The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Carlton-Hanciles has urged Imams to encourage their followers to treat their wives with respect and pay child maintenance.
‘We have many Muslim fathers who do not take care of their children,’ she said. ‘The Board is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of child maintenance matters it has to mediate on a daily basis. You can help us reduce this number by impressing on your followers to take care of their children. We know the Holy Quran is very clear on this issue.’
She also seized the moment to speak some hard truths by urging Imams to encourage their followers to marry only one wife like men in Saudi Arabia do. ‘Saudi men do not marry more than one wife and mind you this is what we would call the headquarters of the Islamic Religion,’ she said. She noted that even though Muslims can marry up to four wives, it is impossible to love them equally as stated in the Holy Quran.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles made this appeal while speaking to over eighty Imams of the United Council of Imams – Sierra Leone. Those in attendance were drawn from the Western Area and other parts of the country including Bonthe and Karene Districts. The Legal Board was guest of the Council at the meeting held in their office on Kissy Bye Pass Road in Kissy, Freetown on Tuesday, 13 November 2018
She assured members of the Council that the Board will stand with them as some go through a particularly difficult time bordering on their safety and respect. She assured them that the Board will provide legal assistance to any Imam who feels his human right is threatened as he goes about religious duties.
‘Any Imam with any justice need should feel free to come to our office for free legal assistance,’ she said. ‘We will make sure you feel free and able to do your work in peace because the country will be in problem if you are not able to do your work. This is because you have a lot of following and command huge respect even among non-Muslims.’
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles admonished the Imams to be measured in their tone and eschew anger. She said the violent clashes between the members of the mosque in Lumley and other members of the community could have been avoided had the Imams intervened soonest and cautioned their followers. She appealed to the Imams not to take the law into the own hands. She said they should refer these matters to the Police or Board as the case may be.
Earlier on, the PRO of the United Council of Imams, Sheikh Ibrahim Kamara called on the Legal Aid Board to protect them noting that life has been difficult for their Imams and followers in Lumley for the past week when they came under attack. He added that this has left many of their members shaken. Also, many have been arrested and detained.
He said the problem poses a huge challenge to the council. He added that people had mobilized to attack them on Friday, November 9 during prayers but they had to intervene to restrain their members from praying in the mosque that day. They had also admonished them not to take the law into their own hands.
Mr. Kamara said they also have a problem with the hospital authorities in Kambia which he noted is a potential flash point. ‘We ask that you intervene to calm the situation,’ he said. ‘Our Imams need protection. We are respectable people in society but people want to take advantage of us,’ he said.
The Chair Lady of Waterloo West, HajaJemilatuTurayKamara gave the vote of thanks. She urged fellow Muslims to do more to earn the respect of both fellows Muslims and non-Muslims.
The meeting was climaxed with the donation of Islamic texts which were received on behalf of the Board by Ms. Carlton-Hanciles. She described the donation as timely because the Board will soon be opening a library in the head office in Freetown. The Board already has 347 law books donated to it by the International Law Book Facility (ILBF) through the UK-Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network.