Connect with us

No coercion in faith

Iqbal Ebrahim

In virtually every field of human endeavour in this world of today there is growing intolerance. As humans we wittingly or unwittingly sow the seeds of discord and intolerance via our thoughts and actions. These can be based on nationality, colour, cultural, tribal, linguistic or religious reasons. Currently the focus seems to be on Islam and Muslims, with so much being said, most of it negative.

Many of these issues border on religious intolerance and freedom. Why is it so and we need to ask: Is Islam intolerant towards other faiths? What is the Islamic view on freedom of religion? These questions have arisen because of some reprehensible and dastardly events and actions of some misguided people who claim to do so under the banner of Islam that have taken place in some parts of the world wherein Islam has now become the focus.

The truth is that there is an immense difference between what the Quran and the Sunnah (sayings and teachings of Prophet Muhammed pbuh) declare and what some misguided Muslim groups and governments actually do. They have declared a sort of ‘war’ against Christians generally and any unbeliever.


But the Quran tells Muslims to respect people of other faiths, specifically the Christians and the Jews, who are referred to in the Quran as “People of the Book.” The Quran says: “Those who believe [Muslims], the Jews, the Christians…. whosoever believe in God and the Last day and do good deeds, they shall have their reward from their Lord, shall have nothing to fear, nor shall they come to grief.” (Quran 22:17)

Further it says: ….we Muslims believe in Allah and the Revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to all the Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between one and the other, and we submit to Allah’ (Quran 2:136)

Even a cursory reading of the Quran and the Sunnah clearly shows that tolerance is an essential and a moral obligation that Muslims are required to abide by. To begin with, there are many people who are suspicious about the ‘spread’ of Islam and the fear that they will be ‘forced’ to become Muslim. Like every religion Islam encourages spreading its message by inviting through the way of preaching and having discussions with non-Muslims.


But Muslims have been instructed to do it in the most respectful and kind manner, ‘Invite all to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious’ (Quran 16:25)
If non-Muslims disagree with the message of Islam, Muslims are not allowed to employ any method of intimidation or compulsion, “Let there be no compulsion in religion; truth stands out clear from error.” (2: 256) “Thus, (O’ Prophet) if they dispute with thee, say, ‘I have surrendered my whole being unto Allah and (so have) all who follow me.’ Thus, Muslims are not only prohibited from imposing their faith on non-Muslims, Islam instructs them to treat non-Muslims with kindness:

“As for such (of the unbelievers) as do not fight against you on account of (your) faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, Allah does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, Allah loves those who act equitably.


Allah only forbids you to turn in friendship towards such as fight against you because of (your) faith, and drive you forth from your homelands, or aid (others) in driving you forth: and as for those (from among you) who turn towards them in friendship, it is they, they who are truly wrongdoers.” (60: 8-9)

Nobody can force anyone to convert to Islam, embracing the faith is a matter of personal choice. The Quran states in this regard: “Say: O you that reject faith. I do not worship what you worship, nor will I worship that which you worship………….unto you your religion, unto me my religion” (109:6)

In fact, the Quran goes to the extent of forbidding Muslims from using any insulting remarks about any deity worshiped by any non-Muslim. It says, “You do not revile those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest out of spite they revile Allah in their ignorance”. (Quran 6: 108)

One may ask if non-Muslims enjoy the same rights and status as Muslims do in an Islamic country. This question is frequently raised in the western world. The bottom line is that any person regardless of race or religion living somewhere has to abide by that country’s laws, rules, regulation, culture, tradition and general behavioural standards. This means that one has to obey the laws of that particular country.


For example alcohol is prohibited in Islam and in an Islamic country the visitor or resident will have to comply with this prohibition. Just like in some countries in the west, private individuals are allowed to own guns / weapons, yet in some countries it is deemed illegal to own firearms.

But generally non-Muslims should be afforded the same rights as Muslims in a Muslim country. Non-Muslim citizens have the same rights to life, religion, respect, education, expression, property, and enterprise as given to Muslim citizens. No government can curtail or restrict these rights and liberties granted to non-Muslims.

This is borne out by the following charter granted by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the Christians of Mount Sinai is an excellent example of how non-Muslims are supposed to be treated in an Islamic state: “This is a message from Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily, I, the servants and helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and, by Allah, I hold out against anything that displeases them.


“No compulsion is to be on them; neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs, nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil Allah’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. Muslims are to fight for them… Their churches are to be respected… No one of the nation (of Islam) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day.



The principles given in the Quran and the Sunnah regarding tolerance and pluralism were observed by the Caliphs as well as later rulers. Explaining the responsibility of the Islamic state to the non-Muslim citizens it said: “It is the responsibility of the Muslims to the non-Muslims to care for their weak, fulfil the needs of the poor, feed the hungry, provide clothes, address them politely, and even tolerate their harm even if it was from a neighbour, even though the Muslim would have an upper hand. The Muslims must also advise them sincerely on their affairs and protect them against anyone who tries to hurt them or their family, steal their wealth, or violates their rights.”

Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) prohibit and ban the targeting of non-combatants (women and children, Rabbis, Priests etc.) and other non-combatants. Even during any conflict, one cannot burn down property (including places of worship like Churches, Temples and Synagogues), nor livestock or even destroy trees or vegetation. All this news about killing of civilians in the name of Islam is wrong: The Quran emphatically states: ‘whoever kills one life, it is as if they have killed all of humanity, and whoever saves even one life, it is as if they have saved all of humanity” (Quran 5: 32).

Continue Reading


Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

This content is locked

Login To Unlock The Content!

Continue Reading


The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

This content is locked

Login To Unlock The Content!

Continue Reading


Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!