As a young and proud Zongorian, and just like many other proud Zongorians both living within and outside our Zongo communities, I sometimes feel ashamed and frustrated with the behaviour and the (mis)conduct of what I call the “embarrassing few” amongst us. Every now and then we hear negative stories coming out from our Zongos. If it is not the Zongos in Accra today, it is the Zongos in Kumasi or Takoradi or elsewhere. We have virtually become the “scar” on the face of the country, just like how the former British Prime Minister describes Africa in the global context.

But what really is our fundamental problem in our Zongo communities in Ghana? As far as I’m aware, there isn’t any available empirical study or research which outlines our problems and challenges. However, like what they say about opinions, everyone has their own opinion on our troubles. Most attribute our troubles to our leaders (by which I mean our chiefs and Imams) and parents. Some too our youth. Others too to our politicians who always (mis)use us before, during and after elections!

But what is my opinion?

First of all, I think the trouble with our Zongo communities is the very nature or structure of the Zongo communities. What exactly do I mean by this? When a group of people live together and try to behave or in fact behave as if they’re different from the rest, in terms of how they live their lives and go about their activities, it sends a wrong or better put mixed signals to the rest of us. I’m not suggesting that Muslims should live like Christians. My point is Muslims in Ghana in particular have not done a good job in integrating into the Ghanaian society…very well. We may have been living peacefully with non-Muslims. However, we shouldn’t see ourselves as the underdogs and the minority that needs to be helped out from our current situations. We’ve got to live as Ghanaians who have the full and equal right just like any other Ghanaian! When there are troubles or violence in non-Zongo communities, the media reports it as an isolated incident from that community, and not a peculiarity to the community. It is about time, therefore, we stopped seeing ourselves as marginalized and the underdogs. Yes Muslims the minority in Ghana. But Ghana is a secular State which technically doesn’t care about what religion one belongs to. We are Ghanaians and we should behave as such!

Secondly, and this is the unfortunate part of the whole debate: there is no direction whatsoever in our Zongo communities. In other words, we don’t have the leaders to lead our communities for us…starting from our imams, chiefs, parents, youth leaders, etc. Our leaders have absolutely no clue on how to build our Zongo communities. There is no any grand plan anywhere that all of us should be working on. And one would have thought that, as Muslim dominated communities, our way of governance and living should be shaped by the Islamic system of governance. We have failed to inculcate the Islamic system in our way of life in Ghana. Muslims in Ghana can have a Muslim state in Ghana. That is different from having an Islamic State, which can only happen in Muslim majority countries. The Muslim state in Ghana can become a strong force only if we can bury our differences and come together to work as a collective force. For instance, the Muslim state (a name I like better than the Zongo) can become an instrument for both community and national development. Whereas the government of Ghana collects taxes, the Muslim state can put in place structures for the collection of Zakats and Waqf for the development of our communities. We can build schools of higher learning, hospitals, halal supermarkets, television and radio stations, farms, transports, law firms, accounting firms, Islamic banks, our own private security firms, etc. We can put in place scholarship schemes that will sponsor our students to read medicine, law, engineering, accounting and finance, etc. Until we realize this and work towards building the kind of Muslim state as described in the Islamic economic system, we will continue to be the most-backward group of people in Ghana, unfortunately!

The third and the final point is that, even in the absence of a Muslim state in Ghana, all of us must contribute our quota to the development of our communities. You may forgive me on this, but most Muslims in Ghana, especially the privileged few, are very selfish when it comes to their contributions to our total development. We live the mantra “each for himself, God for us all.” When people become well-to-do, the next thing is to move out from the community with their families, and forget about the poor and the vulnerable. We cannot continue to live like that. As individuals we must all work towards addressing our problems and challenges. When each person takes a step every single day thinking about how to address our problems, I am hopeful that in the next 3 to 5 decades we can address these challenges.

The troubles with our Zongo communities aren’t impossible to address. We created those problems and only we can solve them. Nobody from anywhere can do this for us.