Muslim in Samoa speaks out

By Mathias Huckert 20 May 2016, 12:00AM

The Head of the Muslim League in Samoa, Dr. Muhammad Yahya, is confident that the government will not yield to a call from the National Council of Churches (N.C.C.) to ban Islam in Samoa.

Dr. Muhammad, also known as Laulu Dan Stanley, 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.

 “This is a way of inhuman thinking,” he said. “They are acting like herds. One man makes a decision and they run like cows.”

Dr. Muhammad make the comments in response to questions from the Samoa Observer about the call made by the Secretary General of the National Council of Churches, Reverend Ma’auga Motu, to ban Islam.

Embracing an indication from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi to review the religious freedom provisions of the Constitution, Rev. Motu, of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa said he would go a step further and ban the religion of Islam, saying it poses a threat to the country.

"We are not going too far, no," Reverend Motu is quoted as saying. 

"We are still wanting our own people to be prevented from this kind of influence, even though there are so many people who are good people but still there are some dangerous people among them who might come and threaten our peace." 

According to the 2011 census, 98% of the Samoan population is Christian.

The remainder consists of Hindus, Buddhists and Jews, mainly based around the capital city.  But there is also a remarkably small community of Muslim people, consisting of roughly 120 people. 

According to Rev. Motu, this miniscule minority that has established itself in Samoa more than 25 years ago, is a threat.

But this is not true, according to Imam, Dr. Muhammad, who said Rev. Motu’s fears are misplaced, guided by the untruths spread on mainstream media and social media platforms.

 “That happens because of the media coverage,” he said. 

“People nowadays have to separate between religious people and terrorists. If somebody leads a normal life within a normal family, they are no terrorists. But people who start violence against others are.”

Dr. Muhammad admits that there are Muslims who are responsible for deadly attacks around the world. But he said this is “super-minority” and all Muslims cannot be judged by their actions.

As for the call to ban, Islam, Dr. Muhammad said this will not happen.

“They will not achieve the banishment of our religion in Samoa, because that would make them the biggest bunch of hypocrites in this world,” he 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 say they’re Christians. 

“Rather should they start rethinking these issues and follow examples from other parts of our world. 

“Chancellor Merkel in Germany is not looking at all those people coming to her country as Muslims, but as human beings with rights. Although she is a political leader, she is more human than the so-called leaders of our churches here. 

“As human beings, we have rights in our community as well.”

The right that the Imam was talking about is guaranteed in the Constitution of Samoa.

The fact that there are talks going on about changing the country’s Constitution because of a small group of Muslim people led Dr. Muhammad to ask another important question.

“Just look at the prisons of this country. I ask you: do you find any Muslim in a Samoan prison?”

Dr. Muhammad has found support from a Samoan academic who warned that it could be a dangerous move to prohibit a religion in Samoa's Constitution.

Professor Iati Iati from the University of Otago said the pervasiveness of Christianity in Samoa was one of the reasons for the country's stability, and the faith is fully integrated into the political and cultural structures.

But he said Samoa would be treading down a dangerous path to ban other faiths.

"I think the writers of the Samoa constitution were wise beyond their years and I don't think the government should be meddling with the constitution. I think it's pretty good as it is."

Dr. John Shaver from 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 and when your personal experiences don't often lead you to interactions with peaceful Muslims then you rely on the media,” he said. 

“And we know that positive examplars of minority groups in the media are capable of reducing prejudice."

By Mathias Huckert 20 May 2016, 12:00AM

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