Hana Tetteh, Chieff Imam, Melinda Tabler Stone US Rep and Gen. Henry Smith in a group picture with Islamic clerics
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration appears to have come under pressure following the housing of two suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists in Ghana, which has created apprehension among the populace.
With Christian groups calling for the return of the suspects (detained by the United States of America at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba) to where they came from, government had turned its attention to Muslim groups, with a high-powered team visiting the over 90-year-old National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, at his New Fadama residence in Accra.
Hanna Tetteh, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, who led the delegation, succeeded in wooing Sheikh Sharubutu and his team to accept the two Guantanamo Bay detainees linked to Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda terrorist group.
The Foreign Minister had earlier, in a radio interview, said the suspected terrorists were only ‘foot-soldiers’ of Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda.
Hanna Tetteh, in the company of General Joseph Henry Smith, Ghana’s Ambassador to the US, and Melinda Tabler-Stone, Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Accra, met with the Chief Imam along with other Muslim clerics at the Chief Imam’s residence to deliberate on the matters arising from the arrival of the two Gitmo detainees currently in the country.
Though journalists were not allowed to sit in during the closed-door consultation, it appeared Ms Tetteh had come to persuade the Chief Imam and the clerics to identify with government’s decision, as Christian groups had rubbished the deal to house the suspects in Ghana.
After the closed-door consultation, which lasted close to three hours, Sheikh Sharubutu urged the Muslim community and Ghanaians to accept the detainees on humanitarian grounds.
He said accepting to receive and protect the two Gitmo detainees was in line with the Islamic mission of compassion and humanitarianism.
That plea had been rejected by Christians who indicated that compassion goes with common sense.
Sheikh Sharubutu, in the meeting said, “The Islamic religion held the ultimate value that the human being is reformable; meaning that we hate the crime associated to man but then we don’t hate man.”
“The Chief Imam’s position is that Ghana is known for these excellent attributes of hospitality, compassion, respect for human rights and those accolades are things that single out Ghana in the comity of nations. By receiving and protecting them, we give more credence to these attributes,” Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu, spokesperson for the National Chief Imam, told DAILY GUIDE after the meeting.
Sheikh Shaibu, narrating the purpose of the visit to DAILY GUIDE, stated that the minister came to share with them certain vital information about the true state of the detainees in Ghana.
“We thought that we should offer that opportunity to the minister to also come and tell us aspects of the issue that could allay our fears, give us the security arrangement that has been put in place and also for us to see if there was anything for us to contribute,” he said.
Strangely, the two Yemeni nationals who are said not to be dangerous are under a 24-hour surveillance.
Some of the concerns raised by the Muslim clerics at the gathering included the implications of two detainees in Ghana with respect to the security of Muslims in the diaspora and whether it was possible for Muslim leaders to make contact with them.
But Hanna Tetteh disclosed that the country was still at the initial phase of the issue, which would make it virtually impossible for her to state whether or not the state would allow the Muslim clerics to visit the detainees.
“She told us that the government wanted to guarantee the safety of the nation very well, gather all the needed processes – especially areas that have to do with security- before contact with the detainees by anybody would be allowed. However she was quick to add that when the need arises the state would meet with the clerics again to see the way forward,” Sheikh Shaibu noted.
By Nii Ogbamey Tetteh