Calls to ban Islam in Samoa

The Secretary General of the Samoa Council of Churches, Reverend Ma'auga Motu, says Islam poses a future threat to the country, however a New Zealand academic says these calls are fuelled by ignorance.


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Reverend Ma'auga Motu called for Muslims to be banned from Samoa in response to a proposal from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi to review the religious freedom provisions of the constitution to recognise Christian principles and teachings.

Dr John Shaver from the University of Otago says that in places where minority groups are that small, it’s easy for ignorance to spread.

Dr Shaver says positive exemplars of minority groups in the media are capable of reducing prejudice.

"The problem is a lack of information and when your personal experiences don't often lead you to interactions with peaceful Muslims then you rely on the media."

New Zealand-born Fijian Aarif Rasheed, who’s Diversity Centre was recently opened at the New Zealand Parliament by former Prime Minister Helen Clark, says he worked with both Muslims and Christians in Samoa in the aftermath of the 2009 tsunami.

He says that there are many examples where Muslims and Christians have peacefully co-existed, and Samoa should be no exception.

"It's more about making sure that church leaders who have an enormous amount of control and who have a huge burden of trust upon them ensure that they don't get caught up in some of the more conservative and bordering on the irresponsible side of religious ignorance and bigotry."