Poor Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malietagoi. He’s obviously got a lot on his mind with all the wanton violence turning the world into such a fearful place for everyone, so that it’s quite possible he’s not sleeping well at night these days.
And now that he’s worried sick about his country being invaded by those extremists lurking in the shadows out there while they’re waiting for the right time to strike, who in his right mind could blame him?
Still, we should all know that as the prime minister of small, vulnerable Samoa with all the extremists of the violent world ganging up to make his life miserable, it would be quite alarming if he was not worried.
And then one night in his sleep he had a dream. It revealed to him what the problem that was giving him such excruciating anxiety was, and then later it also showed him how he was going to solve it.
The dream revealed to him that his country had a pretty archaic Constitution so that his job - as the country’s first prime minister to have won such an unprecedented landslide victory so that he was now lording over a one-party government - was to change his country’s Supreme Law, and then rearrange it with the idea of making Christianity its official religion from now on.
And then when the National Council of Churches (N.C.C.) heard about what Tuilaepa had been chosen to do, they were delighted. Not only were they happy that Christianity would now be the sole religion in Samoa, they proposed to Tuilaepa that the amended Constitution should also include a “ban (on) other religions like Islam”.
Said Rev. Ma’auga Motu of N.C.C.: “We are not going too far. No.
“We are still wanting our own people to be prevented from this kind of influence. Even though there are so many who are good people, still there are dangerous people among them who might come and threaten our peace.”
Still, whether Tuilaepa had accepted N.C.C.’s proposal, is not known; what’s known is that during his press conference that week, Tuilaepa told reporters that Samoa must be cautious about embracing religions that promote violence and ‘murderous rage’ as a form of worship.
He also told reporters: Christianity does not do this. This is why it’s important that the Constitution of Samoa is amended to reflect that Samoa is undoubtedly a Christian country.
Now is that so?
Is he alluding to Jesus Christ whose life was apparently without blemish, whose teachings hold that he is the Son of God, and through whom humans may attain redemption from sin?
Tuilaepa has yet to explain. What he said though was: “The government will make the amendment to the Constitution to put it boldly in the Constitution’s body, that the official religion of Samoa is Christianity.”
In response though, the critics of what Tuilaepa was proposing to do - as well as of N.C.C.’s seemingly unrelenting support – were scathing.
Laulu Dan Stanley, who is the Head of the Muslim League in Samoa, and whose Muslim name is Dr. Muhammad Yahya, was among the first to respond.
Admitting he was confident that the government would not yield to a call from N.C.C. to ban Islam in Samoa, he said: “The call places Samoa in the same light as extremists in the United States of America, especially supporters of Donald Trump who are calling for a ban on Muslims.”
He continued: “This is a way of inhuman thinking. They are acting like herds. One man makes a decision and they run like cows.”
Laulu Dr. Muhammad explained: “People nowadays have to separate between religious people and terrorists.
“If somebody leads a normal life within a normal family, they are not terrorists. But people who start violence against others, are.”
He admitted that “there are Muslims who are responsible for deadly attacks around the world, but this is super-minority and all Muslims, cannot be judged by their actions.”
As for the call to ban Islam, Dr. Muhammad said he was confident that this would not happen.
“They will not achieve the banishment of our religion in Samoa,” he said. “Because that would make them the biggest bunch of hypocrites in this world.”
He also said: “They don’t want to accept Islam and therefore they don’t want to accept this line of Abraham, and at the same time, they’re saying they’re Christians?
“Rather they should start rethinking these issues and follow examples from other parts of our world.”
He points out that “Chancellor Merkel of Germany is not looking at all those people coming to her country as Muslims, but as human beings with human rights.
“Although she is a political leader, she is more human than the so-called leaders of our churches here.”
He goes on to say: “As human beings, we have rights in our community as well. And these rights are guaranteed in the Constitution of Samoa.”
Now turning to the idea that the Constitution was being changed because of the fear of a small group of Muslims in the country, Laulu says that’s absurd.
“Just look at the prisons of this country,” he points out. “I ask you: Do you find any Muslim in a Samoan prison?”
Dr. Muhammad, however, has found support from a Samoan academic who warned that it could be a dangerous move, if Samoa’s Constitution were to prohibit any religion practicing its faith and beliefs in the country.
Professor Iati Iati of the University of Otago is straight to the point.
He says: “The pervasiveness of Christianity in Samoa is one of the reasons for the country’s stability, and the faith is fully integrated into the political and cultural structures.”
He warns that “Samoa would be treading down a dangerous path if it banned other faiths”, adding: “I think the writers of Samoa’s Constitution were wise beyond their years, and I don’t think the government should be meddling with the constitution.
“I think it is pretty good as it is.”
Dr. John Shaver, also of the University of Otago, said that in places where minority groups were that small, it was easy for ignorance to spread.
“The problem is a lack of information,” he points out. “And when your personal experiences don’t often lead you to interactions with peaceful Muslims, then you rely on the media.
“And we know that positive examples of minority groups in the media are capable of reducing prejudice.”
Still, despite all that, it’s seems clear that Tuilaepa has pretty well made up his mind that this country’s Constitution will be amended.
Asked if the government would not risk meddling with freedom of religion if it did this, Tuilaepa said: “No.
“There’s a fine line between freedom of religion and extremists who use that freedom to justify their violent behavior,” he said.
“Now that’s the difference,” he added. “No country would want its Constitution to include those who believe in religion that allows murderous acts.”
He said: “The second part of the amendment should highlight the equal importance of individual and collective rights.
“In most cases, the rights of individuals are favoured over the impact of those rights on a group of people.
“When there is a dispute between one person and an entire church, the Court upholds the rights of the individual but overlooks the rights of the church,” he said.
“What it means is that the rights (of an individual and a group) should be equally important.”
And now turning to the Samoa Observer reporter who was there at his press conference, he said: “It is important that I clarify the issue so that the Samoa Observer does not write something incorrect, just to sell their newspapers based on those wrong things.”
And the he asked the reporter: “Do you understand the explanation of those things? Because the brains at Samoa Observer are shallow.”
He’s probably right.
What we want to ask him though is this: How come he did not know that the man he chose as Minister of Justice in his new government, was at the time facing charges of embezzlement and fraud in American Samoa?
And finally, would he please tell the public if that little problem has been sorted out, or is his prodigy still running the show at the Ministry of Justice as if all is spick and span?
I suppose it is important that he clarified the issue now so that he does not write something incorrect based on those wrong things.
Just a silly thought.