A billboard by the Islamic Information Bureau mounted at Maselema in Blantyre has sparked controversy with Christians demanding it be taken down for carrying what they describe as an offensive message.
Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) chairperson for Blantyre City College of Spiritual Fathers, Pastor Zac Kawalala has so far written the Chief Executive Officer for Blantyre City Council (BCC) demanding it taken down within seven days.
The billboard which has message that reads :”IF YOU HAVE READ THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE NEW TESTAMENT NOW READ THE LAST TESTAMENT- THE QUARAN ULTIMATE MIRACLE”.
“We want to state clearly here that the Old Testament and the New Testament are books in the Christian Bible. Therefore reference to the Old Testament and New Testament in such a manner, in a country that is predominantly Christian, even without specifically mentioning the Bible, is tantamount to a comparison between the Bible and the Quaran. Such an action is unacceptable and a recipe for religious conflict in the country.
“Churches in the City of Blantyre are disturbed with this message displayed on this Billboard. We would like to request the City of Blantyre, therefore, in the spirit of peace and coexistence, to immediately remove this provocative Message on the said Billboard by the Islamic Information Bureau within the next seven days. The Churches in the City will decide their next course of action if this message is not removed by that time,” reads the letter.
The letter has been copied to Ministers of Ministry of Local Government, Home Affairs and Internal Security, Civic Education and National Unity, and the Mayor for the City.
But in an interview, Sheikh Ahmed Chiyenda national coordinator for the Islamic Information Bureau insists people have read the Bible and need to read the Quran which according to him was the last book to be handed to humanity with knowledge.
“We’re not trying to create conflict, we’re trying to tell people that if they want further understanding, they should come to the Islamic Information Bureau to get further knowledge in the Quran,” he says.
Sheikh Chiyenda further says they see nothing wrong with the message they have put out, and that if everyone was to be given what they want, there would be chaos.
“What Christians are trying to do is have dominance over Islam as it’s trying to spread its message. Malawi has rights enshrined in the Constitution to religion, assembly and we are just exercising that right,” he said.
Malawian Christians and Muslims have tended to co-exist in a country that only identifies as God-fearing. The 2018 census estimated that Malawi has 2.426,754 Muslims representing 13.8 percent of the population, with Christians as the dominant group, comprising 77.3 percent of the population. The Catholics and the CCAP Church are the dominant Christian groups at 17.2 and 14.2 percent respectively