News / Africa

Muslim Traders Accused of Favoring Christian Celebrations in Malawi

Traders and buyers at the main market in the city of Mzuzu, Malawi (C. Gondwe)
Traders and buyers at the main market in the city of Mzuzu, Malawi (C. Gondwe)
Lameck Masina

In Malawi, some Muslims are complaining that Muslim traders tend to reduce the price of goods for Christmas festivities, but not for Islamic celebrations such as Eid.
The traders say this is because Muslims don’t spend as much money on religious holidays.

Some Muslims say the difference is not fair, and fails to put Islamic and Christian celebrations on equal footing. They say despite the difference between the religions, both celebrations are equality important to their followers.

Shamima Yahaya-Binali is among Muslims who are complaining.

“This attitude is very bad because Islamic activities are quite large and their importance to the Muslim community [should] attract everyone’s attention including Muslim traders. What these people are doing is capitalizing on other festivities, some of which are not even encouraged in Islam,”. he said. 

Imran Shiaz Mussa is a Muslim trader and the owner of a shopping centre in Malawi’s northern city of Mzuzu. He doesn’t cut prices during Islamic celebrations because, he says, Muslims don’t buy new clothes on their major holidays as do Christians.

“[During Eid], he explains, people don’t buy things [like] new clothes….Christians are the ones who buy new clothes”.

Christian trader Alinafe Chilinda operates a restaurant and shopping centre in the commercial capital Blantyre.

She says the problem is that during Islamic festivities the celebrations are mostly confined to the home. She says Muslims rarely eat out or go shopping for their holidays.  
But Binali disagrees.

“That’s not true.," he says. "In fact I buy new clothes each and every year. And it is also Sunna (the teachings of Prophet Muhammad) to buy new clothes on Eid. Maybe [the explanation is] that the Christian community is quite large compared to Muslim community here in Malawi.  But they [Muslim traders] need to consider us by reducing the prices during Eid festivities. [Their] attitude is very bad. I am telling you God will punish them.”

However National Coordinator for the Islamic Information Bureau Sheikh Dinala Chabulika says it is important to look at the issue from both angles.

"The concern is genuine," he says, "but a businessman always looks at where he is going to make more profit or do more business. As Muslims we are supposed to promote our own activities. There is nothing wrong with decreasing the price of goods during other celebrations because he wants to make a profit but [it’s not good] to neglect Islam by doing nothing during Islamic [holidays].

Chabulika says businessmen and consumers will benefit from a drop in prices.  After all, he says you don’t have to be Christian to appreciate a good bargain.

Listen to report on traders in Malawi
Listen to report on traders in Malawii
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