From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Rekindling Islamic Golden Age in Sierra Leone
Aug 31, 2010, 17:18

August 26, 2010 Bishop Broshonan Hall, Santonno House, Howe Street, Freetown

The Youth Arise!!! programme, “Rekindling Islamic Golden Age in Sierra Leone”, started at 10.45 a.m. (fifteen minutes after the 10.30 a.m. scheduled time; because there was a brief wait for the Chief Imam of the Central Mosque of Freetown, Sheikh Tejan Sillah) at the Bishop Broshanan Hall, Santonno House, Howe Street, in the heart of the business district in Freetown.

The Islamic prayer to open the ceremony was said by Sheikh Ibrahim S. Kamara; who was dressed in pinkish-reddish lace robe, with corresponding fez cap.

The Christian prayer was said by Brima George, dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and red tie.


Shortly after the prayers had been said, my phone buzzed. It was Mrs. I.J. Tejan Kabbah, wife of former President Tejan Kabbah. She was downstairs at the lobby of the six storey building owned by the Catholics of Freetown.. I had insisted that when she would arrive at the building, to represent President Kabbah, she should call me. I rushed from the high table, and raced through the jammed hall, loped down the stairs to give her proper protocol treatment. I met her already climbing up the first of the four floors to where the hall is. She greeted me familiarly, like she had when I called her a few days earlier. (She was dressed in light blue gara tye dye maxi shirt, with huge reddish spots on the clothes; there was the obligatory ‘Islamic scarf’ wrapped around her head, and neck. That was my first time really meeting the lady during the last two years of the Kabba presidency had captured popular imagination with her famously known simply as “I.J.”. I cast a surreptitious glance at her: she is plump; with roundish cheeks that the Mendes interpret as a sign of prosperity. There was hardly any makeup on her face. She is tall, almost my six feet in height. She carried herself regally; and her demeanor was relaxed; oozing self confidence). We both climbed the marble tiles stairs up to the hall; walked and she climbed the one stair on the brown carpeted stairs to the podium, and sat on the table without circumspection. John Idriss Lahai, the doctorate degree student from the University of New England in Australia, recognized her august presence.

She whispered something into the ear of John Idriss Lahai, who handed her the microphone, for an unplanned presentation in the programme.

The wife of President Kabbah took the microphone, and with the effortless ease of a practiced public speaker, she apologized for being late. She told the crowd listening with rapt reverential attention that she had had to attend the layout ceremony of a friend who passed away at “Hillcot Road”. She apologized again for the absence of former President Kabbah, her husband, who she said had just undergone surgery, and had been warned by his doctors to limit his movements. If it weren’t for that, she murmured, in almost a literal translation from Mende into Krio, President Kabbah would have certainly attended the ceremony, as the former President puts maximum premium on all matters concerning Islam, and youth.

Mrs. Tejan Kabbah said that before the presidency of Alhaji Tejan Kabbah (Sierra Leone’s first Islamic president) there were few youth publicly involved with Islamic affairs, which they probably felt was the business of adults; but, it was during the presidency of Kababh that youth generally embraced Islam publicly.

She informed the crowded hall that she is involved in a programme for ‘Women in Islam’.

She bemoaned the perception of the West that Islam is a “barbaric religion”.

She decried the rampaging ‘Born Again’ Christian churches where Islamic brothers and sisters are leaving some of the mosques to attend, and are being “brainwashed”.

With her voice rising she said, “Some of our sisters don’t go to hospitals anymore when they are sick. They go to these Born Again churches to be healed. And some of them die in these churches…”.

She appealed to Islamic leaders to recapture some of these Islamic women who have “gone astray”.

“God is one. If they knew their Islamic religion very well, they wouldn’t have gone astray”, President Kabbah’s wife said.

She said that Muslims should go proselytizing; and that “one does not need to know all the Qur’an to pray.

She lampooned the “opportunists” among Muslim women, and she echoed what she had said on a ‘Voice of Islam’ radio programme: “I am proud to be a Muslim woman”. And, she pointed out that beauty of women should be seen in their character, not merely in their looks.

She received a warm applause from the crowd.

She rose to leave shortly after making that speech; with the Chairman, John Idriss Lahai, making apologies for her. As she climbed down the podium, the Imam of the Central Mosque, dressed in Iranian-looking flowing robe, and coloured Arabic hat, with wizened face and pure white heavy beard, stopped her in her tracks; saying, “You said that the former President is not well. Let us all pray for him, so that Allah will grant him a speedy recovery”.

Islamic prayers were then said for the former President in Arabic. Mrs. Kabbah thanked the cleric warmly.


© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.