AVOID MUSLIM ZANZIBAR

Islamists Call Christian Churches 'Dens of Nonbelievers' Before Attacks

3/17/2014 WORLD WATCH MONITOR

A series of bomb blasts in Tanzania’s island of Zanzibar is stoking fears that an Islamist breakaway movement is increasingly targeting Christians.

Since 2010, the cases have been on the increase and Christians and their leaders—many of them originally from mainland Tanzania—say they are anxious.

In the latest attack on Feb. 24, assailants exploded a homemade bomb near the gate of St. Monica Anglican Cathedral, slightly damaging the church wall and a car park. Anglican bishop Michael Hafidh of Zanzibar told World Watch Monitor at the time he did not know who had planned and executed the attack.

Also Feb. 24, a similar explosive went off at the Mercury restaurant, a popular hangout for western tourists. A day earlier, four people were injured when a bomb was thrown into the Assemblies of

God Church in the Founi area of the island. On Feb. 15, in the Tomondo area of the Island, a home-made bomb was thrown at the door of the Adventist Church during a worship service.

Hafidh said although this is not the first time the churches had been targeted, the recent series of explosions has left Christians feeling more scared.

“We don’t know the motive, but the police have said they are investigating. We think these are people opposed to the presence of Christians here,” he said in February.

Christians and Muslims have peacefully shared Zanzibar until 2010, when the Association of Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, a religious movement known as Jumuiya ya Uamsho na Miadhara ya Kiislam, or UAMSHO, began clamoring for Zanzibar’s autonomy.

UAMSHO registered in Zanzibar as a non-governmental organization in 2001. In its charter, it declared its aim of aim of establishing Zanzibar as a center of Islamic institutions under Islamic law and free from the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, the official name of Tanzania.

In more recent years the campaign has taken on religious overtones. Clashes with police have ended with churches being burned and clerics being attacked. In February 2013, a Roman Catholic priest in the Zanzibar Diocese, Rev. Evaristus Mushi, was killed by unknown gunmen. His death followed a shooting two months earlier that left another priest, Rev. Ambrose Mkenda, badly injured.

Before Mushi’s killing, UAMSHO had circulated leaflets mentioning their youth training in Somalia, and threatening attacks.

“Our youth who went for training in Somalia have assured us that before we celebrate the birth of Prophet Mohammed, there will be other ‘celebrations’ about these infidels, that will be a big funeral for them,” said one undated leaflet, in Swahili, that circulated before the attack on Mushi.

The leaflets praised attacks on churches, referring to them as “dens of nonbelievers.” They also claimed the group had support from within the Zanzibari government of President Mohamed Shein. Christians on the island also received text messages warning them to leave the country or face death.

“The problem is the group is mixing calls for autonomy with religion,” said the Rev. Cosmas Shayo, a Catholic priest on Zanzibar. “They issues threat to Christians. They have attacked churches and clergy. We become more afraid when they circulate threatening leaflets.”

Added another Zanzibar priest, the Rev. Thomas Assenga: “We fear anything can happen anytime. Things are not easy here.”

In September 2013, Rev. Amselmo Mwang’amba, an elderly Catholic priest, was seriously injured when assailants splashed him with an acid. Mwang’amba, who headed the Roman Catholic Congregation of Cheju in the central district of the Island, was attacked as he walked out of a cyber café he frequented.

A month earlier, two British teenage girls, who had volunteered with a local church nursery school, suffered severe burns in a similar acid attack. Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup, had suffered burns of the chest, face and hands in the attack, which occurred as they walked in Stone Town, an old part of the island.

If UAMSHO wins independence for Zanzibar, it may alleviate political—but not religious—tensions, according to the Rev. Laurenti Magesa, a renowned Tanzanian Catholic theologian and scholar.

“Of course, the population of Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim, but there is a big percentage of Muslims in many regions of the mainland living alongside Christians,” he told World Watch Monitor.

Economically and socially, Zanzibar stands to lose if Christians leave the island, Magesa said. They provide much of the labor supporting the tourism industry.

“Other than the pride of political identity—‘We are a sovereign state’—I personally don't see a genuine case for Zanzibar's cessation,” he said.

Bomb blasts hit Zanzibar cathedral and tourist bar
February 24, 2014

Zanzibar (Tanzania) (AFP) - Two homemade bombs exploded Monday on the popular Indian Ocean tourist island of Zanzibar, but with no casualties, police said, in the latest in a series of attacks.

"Investigations are ongoing to find out details of the blasts and the motive behind them," assistant police commissioner Mkadam Khamis told reporters.

One blast took place at the Anglican cathedral, a historic building in the heart of the narrow and winding ancient streets of Stone Town, the UNESCO-listed historical centre of the capital of the semi-autonomous Tanzanian archipelago.

The other occurred at the seafront Mercury's restaurant and bar, a favourite of tourists.

"It is suspected that the explosives are homemade bombs thrown by unidentified thugs," Khamis said, adding that the blast at the cathedral had caused only minor damage to parked cars.

The bar, located near the main port and seafront square, is named after flamboyant rock musician and Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who was born on the island.

The British High Commission said it was "ready to provide consular assistance as necessary".

Last year unknown attackers hurled acid into the faces of two British teenage girls as they strolled through Stone Town, as Zanzibar's Muslim majority were preparing to celebrate the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

In the past year, attackers have also thrown acid into the faces of religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim. Others have been shot.

Several churches have been torched following violent protests amid rising religious tensions in the east African archipelago between communities who have traditionally lived in peace.

The series of attacks has sparked fears of a tourist exodus from Zanzibar, which is famed for its pristine white-sand beaches and is heavily reliant on tourism.

Another apparent homemade bomb was hurled into a church on Sunday, which exploded but caused no casualties.

In Zanzibar, some more conservative elements of the Muslim community object to foreign tourists who wear revealing clothes, and frequent bars selling alcohol.

Some have blamed the hardline Islamic group Uamsho, Swahili for "The Awakening", a minority group but believed to be growing in influence, especially among disaffected and jobless youth.

While the group denies involvement in any of the attacks, they have widely succeeded in funnelling cultural and political tensions into support for radical Islamism.

As Zanzibar celebrates the 50th anniversary of its union with mainland Tanzania this year, some opposition political parties also want to break ties and return to independence.

British women attacked with acid in Zanzibar

8 August 2013
BBC News

Two British women have had acid thrown in their faces in Zanzibar, police on the east African island say.

Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup, both 18 and from London, were working as volunteer teachers on the island.

Their mothers, Nicky Gee and Rochelle Trup, said they expected them to return to the UK on Thursday night.

The Foreign Office said it was "concerned to hear of an attack on two British nationals" and was "providing consular assistance".

The women's mothers said in a statement: "Both families are extremely upset and distressed at this completely unprovoked attack on their lovely daughters who had only gone to Zanzibar with good intention. We understand that they will be flying home overnight.

"We appreciate all the interest and support we have received from the media but we would ask that we are left alone until we have been reunited with our daughters."

Nicky Gee told Sky News her daughter's whole face and body had been burned by acid in the attack.

Police said two men on a moped threw the acid at the women, splashing their faces, chests and hands as they walked through the streets of Stone Town, the old part of the island's capital Zanzibar City, which is a Unesco world heritage site.

Deputy police commissioner Mkadam Khamis told AFP news agency: "The motive for the attack on the volunteers aged 18 years, has not been established. Investigations are on until we apprehend the criminals."

The two women were volunteers for the charity Art in Tanzania, having booked through the company i-to-i Travel.

Kari Korhonen runs Art in Tanzania with two other directors. He told the BBC in an email the "ladies are OK considering the seriousness of this type of case".

He added: "We have been operating as NGO some 10 years and this is the first serious incident."

He said he found out about the incident immediately after it took place and that the charity was "sorting out the incident background with the British High Commission and the Tanzanian-Zanzibar government".

Another of Art In Tanzania's representatives in Zanzibar said the two women had been volunteering with the organisation for just over two weeks. He said they had been on their way to dinner when they were attacked.

In a statement, i-to-i Travel said: "All our efforts remain focussed on ensuring they are supported whilst assisting them and their relatives with the arrangements for their return home."

It added that "the motive for the incident is as yet not known".

The women were in the final week of their trip, i-to-i Travel said.

The police on Zanzibar said it was the first time foreigners had been attacked in this way.

The BBC's Tulanana Bohela in Dar es Salaam says Islam is the main religion on Zanzibar and in more remote parts of the island, away from tourist beaches, there are signs asking foreigners to respect the local culture and cover up - in case skimpy outfits upset villagers.

However, most islanders depend on tourism for their livelihoods and are happy to see tourists and there is little antagonism towards them, she says.

Tanzania's minister of information, tourism, culture and sports, Said Ali Mbarouk, condemned the attack.

"We should co-operate with other government sectors to ensure that the perpetrators are arrested and brought to justice," he said.

"And I beg our nationals, this is not something they should be doing. Tourism is the strongest pillar of our economy, so if we do such acts we are killing our economy, and our livelihoods in general.

"So it is not an honourable thing to do, it's a bad thing and it should be condemned by all citizens of Zanzibar."

The Foreign Office's travel advice for the semi-autonomous Zanzibar is the same as that for the rest of Tanzania.

The Foreign Office says that while the majority of 75,000 British nationals have "trouble free" visits to Tanzania every year, "violent and armed crime is increasing" and "there is an underlying threat from terrorism".

It also says that "mugging, bag snatching (especially from passing cars) and robbery have increased throughout the country" and "in Zanzibar incidents have taken place in Stone Town and on popular tourist beaches".

Recent attacks in Zanzibar include an acid attack on a Muslim cleric in November, and the shooting dead of a Catholic priest in February. Another priest was shot and wounded in December.


Zanzibaris Adopting Stricter Form of Islam

By RODRIQUE NGOWI
Associated Press Writer
July 4, 2005

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania -- Zanzibar's mosques are fuller on Fridays, more women are wearing head scarves and more Muslim men are showing calluses created by frequently touching their foreheads to the ground in prayer. A growing number of Zanzibaris are turning toward a stricter form of Islam and possibly away from democracy ahead of this fall's elections, expected to be a volatile affair.

Multiparty politics "has brought nothing but tragedy," said Abdallah Mohammed Suleiman, 42, who sells imported clothes. "The best solution (is) to uphold our religious values, that is Islamic values, or revert to single party rule.

"After all, Islam is the sole unifying factor in Zanzibar."

Fundamentalist clerics see an opportunity, offering Islamic law as an alternative to democracy, arguing that would bring discipline and moral values to political leadership.

"We clearly see a vacuum that could be filled by the Islamist system that could show people that democracy -- which they hoped would enable them to elect leaders they want, people with integrity -- has failed," said Abdallah Said Ali, secretary of Society for Islamic Awareness and Preaching in Zanzibar.

The secular government of Tanzania, formed after Zanzibar united with the former Tanganyika, clearly is worried. It has quietly tightened restrictions for foreign Muslim missionaries. Tanzanian embassies must now certify six months in advance that the missionaries are from groups that do not threaten Tanzania's security.

While Zanzibar is overwhelmingly Muslim, overall Tanzania's population of 36 million is about 44 percent Christian and 34 percent Muslim.

Residents and moderate clerics say missionaries here include Pakistanis preaching the idea that government and society should be Islamic and stressing a strict, sometimes anti-Western version of the religion associated with Saudi Arabia and known as Wahhabism. Moderate clerics also say Saudi Wahhabists have paid for Zanzibari clerics to study Islam in Saudi Arabia.

These days, it's not unusual to hear Friday sermons peppered with anti-Western and anti-Israeli rhetoric. Hard-liners argue that every Muslim has an obligation to help the people of Iraq and Palestine to fight what they describe as the illegal occupation of their homelands by foreign powers.

Still, there are no obvious signs Zanzibaris are being systematically recruited to go to Iraq to join the insurgency, as Saudis have as well as other Arabs and North Africans. Moderate clerics here say it may be happening, but so secretly it's impossible to trace.

The alleged participation of Zanzibaris in the 1998 truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy in mainland Tanzania and neighboring Kenya show sentiment here can be channeled in violent directions. It's unclear how the Zanzibaris were recruited into the al-Qaida plot that resulted in the first terror attack in the region.

"This kind of Islam is not native to Zanzibar -- it is alien" in a society whose culture is a blend of Persian, Arab, Indian, Portuguese and African influences, said Maalim Mohammed Idris Saleh, one of the most respected Zanzibari Muslim clerics and Islamic historians.

This mostly Muslim archipelago in the Indian Ocean has had two turbulent elections since single party rule ended in 1992 -- 1995 and 2000 polls marred by opposition charges that the ruling party stole the vote. All indications are that polls set for Oct. 30 will be even more violent than past voting.

As Zanzibaris become increasingly skeptical that democracy will enable them to change the government through voting, there is a real danger that "they will seek other options," said Ayoub Bakari Hamad, director of elections for Zanzibar's opposition Civic United Front.

"If there are no changes, I am absolutely convinced that there will come some crafty people who will come with a good option and people will buy into it," he said. "And CUF will no longer be relevant at that time, so it will not be listened to by anyone. (The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi) will also not be relevant."

"It will be terrorism against liberalism," he said.

Working among the poor, the clerics offering Islam as a political solution are trying to expand their base through fund-raising for the needy, said Said Ali, the official from the Society for Islamic Awareness and Preaching.

"We never existed here in the 1970s," said Khamis Bin Ali, a member of the society. "But these days, we are found in every neighborhood -- if not preaching in mosques, then we will be teaching Islam to children in" religious schools.

The trend is likely to affect the interpretation of Islam in continental Africa. Although Zanzibar is less influential now, it has a history of leading the way -- the slave trade, Islam, Christianity, colonial rule and Kiswahili, Africa's most widely spoken local language, were all introduced by these islands.

Islamists in Zanzibar can be forceful when enforcing their brand of the faith.

"These days you cannot see tourists who are half-naked walking on our streets," Said Ali said, referring to attacks on women wearing short dresses in Zanzibar.

Early this year four Islamic clerics attacked a Zanzibari man who had reportedly planned a same-sex commitment ceremony similar to a wedding. The preachers were charged with abduction, a price they said they were willing to pay to show their commitment to their faith.

"They even insulted police officers investigating the abduction," said Ameir Juma Ameir said, a regional police chief.

Associated Press Writer Ali Sultan contributed to this report from Zanzibar.

 

Zanzibar Election Violence Leaves 9 Dead

November 1, 2005

By CHRIS TOMLINSON

Associated Press Writer

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania (AP) - Police clashed with opposition supporters Tuesday after the ruling party was declared the winner of elections marred by allegations of vote-rigging, and officials said nine people were killed - five protesters and four police.

Unrest across the Zanzibar archipelago, which is part of Tanzania but semiautonomous, came as the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi, or Revolutionary Party, was declared winner of presidential and parliamentary elections that were marred by violence and allegations of rigging.

Seif Shariff Hamad of the main opposition Civic United Front said the five supporters died on the island of Pemba. A member of the government security force said four of his colleagues were killed, also on Pemba. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The deaths took place when police and opposition officials clashed on Pemba's main road near the village of Konde, according to witnesses contacted by telephone. Demonstrators reportedly set up roadblocks around Konde, cutting the island in half.

Government officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Earlier, police backed by troops beat opposition supporters at party headquarters on Pemba, according to witnesses who declined to be identified for fear of retribution.

The Civic United Front had said earlier that one person was killed in his Pemba home. It was unclear if that death was among the five reported by Hamad, the opposition leader.

On the main island of Unguja, opposition supporters clashed with police in the early morning, with a standoff at with police at party headquarters in the narrow alleyways that make up the Stone Town neighborhood.

Thousands of opposition supporters, mostly young men, have fought police in running battles for the past two days in Stone Town and elsewhere on Unguja.

The socialist Chama Cha Mapinduzi has ruled the ``spice islands'' for more than 30 years. The Civic United Front, which promises privatization and wholesale economic reform, claims it was robbed of victory by violence and fraud in elections in 1995 and 2000, and again accuses Chama Cha Mapinduzi of fraud this year.

Zanzibar's electoral chief Masauni Yussuf Massauni said Tuesday that incumbent Amani Abeid Karume of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi won 53.2 percent of the vote, while Hamad had 46.1 percent - his third successive close defeat.

The Chama Cha Mapinduzi was declared the winner of 30 seats and the Civic United Front 19 in the 50-seat race for the House of Representatives. Results for one seat were nullified because of irregularities.

``We are not accepting these results,'' Hamad told journalists in an office filled with the smell of tear gas as thousands of young men gathered.

Hamad, who had earlier claimed to have won the presidential vote, called for mass public protest nationwide, but did not say when they should begin.

Two boats full of infantry troops left Tanzania's commercial capital of Dar es Salaam on Tuesday for Zanzibar.

Police had stopped Hamad from driving to his headquarters, which had been surrounding since dawn. As he walked through a ruling party area, he was heckled. But when he entered a neighborhood of his supporters, he was greeted with chants of ``the president, the president.''

Cheers of ruling party supporters could be heard in the distance.

Opposition protests of alleged fraud killed dozens in the wake of the 2000 elections. Islamic radicals could find an opening in this devoutly Muslim region if the latest vote is seen as flawed and therefore proof that democracy cannot work here.

The National Democratic Institute, a U.S.-based election organization, said in a preliminary report Tuesday that while the administration of the election was a marked improvement over 2000, the team observed multiple voting, underage voting, illegal voting by military personnel and failure by electoral authorities to release the voters' register to the public before election day.

Earlier, observers from African organizations and the Commonwealth of former British territories had called the election generally free and fair, although the Commonwealth observers noted problems with the voter list.

 

Condom taboo in Zanzibar hampers fight against Aids

Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania 

Campaigns to fight HIV/Aids often focus on the "ABC" strategy -- or Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms. However, on the ultra-conservative, predominantly Muslim island of Zanzibar, condoms remains taboo and is rarely incorporated into public awareness messages.

"We believe that advocating the use of condoms is promoting illegal sex, mainly among the youth," said Fadhil Soraga, secretary at the office of Zanzibar's mufti, or senior Muslim scholar. "The proper campaign is A and B."

While public talks or advertising campaigns about HIV/Aids in Zanzibar may advise people to "Abstain, Be faithful," these messages carefully omit condom use as way to prevent HIV/Aids.

"We are always loud when mentioning the letters A and B, but we mumble when it comes to the C," said HIV/Aids activist Asha Hussein.

In 2003, a United Nations-supported government survey on the main islands of Unguja and Pemba found HIV/Aids prevalence in the general population to be 0,6%.

While the rate is relatively low compared to prevalence rates in the region -- mainland Tanzania, for example, has an HIV/Aids prevalence of 7% -- health officials nevertheless estimate that the rate is rising.

Ameir Khamis, a government epidemiology and surveillance coordinator, estimated that about 8 000 Zanzibaris were currently living with HIV/Aids, up from 6 000 in 2002.

Officials from Medicos Del Mundo (MDM), an international NGO working on HIV/Aids in Zanzibar, said they had to be careful in their campaign against the pandemic.

"We're using many ways to deliver the message to stop the spread of Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases, but speaking about condoms in Zanzibar society is still very difficult," said Erene Casas, MDM project coordinator in Zanzibar.

The European Union-supported MDM has been working to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids, mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids and sexually transmitted infections in Zanzibar since April 2002. It also organises activities to sensitise the population, especially young people, on safer sex.

A moral issue
"Community leaders -- including religious and civic leaders -- are not ready for the condom-use theory," Khamis said.

A poster by the Zanzibar Aids Commission in Stone Town, the island's main town, reads: "Our culture is the best cure for HIV/Aids. Observe our culture and religion to stop the spread of the disease."

Soraga, from the mufti's office, blamed the rise in the prevalence of HIV/Aids on the degeneration of morality on the island.

"Despite repeated religious calls and the many seminars on HIV/Aids in Zanzibar, the number of HIV cases has been increasing because people do not want to change their behaviour," he said. "We must reform our behaviour, mainly by refraining from illegal sex."

Although the government and religious institutions are reluctant to promote condoms, their use is on the rise -- albeit silently -- mainly among youths.

Ramadhani Hassan, MDM's local coordinator, confirmed that condom "consumption" had increased.

"During the film and traditional festivals in June and July, we distributed more than 90 000 condoms free of charge," he said.

"The statistics show that although it is illicit to talk about condoms in Zanzibar society, their utilisation has been increasing," he added.

Stigma and discrimination
Stigma and discrimination were barriers to the prevention, treatment and care of HIV/Aids patients in Zanzibar, Casas said. Many people living with the virus were reluctant to disclose their status, even when their employers encouraged them to seek out testing and counselling services.

"These barriers are internalised so that people do not seek diagnostic or treatment services, or the means to protect themselves," she said.

"The main causes of stigma involve incomplete knowledge, fear of death and disease, sexual norms, and lack of recognition of stigma," she said.

The Zanzibar Association of People with HIV/Aids reported that HIV-positive people on the island faced physical and social isolation from family, friends and the community. Discrimination often extended to the workplace as well and hampered access to government services.

The inability of women to negotiate condom use has also proved to be a barrier to preventing the spread of the virus.

Hassan noted that a lack of confidence prevented many women from demanding that their partners use condoms, placing them at great risk. A 2003 government study showed that infection rates among women were three times higher than men.

Casas said stigma limited the circulation of information about the epidemic and options for care, as well as communication within couples about the risks of contracting HIV/Aids.

"I think we need to do everything possible to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids," she said. - Irin

 

Islamic group on Zanzibar accuse tourists of polluting island culture

The Associated Press
September 29, 2006

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania Zanzibar's authorities said Friday they are investigating a radical Islamic group who accused tourists of "polluting the culture" of the tropical island.

Officials told The Associated Press that they were unaware the fundamentalist Hizb ut-Tahrir had gained a foothold on the Zanzibar archipelago, a popular holiday destination that attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year, and were concerned by their presence.

"They pose a threat to national unity, peace and stability if they start putting out inflammatory statements," said Wambi Hasan Wambi, a senior official within the government's security unit. "The government will keep eyes on them."

Last year some 500,000 tourists traveled to Zanzibar, bringing vital foreign currency to the Indian Ocean islands. This semiautonomous part of Tanzania is mostly Muslim.

But Abbas Hussein, leader of the hard-line group, said few locals had benefited.

"Tourism is the source of moral and religious decay in Zanzibar. Visitors are just coming here to pollute the culture and religion of Zanzibar." Hussein added: "We need to resume the Islamic way of life by establishing an Islamic state."

The newly emerged group has been on a massive recruitment drive in recent months and claims to have around 3,000 members on the archipelago.

Fadhil Soraga, spokesman for Zanzibar's Islamic leader, condemned the group and said they were preaching hate.

"Hizb ut-Tahrir preaches inflammatory views against Islam, other religions, and societies. Their ideology is different from us. It spread radical views in the name of Islam. It's wrong," Soraga said.

Islamic militancy appears to be on the rise in East Africa, where a large discontented Muslim population has made it ripe for Islamic fundamentalism.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was founded in Jordan in 1953 and has branches in several Arab and foreign countries with sizable Muslim communities. It is banned in more than 20 countries worldwide.

Earlier this month another radical Islamic group on the archipelago, Uamsho, forced organizers to abandon plans to mark the 60th birthday of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, saying he violated Islam with his openly gay lifestyle.


 

Violence erupts between Christians and Muslims in Tanzania


Sunday, 31st August 2008
By: George Conger

Religious Intelligence News

Sectarian violence between Muslims and Anglicans in Tanzania has sparked outrage in East Africa.

On Aug 17 fighting broke out in the small town of Nguruka in the diocese of Western Tanganyika near Lake Victoria after Muslim evangelists accused an Anglican evangelist of blaspheming Islam.

According to press accounts, the fighting erupted after Muslims took offence to the preaching of an Anglican evangelist. The Citizen newspaper in Dar es Salaam denounced the violence saying it deserved the “condemnation of all people who aspire for religious harmony in Tanzania.”

“If the Muslims were offended by the preaching of the Anglican evangelist, as the reports say, the proper procedure was to report their grievances to the police, who, in our view, would have dealt with the issue in accordance with the law,” The Citizen argued, adding that freedom of religion should not be construed to mean carte blanche to attack other faiths.

“Religious skirmishes and other conflicts pitting members of different denominations should be avoided by all well-wishing Tanzanians as they could have devastating consequences on the country. We should avoid them at all costs,” the newspaper said.

While Tanzanian Islam has traditionally been tolerant, in recent years Wahabist influenced preachers have sought to radicalize Islam in East Africa and have gained a foothold in Zanzibar.

Clashes in Tanganyika have arisen over the competing claims of Christian evangelists and the Wahubiri wa Kislamu (Preachers of Islam) who specialize in giving sermons and preaching on the streets, at markets, or in football stadiums. They refer to these activities as “open-air conferences.”

The sermons of the Preachers of Islam consist of an “Islamic” reading of the Bible, with the intention of converting Christians to Islam or dissuading animists from accepting Christianity and to turn to Islam. Christianity’s rapid growth on the mainland of Tanganyika coupled with the increased radicalization of Islam has led to an increase in tensions between the two communities.

Domestic political considerations are also at work in the clash of religions, as Muslim-majority Zanzibar---which had formerly been independent and under a separate colonial administration from the mainland of Tanganyika--has sought to strengthen its ties with other Muslim countries, and in 1993 joined the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)---and was forced to withdraw after the national government of Tanzania objected.

 

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