MUSLIM MILITANCY ON THE INCREASE

Following fighting between two rival Muslim factions at the Mwembechai mosque in Dar es Salaam on 14th February, riot police used tear gas canisters and live bullets to disperse groups of youths who were hurling stones at them in streets around the mosque. One policeman and one civilian were killed and 53 persons were arrested. Prime Frederick Sumaye had his car stoned. Many recent incidents are understood to be caused by power struggles between young radicals and older conservative elements to control the mosques. In Zanzibar a number of small explosions have been directed at bars and guest houses selling alcohol. The police banned a march planned for April 11 by a new, unregistered, splinter group, the ‘Islamic Union Institution’ which was aimed at freeing those arrested for the killing of the policeman.

Mwananchi reported that the High Court had warned Muslims against marching to demand release of leaders charged with murder. The Registrar of the High Court said that such demonstrations contravened section 107 A (1) of the constitution. He said a murder case was not bailable and so there should be no outside pressure.

In an attempt to restore calm the Mosques Council of Tanzania (BAMITA) has called on Muslims in each mosque to elect autonomous committees of believers, so as to reduce conflicts and invasion by non-believers. The Council underscored the importance of the office of Chief Kadh which was designed to assist in providing the government with Islamic legal advice as well as to protect the rights of people.

Meanwhile, President Karume has assented to a Bill allowing for the establishment of a Mufti’s office in Zanzibar. The duties of the Mufti will be to promote Islam and remove misunderstandings said to be existing in the Muslim community. He will have the power to impose fines or prison sentences on Muslims who go against his directives and also the power to issue permits and sanction religious seminars as well as keeping the records of the mosques.

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