Here we go again; the presence of a group of South Asian Muslims, in this instance, Pakistanis, in the country is stirring a lot of controversy, hysteria and fear. The common perception, of course, is that these men, 17 of them, because of their religion, are terrorists who have infiltrated our country to cause chaos and mayhem.
Well, the reaction of Ghanaians to the presence of foreign Muslims is nothing new and was not exactly unexpected. Remember, it was just four months ago when the nation was gripped in a heated debate over the government's decision to grant temporary stay to two Yemeni ex-Gitmo detainees.
We Ghanaians are a strange bunch, I must admit. Very often, deemed by many observers as progressive and forward-looking group of Africans, we turn to act conservatively, becoming inclusive and unbending.
The temper tantrums we are currently throwing over the issue of the Pakistanis are the usual display of raw emotions.We are once again allowing our fear of other humans because of their religion to trump reason and logic. The reaction, by and large, is a symptom of a general malaise that has sadly "afflicted" the world---fear of Muslims.
A case in point: a friend called and was plenty upset about the presence of the Pakistanis in Assin Foso in the Central region. He wondered why the government hadn't rounded them up and sent them home. I had to calm him down with reassurances that authorities would ultimately find a solution to the problem. We just have to be patient.
The Pakistanis who have reportedly been in the country for the last six months obviously came through our ports and therefore are legally registered visitors who should be accorded all the rights guaranteed by our immigration laws.
However, the fact that they are being singled out for castigation and suspicion, is baffling and is a sad commentary on how far off we have gone in the treatment of Muslims, especially those from South Asia and the Arab world.
I understand and appreciate the fear and distrust that have enveloped the world; terrorism has exacted exact a terrible toll on people across the globe in the last two decades. These days, headline news are replete with stories of heavy casualty attacks mounted by terrorists in Africa, Europe, Asia and in the Arab world. Frankly, the scourge of terrorism is now the new normal, and, sadly, it is a reality the world will have to live with for the foreseeable future.
It is hard to understand the phenomenon of terrorism from the outside; the frequent question that is asked is: why would people choose terrorism as a vehicle to register their disgust and dissatisfaction with a system of government, or a way of life they loathe?
Ghanaians have every reason to express fear about the presence of Pakistanis in the country; Pakistan is a hot-bed of terrorism and harbors one of the world's most notorious terrorist groups, the Pakistani Taliban. Together with other Pakistani terror groups, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Pakistani Taliban has killed scores of civilians and security personnel in recent years.
Against this background, the fear and suspicion of Ghanaians don't come as a surprise, it is a natural reaction, pure and simple. But are the suspicion, fear and lashing out at a group of Pakistanis justified? I don't think so.
The Pakistanis who say they are in the country to teach and spread the tenets of Islam have not been found to have engaged in any illegal activities. Indeed, the last time l read our constitution, preaching and evangelizing are not crimes.
Be that as it may, our reaction has been, from all indications, a mad rush to judgment. It is proof yet again that Muslims continue to suffer marginalization and discrimination. Islam has one billion adherents, yet those who revel in painting all Muslims with a broad brush, branding them fanatics and flamethrowers, fail to recognize that it is just a tiny fraction of Islam's one billion followers who engage in acts of violence.
Of course, I am not by any chance dismissing the devastating impact a few misguided and ideologically driven fanatics have had on the world. However, in passing judgment, it is absolutely critical, fair and objective, not to lash out at an entire religion. Doing so is counterproductive, undemocratic and a violation of basic human rights.
Given the sensitivity of the case, authorities should proceed gingerly, weighing the impact their action could have on our reputation in the world. In accordance with decency and fairness, the Pakistanis who reportedly have been picked up and detained, should be released immediately until evidence is gathered to prove whether or not they are in our country legally.
Until then, let's hold our fire, and for once, make an effort to analyze such high profile cases with clear minds, objectivity and fairness.