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How does Islam differ from other religions?

Many people see Islam as a ‘difficult / strange religion’, but this is far from the truth because Islam is is closely linked to many of the beliefs and practices of many of the major religions in this world. The Muslim world ‘community’ is not formed of people who belong to a particular nation nor is in a religious cult. Rather it is a global community, drawing people together from all nations and races – all connected into one brtherhood and sisterhood by Islamic faith and vision.

Islam is not based on any mythology and its teachings are clear, simple and logical.  It is free from superstitions and irrational beliefs.  The basic articles of its faith are the oneness and uniqueness of Allah (God) Almighty, the Prophet hood of Muhammad (pbuh), and the concept of life after death are.  They are based on reason and sound logic.  All of the teachings of Islam flow from those basic beliefs and are simple and straightforward.  There is no hierarchy of priesthood, no farfetched concepts or complicated rites or rituals.

‘It is Allah who has sent His Messenger, with guidance and the True Way so that He may make it prevail over all other corrupt ways, even though the pagans may detest it’. (Quran 61: 9)

Knowledge and understanding are fundamental and key aspects in our path to finding our way to our Lord. Everybody may approach the Holy Quran directly and translate its decrees and injunctions into practice.  Islam awakens in all of mankind the sense of reason and encourages us to use our intellect.  It directs us to see things in the light of reality.  The Holy Quran advises us to seek knowledge and pray to Allah to expand our awareness: “Say ‘O, my Lord!  Advance me in knowledge”.  (Quran 20: 114). God Almighty also says: “Are those who know equal with those who know not?  But only men of understanding will pay heed.” (Quran 39: 9). The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said “the one who leaves his home in search of knowledge, walks in the path of God” and he even declared that seeking knowledge is obligation on every Believer.

This is how Islam brings us out of the world of superstition and darkness and introduces and opens us into the world of knowledge and light. In fact going further, Islam does not allow indulgence in empty and pointless speculation.  It declares that faith should not be a mere set of beliefs, but rather that it is the very driving force of life.  Righteous conduct must follow belief in God.  “Religion” is something to be practiced in our daily lives and not an item of mere ‘lip service’.  The Holy Quran says: “Those who believe and act righteously, joy is for them, and a blissful home to return to.” (Quran 13: 29). The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) is also reported to have said: “God does not accept belief if it is not expressed in deeds, and does not accept deeds if they do not conform to belief.”

A unique feature of Islam is that it does not divide life into separate compartments of life, matter and spirit instead it unites them.  It stands not for denial of life but for the fulfilment of life.  Islam does not believe in shunning the world altogether.  It does not ask man to avoid material things totally.  It holds that for us to achieve that spiritual elevation it is by living piously in the rough and tumble of life and not by renouncing the world.  The Holy Quran advises us to pray as follows: “Our Lord!  Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter and protect us from the torment of the Fire” (Quran 2: 201)

But in making use of life’s luxuries, Islam advises man to be moderate and keep away from extravagance, Allah says: “…and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love those who are extravagant.” (Quran 7: v 31)

In Islam there is no separation between the “material” and “moral,” or the “mundane” and “spiritual” life, and enjoins and instructs us to devote all of our energies to the rebuild our life on healthy moral foundations.  It teaches us that moral and material powers must be welded together and that our spiritual salvation can be achieved by living a life that our faith instructs and teaches us.

The world has suffered at the hands of the one-sidedness of many other ideologies.  Some have laid emphasis on the spiritual side of life but have ignored its material and everyday aspects.  They have looked upon the world as an illusion, a deception, and a trap.  On the other hand, materialistic ideologies have totally ignored the spiritual and moral side of life and have dismissed it as fictitious and imaginary.  Both of these attitudes have resulted in disaster, for they have robbed mankind of peace, contentment, and tranquillity.

Islam seeks to establish equilibrium between these two aspects of life – the material and the spiritual.  It says that everything in the world is for man, but man was created to serve a higher purpose: the establishment of a moral and just order that will fulfil the will of God Almighty.  Its teachings cater for the spiritual as well as the temporal needs of man.  Islam enjoins man to purify his soul and to reform his daily life – both individual and collective – and to establish the supremacy of “right over might” and of “virtue over vice”.  Thus Islam stands for the middle path and the goal of producing a moral man in the service of a just society.

Islam – a complete “Way of Life”. Actually one has to understand that Islam is not only a “religion” in the common and distorted sense as it does not confine its scope to our singular private life.  It is a complete way of life and is present in every field of our worldly and human existence.  Islam provides guidance for all aspects of life – individual and social, material and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, and national and international.  The Holy Quran enjoins mankind to embrace Islam without any reservation and to follow God’s guidance in all areas of life. These are the fundamental keystones of any believer who wants to find the path to righteousness.

Islam clearly states that its objectives are the purification of the soul and the reform and reconstruction of society.  As we read in the Holy Quran: “We verily sent Our Messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance, that mankind may observe right measure…” (Quran 57: 25)

Thus even a brief study of the teachings of Islam shows that it is an all-embracing way of life and does not leave out any field of human existence to become a playground for the forces of evil.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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