The Soodhun Season

My Facebook page reminds me that for the third consecutive year, around this time, I am posting my positions against Showkutally Soodhun’s actions or speeches; which led me to the reflection that this must be Soodhun Season. For this is the period of post Eid celebrations and pre-hajj preparations, where microphones around the country are more accessible to him, thanks to the obsolete practice of inviting politicians to religious celebrations.
Two years ago, Showkutally Soodhun, surrounded by some imams of Port-Louis, held a press conference in the Ministry of Land and Housing, to state his position regarding the deportation of Sheik Khaled, then Imam of Al Aqsa Mosque in Plaine Verte, the oldest mosque of the country. He strongly stated his position against the Sheikh, saying that the latter should leave the country for he had held “ des discours…inacceptables”. Smug faces of other imams next to him told another story of why Sheik Khaled had to go.
 Last Friday, during an Eid function in his own constituency, he declared how he had valiantly stopped the deportation of an imam from No 15, upon the request of a person involved in the community, with a simple call to the police. He also declared that thanks to his intervention, the constituency will now avail of a great library and that he gives his personal guarantee that all madrassahs in the constituency will have no problem operating, because Muslim children need their Islamic education. This led me to ask myself the following questions: is Showkutally Soodhun the minister for imams, madrassahs and Muslims? Is he in charge of deciding who gets to be deported or not? Did all parents die and make him responsible for the Islamic education of their children? And why oh why did people let a loose cannon like him get close to a microphone after his own “discours inacceptable” last Tuesday?
Politicians often state that we, citizens should not do anything to tear the famous “tissu social”. Look around, we go about our day to day business with our fellow citizens without any problems. We share public transport, restaurants, shopping centres, office spaces, food, fears, dreams, love and life, irrespective of creed. Who disturbs the “tissu social” the most? Politicians. Through their inflammatory discourses, through their insidious encouragement of sub-groups who pay lip service to them, through them using their religious affiliations to gain sympathy, whether to claim that as a member of a religious group, they are offended that they have been linked to drug trafficking in prison, or to say that they have been offended by the organisation of  Iftar time in Parliament on Budget Day or to say that they have been offended by criticisms against Saudi Arabia by the Leader of the Opposition.
Politicians know the effects of their religious-tainted discourses on their partisans, and they know that they only have to light a spark for their partisans to shout their praises and condemn the offending party, irrespective of who is right or wrong. They are well versed in the psyche of the communal voter. It is therefore the responsibility of citizens to realise that they are manipulated by politicians.
We, Mauritian citizens, should be wiser than divisive politicians and refuse to fall in their traps. As long as there are citizens who think that so and so is their representative in Parliament due to religious affiliation, we will continue to see debacles as the Soodhun one. As long as there are government-subsidised religious institutions in this country, the latters will never remain free from the clutches of politicians. As long as there is no clear demarcation between religion and politics in this country, politicians will keep on using religion to divide and rule for the interest of very few, leaving citizens with the “narien pa pou sanze” mindset. Things have got to change and they start with the well-informed citizen, who pledges to refuse to be manipulated by politicians for communal reasons. Start your pledge now!