Muslims playing active role in Togo
Source : AN | 26 Feb 2013
Islam reached Togo about the same time as it did in much of West Africa. Tribes and other communities of the region came in contact with Islam in the 1700’s that came across the salt and gold trade routes. The Berber and Tuareg merchants traveled the trans-Saharan trade routes.
Muslim scholars, teaching their beliefs and establishing mosques and madrassas along the routes, accompanied traders on their journeys. The Hausa and the Fulani, a traditionally nomadic group, traveled all over West Africa, taking their Muslim beliefs to places such as present-day Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
In the absence of any reliable data, the Muslim population in the Republic of Togo ranges between 12 and 20 percent. The imam and preacher of the Salam Mosque in Lome, Sheikh Haroun Al-Hassan however puts the figure as much as 50 percent of Togo’s total 5,000,000 population, which appears exaggerated.
Almost every tribe and community has Muslim population. Kotokoli for instance is the largest community in Togo that is concentrated in the center of Togo in the region of Sokode. The Kotokoli used to control a principal trade route and developed a reputation for dealings in trade. They converted to Islam in the 1800’s. Today, almost all of the Kotokoli with a population of over 200,000 are Muslim, sincerely practicing the faith of Islam.
Daawa work is undergoing in the republic and a number of Islamic organizations have come up. They work for the welfare of the Muslims in the country. Many villagers are now gravitating toward Islam and embracing the faith in large numbers. The Muslim organizations are working to spread peace, justice, love and freedom, as also to help the Muslims live a decent life as also co-exist with followers of other faiths.
They aim at spreading the message of Islam and the Islamic culture and education.
The Federation of Togo Muslims is one such organization, which is the largest one. It takes care of new Muslims and has discouraged extremism and violence. Many Togolese, including members of the Christian clergy are accepting Islam.
Ahmadu Tito, Federation’s secretary-general, said that the Muslims have established good relations with the government of Togo. Many Muslims serve in the government as civil servants. The minister of defense, minister of justice, Parliament speaker, and the private advisor to the president, are all Muslims. Only two year ago, the country’s minister of local government embraced Islam.
Muslims in Togo give top priority to education and have established several schools. There are several schools teaching Islam and modern education.
The Federation runs two schools in Lome in which French and Arabic are taught. It has also established an Islamic Center in Logi, and a Muslim Academy at Sonko.
It has received help from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to run the Muslim Academy, in which 500 students get education from primary to secondary level. The Federation has several other smaller educational institutions in various parts of the country.
To develop better educational curricula, several educationists have traveled to various countries in North Africa, such as Tunisia and Morocco, to study their curricula, and recommend their application in the schools in Togo.
The West African country has many mosques, 40 of them in Lome alone; two of which are large ones, and are filled to capacity with worshippers, particularly on Fridays, when they overflow and some of the worshippers have to pray on the pavements.
The Federation is engaged in dawa work and often holds seminars, symposia for this purpose.
Togo’s Muslims have effective means of spreading the message of Islam, including an Islamic broadcasting station, which beams its programs round the clock. The Jabal Noor Valley Islamic Broadcasting Station is on the FM wavelength. There is also a television station, while every Saturday the state television station allocates 30 minutes for Islamic programs. But there is no Muslim newspaper or magazine in the country.
Togo, which has joined the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), is the smallest West African country, with an area of 65,600 sq km and a population of over five million. Lome is the capital and the largest city. French Togoland became Togo in 1960. Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema, installed as military ruler in 1967, continued to rule well into the 21st century through his Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) party. Upon his death in 2005, he was succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbe.
The name Togo, which means “beside the waters” in the Ewe language (one of the national languages of Togo) refers to the Atlantic coastal region. The country is generally less than 100 km wide and is about 550 km long. Togo was a French colony until independence in 1960. Since 1991, the nation has suffered much political turmoil, which degenerated into intense armed conflict, especially in the central and southern regions, although there has been greater stability in recent years. The economy is heavily dependent on both commercial and subsistence agriculture, which provides employment for more than 60 percent of the labor force. Cocoa, coffee and cotton together generate about 30 percent of export earnings.