On Friday 22nd September 2017, the city of Freetown was rocked by the presence of the Grand Mufti, Sheik Ismail Menk, a renowned Islamic Scholar of International acclaim, in the city. Residents from the east and west of the city thronged the National Stadium to catch a glimpse at this ‘man of God’ and listen to the message he has for Sierra Leone.
Many residents in rural Freetown are said to have begun flocking to the National Stadium well before 8.00 am, on that Friday morning. Observers say that never in the history of this country have they witnessed such a crowd in any event in the country. It surpasses the imaginations of all political/social gatherings ever had in the country. People from both faiths thronged the stadium. In the early stages of the gathering, the organisers defined entry points for both sexes; Females used the YWCA end by the swimming Pool whilst the male used the entrance by Syke Street, but as the time for the coming of the Mufti to the stadium drew near they became free for all entry points.
The sitting capacity for people in the stadium was exhausted thus resulting in the opening of the grounds to accommodate the ever growing crowd. Even the flood lights became viewing points for many people as they took the risk against advice of the organisers, and climbed up the poles supporting the lights. In the city there was heavy traffic almost everywhere as people abandoned vehicles trapped in traffic and walked all the way to the stadium from both directions of the city.
As the Grand Mufti entered the stadium, the shouts of Allahuakbarrand cheers was deafening as the crowd screamed in recognition of the presence of the cleric. This further prompted a mad rush from those in the vicinity of the grounds on their way to the entrance. As was expected there were few unpleasant incidents where some female and children were given first aid treatments for exhaustion by the medical team from the ministry of health who were on the ground.
In his brief but much awaited address and sermon the Grand Mufti, Sheik Ismail Menk, admonished the crowd to maintain peace as it is what the holy prophet teaches. He called for unity and hope and spoke about discipline in the way people dress and comport themselves. After the meeting people spoken to say that they were glad to be able to see the Mufti physically as there are rumours that people have paid flights from the UK to see him in Zimbabwe, whilst Sierra Leoneans have been given this rare opportunity to see him for free and listen to his message. One observer said that he had never seen such a display of religious tolerance so aptly demonstrated by Sierra Leoneans, anywhere in the world.
However one elder citizen said that such a meeting which attracts thousands should have been connected to those giant televisions erected at East end Police, St John, Congo Cross and Lumley round about so as to enable those who are unable to get to the stadium, to watch live the whole program. One social commentator commended the religious tolerance demonstrated by Sierra Leoneans and hoped this could be replicated in the political arena.