As debate to legalize homosexuality rages on, a group of young Malawian Muslims have embarked on a drive to sensitize the country’s young Muslim population on its consequences to humanity and Islam.
“Young people seem to have been overtaken by the rising wave of homosexuality. We have young Muslims who are either gays or lesbians. They are finding the act very irresistible,” Omar Maulana, President of Young Muslims Forum (YMF), an organization implementing the initiative, the media.
“They seem to be doing this without realizing its consequences to themselves and their faith. It is this background which has compelled us to embark on this initiative.
“The rising wave of homosexuality is very strong. It is posing a serious threat to the sanctity of religion in Malawi. Both Muslims and Christians should embrace this reality. Our faith is facing a great test, it is therefore vital for religious leaders to wake up and face this challenge with stubbornness,” he added.
The YMF initiative is the first of its kind in Malawi, where homosexuality is illegal, under sections 153 and 156 of the Penal Code (laws of Malawi). Homosexuality acts carry a maximum of 14 years in jail.
Suggesting the new move, Mulana asserted that Muslims cannot close their eyes to the terrible fact of growing number of homosexuals in the secular, but religiously diverse country.
“We would be cheating ourselves, if we pretend that we have no gays and lesbians among the young people in the Mosques. It’s for this reason that we have taken up this onerous task on realization of the fact that we hold the future of Islam in the country,” he said.
“The future belongs to us young Muslims. We are the ones who will be leading Islam in Malawi in future, so if we aren’t strong and firm in our faith, we will be talking of a tomorrow with weak Islamic values and morals.”
Maulana said the forum was reaching out to the young people through Mosques and other social gatherings.
“We are taking this message to the young people through prayer houses and other places where they gather. We are also planning to be holding workshops and awareness campaigns,” said Maulana.
“To some extent, we are facing resistance, but we are very optimistic that in the long run, young people will heed our call. Our message is that we can’t choose to destroy ourselves and the sanctity of our religion.”
The initiative has since generated positive reactions across the country’s religious spectrum.
“We highly applaud this development and the stand taken by these young Muslims. It’s very important that young people should be sensitized on the consequences of this act,” Dr. Salmin Omar, Secretary General of ULAMA Council of Malawi, a supreme Muslim body in the country, told the media.
“The future of Islam is in their hands, therefore, they should be properly guided on a straight path.
“As adults and leaders ourselves, we are going to support this initiative. We will also at the same time be talking to parents, so that they can allocate time and be open with the youth about this. We know it’s not easy, but there has to be a starting point in order to get somewhere.”
Dr Salmin lamented that some people choose to go against the Islamic teachings banning homosexuality.
“It’s quite unfortunate to note that although the Qur’an is very clear on same sex marriages, other people can choose to go against its teachings.
“If we decide to go against what Islam teaches us on this, then what kind of Muslims are trying to become? If we depart from the teachings of Islam and follow our own ways, that would mark the beginning of a road to self-destruction and hell.”
Malawi is officially a secular nation. Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity. Muslims account for 36% of the country’s 16 million population.
Same-sex relationship and marriage are totally prohibited in Islam, Christianity and all divine religions.
Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts, nor in any way indulge in their propagation.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin, but considers homosexual intercourse as sinful.
Earlier this year, a well-respected imam caused a stir in the highly conservative country when he publicly advocated for full legalization of homosexuality and accord gays and lesbians ‘a place in houses of worship”.
His sentiments drew a backlash from the country’s main Muslim body, Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), which disowned him.
Both Muslim and major Christian organizations in the country have tirelessly worked against any attempts to legalize homosexuality.
National Chairperson of the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) an umbrella body of all Christian organizations and churches, Rev. Vincent Chirwa said the move taken by the young Muslims was in line with what the Bible and the country’s culture were advocating for.
“What these young people are doing is in line with what the holy Bible advocates for and what our culture provides for. Homosexuality acts contravenes teachings of the Bible and the country’s cultural norms,” Rev. Chirwa Told the media.
“As a Christian organization, we are in support of this initiative. The issue should be about our culture and religion and not the generic make-up as scientists say. As Christians, we remain resolute against any moves to legalize homosexuality, because it’s against our culture and Bible teachings.”
Echoing his sentiments, Anafi Matola, a Muslim student at Chancellor College, one of the country’s leading public universities, described the initiative as a “vehicle for moral transformation.”
“This is what we need a young people. Our faith is being threatened by the growing wave of modernity. We are struggling to hold on to our faith due to forces,” Anafi told the media.
“This initiative will therefore work as a vehicle for moral transformation. Our value and morals have to be transformed and our faith should be strengthened.”
But gay’s rights activists have described the initiative as a “blatant violation” of human rights.
“This is not the way to go. We can’t have an initiative just to deny other people their rights to do what their sexual orientation allows them to so. This is a blatant violation of human rights which can’t be allowed to take root,” Gift Trapence, renowned gay rights campaigner told the media.
Trapence, Executive Director for Centre for the Development of the People (CEDEP), said time has come that young should have freedom of choice without being forced to do so.
“We are living in a different era. Neither religious leaders nor parents should make choices for the young people, particularly when it involves their sexual orientation,” he said.
Trapence then called for a shift in public attitudes towards homosexuals, so that, he said, they can come out and experience ‘enhancement, rather than damage.”
For this initiative to succeed, Maulana has appealed for support across the country’s minority Muslim community.
“This is an uphill task. We therefore appeal foe support from individuals and Muslim organizations. Unless, we get maximum support towards the success of this endeavour, we are sacrificing the future of Islam in the country.
“Let us therefore walk together on this road.”