In the wake of discernments against three bills he presented on the floor of the Senate seeking Islamic and other holidays in Liberia, Bomi County Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe said he will not withdraw the bills but instead requested those opposing those bills to call on their lawmakers to vote against them, stressing that God is God of Justice and fair play.
Senator Snowe indicated in a statement yesterday that he will stand for what he believes is right, based on our history. “I will stand for what I believe is right, based on our history, and the need for a wholesome functioning Liberian society, and one nation, under God with liberty and justice for all. “Might don’t make right,” the Bomi County Senator noted.
The Senator’s statement comes in the wake of criticisms in the print and electronic media that he has abandoned the bills he had introduced at the Senate, including An Act Making Easter Monday a Public Holiday; An Act Making Eid al-Adha (Abraham’s Day) a public Holiday, and An Act Making Eid al-Fitr (End of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the Festival of Breaking Fast) a Public Holiday”.
But the time taken for the senator to ensure the bills are made part of Senate Agenda in recent time provoke widespread criticisms in the print, social media and electronic media that the Senator had abandoned the bills introduced at the Senate.
The proposed legislations come on the heels of sustained campaign by members of the Christian faith to declare Liberia a Christian nation based on a recommendation from a 2015 constitutional review committee in the wake of outcries by the Muslim community craving for Islamic holidays in the country, which the Christian majority contended was founded on Christian Principle, considering that the declaration of Independence was done at the Providence Baptist Church.
But the Muslim community has been counter-arguing that Liberia by provisions of the 1986 Constitution, is a secular state – a state comprising of two major religions including Christianity and Islam, and that with a number of Christian holidays in place, the Muslims should be given at least holiday as well. The Muslims also have been saying that Islam was in Liberia before the coming of Christianity, citing for evidence the role of King Sao Boso in the formation of what is now referred to as Liberia.
It is amidst the long standing debate that Senator Snowe took the bull by the horn when he proffered the three bills to lay the debate to rest. Christianity is by far the most common faith in Liberia, with recent surveys showing Christians making up 83-86% of the population, while by contrast, Islam has declined slightly from 14-15% in the 1980s to 11-12% in recent surveys.
Senator Snowe, who is believe to be a Christian, represents a county which is predominantly Muslim, leaving many to question the motive behind his planned legislation.
But Snowe said “Consistent with the principles of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by our Constitution, those of you opposing these Bills have the right to call on your lawmakers to vote against them.”
The Boimi County lawmaker indicated however that “… as it stands, I will not, in good faith, withdraw these legislations. I will be on the floor of the Liberian Senate come Thursday, June 3rd, to ensure that these Bills are placed on the agenda and read on the floor of the Liberian Senate. I will not back down. I will not withdraw.”
Senator Snowe said he has read and listened to ‘all the sensational print, social media and radio spins’ regarding what he called “my patriotic endeavor” to make Liberia more inclusive and accommodating of its diversity by introducing three, very important legislations that he is sponsoring on the floor of the Liberian Senate.
“For the record, the introduction of these Bills is not intended to bring me in conflict, or seek favor from any particular segment of our Liberian society,” he asserted.
Instead, he said “It is based on my patriotic conviction and responsibility as a Senator for all our people, based on my keen reading of Liberian history, including the proximate causes of our recent baseless prolonged civil conflict. I represent the majority as well as the minority.
“The introduction of these Bills,” he continued, “represent first, my belief in equality and religious freedom as guaranteed by our Constitution and laws of our country, Liberia.”
He then clarified that introducing these Bills is based on his belief and considered learning that God is a God of justice and fair play.”
Recently, the media reported that Bomi County Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe has introduced three bills, two of which are intended to grant people of the Islamic faith two public holidays amidst a calendar already overcrowded with public holidays.
The planned legislation by Senator Snowe, analysts say could trigger a backlash from the predominantly Christian population who feel denied following the National Constitutional Review Conference in 2015, which recommended to make Liberia a “Christian nation.”
The Gloria Musu-Scott Constitution Review Committee said Muslim groups led by the Liberia Muslim Organization lobbied unsuccessfully for Liberia to remain a secular nation on the grounds that the proposed amendment is discriminatory.
The committee was charged with reviewing the country’s 1986 constitution, and solicited suggestions from the public for possible amendments, including the terms of office for the President, Vice President, legislators and justices, as well as superintendents of the country’s 15 political subdivisions. But none of these recommended proposals have found their way on the country’s statute books.
It can also be recalled that the presidential and legislative tenures, which precedes Snowe’s proposed legislation, failed miserably in the recent referendum.