Justice Amadu Tanko taken out of Context
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What many Ghanaians, especially Muslims, expected to be a moment of celebration seems to hit a temporary snag due to misconceptions and the lack of appreciation of critical legal issues concerning the veiling of school-going Muslim girls and the distribution of estate in accordance with Sharia Law.

The former Appeals Court Judge and now nominated to the Supreme Court as a Judge, Justice Issifu Tanko Amadu, last Monday appeared before the Parliamentary Vetting Committee to be vetted for the highest job.

During the vetting, he was asked critical questions about the wearing of hijab by school-going Muslim girls and the distribution of estate according to Sharia.

His responses to the two critical questions were totally misunderstood and misinterpreted, leading to wrong information and perceptions being peddled on social media and some mainstream media.

First of all, it must be made clear that Justice Amadu Tanko appeared before the vetting committee of parliament as a public officer being considered for one of the highest positions in Ghana’s judiciary.

I hope all who celebrated his nomination and anticipated he’d be given the nod may not necessarily expect him to appear radical to attract suspicion of animosity or vengeance over his uttrances. I do not think so.

It is very important to state that the Supreme Court judge nominee was not necessarily at the vetting to present the position and defend the position of all Muslims in Ghana.

Undoubtedly, he was there to find a way of answering questions to the best of his ability to be approved.

It cannot be taken as a fact that it was the personal opinion of Justice Tanko that not wearing hijab to classes will not necessarily mitigate or hamper a Muslim girl’s Islamic faith. He also insisted that, nonetheless, they have the right to use it to pray.

Offensive, as we were made to understand by some sections of concerned Muslims, is a personal opinion he offered.

I do not think we should encourage our school-going children to miss their class lessons due to hijab.
We all know realistically that we are in a relatively weaker position in the government structure of our country, in finance, education, infrastructure, and everything else one can think of.

The leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Abubakar Shekau, as part of his modus operandi, uses young girls in hijab to kill human beings and destroy properties. So can we say that by just wearing hijabs, they represent Islam?

On the issue of inheritance, Justice Amadu Tanko indicated that the Islamic position is a Quranic injunction, though one may say it is inherently discriminatory, for lack of a better word. That would not necessarily mean that Justice Tanko is preaching against what the Holy Quran says.

If anyone cares to know, he is a practicing and devoted Muslim who has done a lot for the Muslim community and even went on to construct a mosque in his house.

With an Islamic education background, Justice Amadu Tanko may not be seen as an Islamic cleric but can’t be described as an illitrate of Islamic knowledge and jurisprudence.

The evidence on the ground is that most beneficiaries go to change the distribution of estates because of PNDC Law 111.

So when Hon. Nii Lante Vanderpuye asked his question in relation to the late President of Liberty Professionals Football Club, Alhaji Sly Tetteh’s estate, what he said was purely legal in context. He went on to say that “once he (Sly Tetteh) has a Christian widow who is opposed to the distribution according to Islamic law (Sharia), nobody can do anything about it because Islamic law is not universally applied unless there is a consensus by all the beneficiaries.

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What can be more truthful and accurate than this unambiguous response to a very sensitive issue?

Are we then suggesting that the newly nominated Muslim Supreme Court Judge should have sounded emotional, radical, and overzealous, like a bigot, to be disqualified from being confirmed as a Supreme Court Judge?

Information available indicates that on several occasions, the distribution of estates by the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, has been set aside by the courts.

It is so because under the legal regime, unless you appoint administrators, any person who distributes would have done so illegally unless the beneficiaries agreed by consensus. Most often, they disagree.

On several occasions, the National Chief Imam admonishes Muslims to avoid going to court on matters of estate distribution because it has destroyed many families.

It is therefore imperative for those going around spreading misconceptions and misinformation about the explanations and opinions provided by Justice Amadu Tanko at his vetting to kindly desist from that and rather juxtapous what we already knew about the two critical issues with his clear and unambiguous perspective to make an informed decision.

I don’t think, with our prevailing challenges as a people, we will allow our school-going girls to sacrifice their lessons for hijab.

Provided they are properly nurtured according to Islamic principles, a lack of hijab in class alone can’t affect their faith.

It is through a clarion call to our Muslim leadership to recognise Ghana as a circular state and thus lobby through our parliament to bring an end to these controversial debates.

We must endeavour to do our utmost to create an enabling environment for Muslim children to attend their schools without any restrictions on the wearing of hijab.

It is always said that when one appears before the Parliamentary Vetting Committee, one needs to be truthful, assertive, critical, analytical, and do well to communicate effectively if only they want to scale through.

Please let’s give Justice Amadu Tanko the benefit of the doubt and not hang him by the expression of his personal view on a sensitive matter live on camera.

The celebration of this great and monumental achievement by Justice Amadu Tanko must continue unabated.

His performance at the vetting was generally good, so I want to appeal to my fellow Muslims not to use emotions to “nail” Justice Tanko for his views on the two issues he spoke on.

Article first published on May 13, 2020.

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