The Federation of Muslim Councils of Ghana (FMC), an umbrella body that promotes the interest of Muslims is asking government to take immediate steps to implement a ‘White Paper’ issued in 1996 in order to settle the issue of Muslims and Christians institutions in the country for a peaceful co-existence.
According to the General Secretary, Hajj Muhammad Kpakpo Addo, “had the Ministry of Education and the GES heeded the call of the FMC to operationalise the Ministry’s own 1996 White Paper directives, it would have been needless for the President to make any pronouncement or give any directives on religious tolerance today”.
The Muslim Councils in a statement signed and copied The Herald, said the ‘White Paper’ which was issued in 1996 by then Deputy Minister of Education, Kwabena Kyere was explicit and emphatic that, “students of minority religious groups should not be forced by school authorities to worship with majority religious groups in schools”.
This directive, FMC recalled was later reiterated in 2008 by the then Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), Mr. Samuel Bannerman-Mensah.
The Federation noted that the protest by Muslims in the Western region and the subsequent call by the President to respect the rights of Muslims, was not the first time concerns have been raised about harassment of Muslim students in certain Basic and Second-Cycle Schools across the country.
The group emphasized that, “as an umbrella organization for Muslims in Ghana, the FMC has on several occasions raised these concerns with the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service and called on both to see to the enforcement of the rights of Muslims students to practice their religion and save them from non-Islamic practices while in school”.
They recalled for instance that in March 7, 2012, the FMC led a delegation and met with then Minister of Education, Ambassador Lee Ocran, over media reports of alleged persecution of Muslim students in some public Basic and Second-Cycle Schools.
Surprisingly, the group said in spite of directives, harassment of Muslim children in public schools which are funded by the tax-payer’s money continue unabated, even though a Committee was set up to look into these matters, but nothing has come out of that.
The statement further said that, in March 2013, the FMC also met the present Minister of Education, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, over similar concerns which resulted in the setting up of a Committee jointly headed by the then Director of Secondary Education-GES, Rev. Asigri and the then Director, Basic Education- GES, Stephen Adu, now Acting Deputy Director-General of GES, to look into the matter, but all to no avail.
The statement said, “the FMC is, however, disappointed that what was intended to be a harmless call by H.E. the President for respect of the rights conferred on citizens of Ghana, including Muslims has generated acrimonious exchanges and threatening the centuries-old peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Ghana”.
It said, “The FMC have also noted with satisfaction that the government intends to work for unity and understanding among religious groups in Ghana”.
According to the Federation, “we support the government to go ahead with this move by working with all concerned stakeholders. This is because Ghana is one nation one people with a common destiny”.
It stressed that, “without prejudice to the outcome of the Supreme Court action on the matter, the FMC hereby accepts the request for dialogue by the Christian Council of Ghana”.
This, the group maintained “will stop further degeneration of the matter and demonstrate to all and sundry our collective resolve to live in peace as one people as Allah reminds us in His Holy Book, the Noble Qur’an, (Chapter 49: Verse13)”.
The chapter says, “O Mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous amongst you. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” Noble Qur’an (49:13).