The Danger of Arming a Possible Bigot: Allegations or Fact
By: Emmanuel Dolo, Ph. D.
The recent statement attributed to the Director of the National Police Force of Liberia, Munnah Sieh, that she warned Liberian women who wear veil of desisting from this dress code because they invite possible terrorist actions or threaten national security is the most bigoted statement I have heard in recent times from a law enforcement official. Let’s consider this an allegation or a misinterpretation of sorts and give her the benefit of the doubt. But whatever the case, if she insinuated or drew a line of causality between people’s dress codes and possible crimes, such hint is spurious at best and bigoted at worse.
This development is alarming because, although alleged, it needs to claim the attention of every rights advocate in the homeland and the Liberian Diaspora. It portends a dangerous trend, especially considering the possible source. Imagine! Arming a bigot and inviting the bigot to protect our security. Bigotry thrives in climates where people are willing to let the first hint go without strong condemnation.
Mandingoes, who are possibly the majority Islamic people in Liberia, although not forgetting that Moslems cross the broad spectrums of Liberians, do not deserve to be singled out for such possible bigoted statement. Christians should be up in arms about the prospect that their fellow siblings of faith are under attack and rebuff this diatribe with every fiber of their being. Liberians should be clear about the fact that it was our apathy, when one group of Liberians were under attack by another, that caused the politicization of ethnic difference to grow into a menacing condition, leading to cascades of revenge, hence, bringing our country to a complete collapse.
I believe that there should be a public discourse about thorny issues because intellectual exchange informs and enlightens. However, any attempt to trample on the civil liberties of one group, crosses the line of civil and acceptable discourse. This kind of sentiment, even if implied or made up, enters us into a destructive space and leads us down a path that is criminal in nature. Such a form of chauvinism deserves President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s immediate attention. Silence on this matter or backsliding as she has done about the plague of corruption ravaging our society, would mean only one thing. She is too preoccupied with self to the disadvantage of the citizenry and to the peril of her political future.
In this paper, I have broken the tradition of “value-free” social science because the issue at hand is personal. It affects the lives of my relatives, friends, and a host of people whose lives mean the world to me. I do not pretend to be neutral on this matter because the future of Liberia is of immense importance to me. When I stand against bigotry, I do so as a Liberian who has seen the devastation that embedding hatred and prejudice into ethnic difference cost all Liberians.
In plain English, this alleged statement is harmful even just by the mere thought. The utterance has the potential to chill the free movement of women wearing veil. It is irresponsible and despicable. One wonders now about the judgment of the Director of Police and her psychosocial and cultural sensibilities. Hopefully, as police and military officers in Liberia are being trained, the mental health needs of those that are being entrusted with responsibility to protect our security are assessed by clinicians who are capable of rooting these assessments in appropriate cultural contexts. Should we flood the streets with police and military people who have not benefited from culturally-sensitive evaluations and related interventions to mitigate possible backlash from primary or secondary exposure to war, the pervasiveness of venomous invectives like the one that is the basis of this paper could divert strides toward integration.
The Johnson-Sirleaf administration should put the Director of Police on paid administrative leave until it completes an investigation of the allegations. If there are any merits to these assertions, the Director should be fired and never given a permit for owning weapon in the Liberian society again. Harsh, as this may sound, for those of us who study the minds of bigots and racists, we know the dangers that such persons pose. Hopefully, there is no truth to this statement. Then it means we are maintaining the pathway to freeing our country from the clenched fist of the divides that have held peace and security hostage.
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