims especially. This will prove to be a mammoth task as most are ignorant of the realities of the inconsistencies found among the administrators of Islamic affairs,” said BMSC.

A leading executive member of BMSC Al-Hasan Moemedi Lentswe declined to comment on the matter saying the document was confidential.

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