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George Weah World Footballer of 1995: Renounces Islamic Faith and bids 4 Presidency
'I'm Not Muslim' - Weah Renounces Islamic Faith
The Analyst (Monrovia)
November 30, 2004
Posted to the web November 30, 2004
-Says He Joined Islam For Convenience
This has been described in the Liberian parlance as the "monkey jumps from tree to tree" type of religious faith. George Manneh Oppong Weah, the newest aspirant who took Monrovia by storm last Wednesday has somersaulted, denouncing the Islamic faith that he adopted years ago when he played football in France.
Following his conversion to Islam, Weah was christened "Ousman" and has since been known in Islamic circles by that name as indication of conversion. But as The Analyst's Sub Editor Ellis Togba reports, Weah has reverted to Christianity again and is now singing the song of the Christians as a convert. "What influenced his decision, politics, true conviction, or lack of direction?" is the question many are asking.
Saudi Arabia probably may not have done much to have Oppong stick to the Islamic religion that he told the world he was converted to while playing soccer in the French city of Monaco.
And to the utmost surprise of Christians and Muslims alike, Ambassador Weah declared at the Jireh International Church, last Sunday, that he is now a Christian and not a Muslim he was.
Weah's declaration was based on a question posed to him by Mother Esther Nyumah, founder and overseer of the Jireh International Church in this fashion: "Amb.> Weah, we want you to tell us whether you are a Muslim or a Christian." Without a stutter Weah answered: "I am a Christian. I only did that [became a Muslim] because some people were putting pressure on." "Which Church do you belong to?" She asked.
"This Church," Weah answered thus completely holding his follower spellbound and confused.
Giving reason for converting to Islam, Weah claimed that his decision at the time was a matter of convenience when he was playing soccer for the AS Monaco in France.
Incidentally, Weah was converted to Islam under the influence of his former manager, Mohammed Siliby, himself a Muslim.
Many people raised questions recently when Weah attended his welcome and thanksgiving service at the Sinkor Assembly of God, where Bishop Isaac Winker prayed for him and invoked God's guidance and blessing upon him.
Before the clarification, it was rumored in many circles that Weah was a member of the Catholic Church.
With this latest development, the debate about his religious background has been put to rest.
The Sunday worship service at the Jireh Church was surprisingly graced by another presidential aspirant, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Whether the appearance of the two aspirants in the church to which none of them belonged prior to Weah's confession is by design or accident is not known up to press time.
Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf (compactly attired in an African dress) and Mr. Weah (in long white sleeves shirt with dark trousers) were seated not too far apart from one another on the pulpit (altar), sandwiched by the Pastor of the Church Mother Esther Nyemah.
Following soul stimulating songs from the praise and worship team and choir, then came the hour for the word, the infallible word of God as Mother Nyemah put it.
The two presidential confidants flipped the pages of their bibles to search for books, chapters as Mother Nyumah called.
The ClarTV cameraman focused the two personalities as they meandered through various pages to get the real books, chapters and verses.
Weah was seeing having an easy ride while his presidential colleague fumbled a bit to find Hebrew.
"Who says that woman knows Bible," remarked a female viewer who keenly watched Ellen.
Before getting to the core of her message, Mother Nyemah expressed dismay at the state of affairs in Liberia.
According to her, the masses of the people were suffering and therefore urged the government to apply the nation's resources prudently for the good of the citizens.
"I am meeting with Chairman on Wednesday and I will squarely put the issues to him," she said, adding that she fears nothing because God was on her side.
She also revealed that sometimes ago she met with the Minister of Commerce, Mr. Samuel Wlue and asked him whether they truly came to "redeem or suppress." From that, the Pentecostal preacher beaming with razzmatazz focused on the crux of her message, taken from the first book of the Holy Book, Genesis.
The focus of her sermon was on God's ability to transform or deal with people when they are in the madness.
She made specific reference to Joseph, the dream interpreter, and Abraham both great men of God who He dealt with in their desperate situation because they did not forsake Him or break the Covenant She used the time to refute rumors that Oppong became member of her church because he contribution to the construction of the church's edifice.
Mother Nyemah told the congregation that she built the church from donations from friends and other philanthropists.
"When Oppong saw the work, he said ma thank you. I said to him bring your contribution too," she said as the cameraman focused Weah beaming with smiles.
Weah who recently expressed his intention for the chief magistracy of the land following of weeks consultations with relatives, friends and other dignitaries returned home last week and received a heroic welcome.
Upon arrival in town, he proceeded to the Sacred Hearts Cathedral on Broad Street for another intercessory service.
For Madam Sirleaf, she was one of the 13 candidates in the 1997 special elections won by the former President Charles Taylor. Ellen came second in that election.
Since Weah threw in the bid for the nation's highest office, there has been wrangling here and outside over his capability to lead a country torn apart by convulsion and a people still nursing the wounds of war.
Besides his academic qualification debate, others questioned his faith. There are arguments that he cannot become president because he is a Muslim while others argued that that has nothing to do with religion as Liberia is a secular state.
For Ellen, the atmosphere is calm. There is no religious conflict and there is no problem of academic qualification.
But many feel that she is one of those who plunged Liberia into its current debacle, although she has denied that from time to time.
Rory Carroll, Africa correspondent Saturday November 27, 2004 The Guardian
Liberia's previous president was indicted for war crimes and forced into exile. The one before him had his ears chopped off. The one before him was disembowelled.
No matter, George Weah wants the job. The former Chelsea striker and world footballer of the year returned to his war-battered west African country this week to run for the presidency.
Thousands of supporters lined the route from the airport to cheer his motorcade, convinced that the man they call King George could deliver Liberia from tyranny and chaos.
"As you know, my people petitioned me some time ago, so I have come to answer their petition," said Mr Weah, 38, while launching his campaign for next year's presidential election.
Dressed in a suit, he asked people to pray for peace and stability. "During the electoral process, there will be different ideologies and beliefs. But we must embrace each other and be harmonious in unifying Liberia through our love and tolerance."
That was the extent of his manifesto but there was no doubting the seriousness of his attempt at power. He stands a good chance of being elected, according to diplomats in the capital, Monrovia.
After more than a decade of civil war which shattered the economy and left cities in ruins, an interim government, led by Gyude Bryant and aided by 15,000 UN peacekeepers, has disarmed warring factions and presided over a year of relative calm.
The challenge for the next president is to consolidate the peace and forge a failed state of refugees, widows and former child soldiers into a nation.
Mr Weah has little formal schooling, but he has proven versatile on and off the field and has been called African Pride by Nelson Mandela.
Born one of 13 siblings in a small village outside Monrovia, he played with a tin can before he had a ball. His speed, strength and balance vaulted him through local football clubs and to Europe.
He played for Monaco and Paris St Germain before finding greatness with AC Milan, scoring one of the best individual goals of all time and becoming the first player to be nominated European, African and world player of the year in the same season.
By the time he played for Chelsea and Manchester City he was a millionaire and feted at home for captaining and funding the national football team, the Lone Stars.
As an ambassador for Unicef, he campaigned to demobilise Liberia's boy soldiers, not much taller than their AK-47s. But until now, he has betrayed no political ambition to emulate the likes of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a professional footballer who became Turkey's prime minister, or Pele, who became Brazil's sports minister.
Founded in the 19th century by freed American slaves, Liberia has not been kind to presidents, nor they to it. Besieged by rebels and indicted by the UN for war crimes, Charles Taylor fled to Nigeria last year. His predecessor, Samuel Doe, was tortured to death. Doe's predecessor, William Tolbert, was bayoneted in his bed.
Those days, it is hoped, are gone. Some 35 candidates have announced they will compete in the UN-backed election scheduled for October.
Mr Weah's supporters have already printed T-shirts with his photograph and the slogan "the people's choice", and signed up members to his party, the Liberian National Congress.
The jubilation at his cavalcade from the airport resembled a victory parade. Women in white ululated, children chanted, others beat drums and prostrated themselves on the ground.
"My president is waiting!" shouted one woman, Louise Sorwon, the AFP news agency reported. "The politicians in this country have failed us, lied to us, killed our brothers and sisters ... So Weah can deliver the goods."
His wealth was insurance against avarice, said another supporter: "He's rich so he's not going to steal the country's money and he has the country at heart."