News From Across the Continent – April 2010

Kenya: Muslim Religious Leaders Are Ready to Dialogue with Christians on Kadhi’s Courts

On April 16, 2010, Muslim religious leaders said they were ready to dialogue with Christians on kadhi’s courts.

The head of the National Muslim Leaders Forum Abdullahi Abdi, speaking at a press conference at Jamia Mosque in Nairobi, said they meet some of the Christians at the Inter-Religious Council, and would be willing to speak to them on the nature of the courts.

He said Kenyans, will live together after the referendum. “We are at the beginning of campaigns. The winner will take it,” he said.

He declared their unanimous support for the draft constitution and launched campaigns to have more Kenyans register as voters.

“We believe (the draft constitution) has many virtues. We call upon Kenyans to vote ‘Yes’ in large numbers,” the leaders said in a statement read by Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims chairman Prof Abdulghafur El-Busaidy.

At a separate press conference at Parliament Buildings, Dujis MP Aden Duale said Muslims are not backing the proposed constitution merely because it includes kadhi’s courts.

Mr Duale said those supporting the proposed laws were especially pleased about the proposed devolution, the bill of rights, resource allocation and the pure presidential system.

The Dujis MP said the debate over the courts is not warranted given that they would be in Kenyan law whether or not the proposed laws are passed.

The constitution was passed by Parliament, but the Catholic Church and some evangelical groups have vowed to fight it because of its provisions on abortion and kadhi’s courts.

Christian leaders are also opposed to the retention of kadhi’s courts in the proposed constitution under Article 169 and 170, which limit their authority to disputes over personal status, marriage, divorce or inheritance, where all the parties are Muslims and agree to take the case to a Kadhi.

Federation of Kenya Employers chairman Patrick Obath also joined the Yes proponents and said at a press conference: “As concerned citizens, we think the constitution should be adopted.”

The African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption urged Kenyans to vote for the laws, saying that passing the draft would boost the fight against graft.

They said the new laws would establish “strong, transparent, independent and accountable arms of government.” They urged Kenyans to read the proposed draft before the referendum.

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Kenya: Muslims To Announce Their Stand Concerning the Draft Constitution This Week

Muslims leaders are this week expected to converge in Nairobi to discuss the draft constitution and take a common position on whether to support it or not. Sheikh Mohammed Dor, the secretary general of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), said the leaders would meet under the National Muslim Leaders Forum (Namlef). He was addressing worshippers after opening a new mosque in Kisauni’s Mwakirunge suburb on April 4, 2010.

Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims organising secretary Sheikh Sheriff Omar said Kenyans should not reject the draft constitution as there was room to amend it later. Elsewhere, Roads minister Franklin Bett said MPs from Rift Valley province would hold a consultative meeting this week to chart the way forward on the draft constitution. Mr Bett said the forum would enable the region’s leaders to come up with a collective position on the draft ahead of the referendum.

And the chairman of a Kenyan lobby group in the United Kingdom, Kenya Movement for Democracy and Justice, Mr Ngethe wa Mbiyu, urged church leaders and other people with hardened positions to support the proposed draft. Mombasa Anglican Church of Kenya Bishop Julius Kalu said contentious issues should have been resolved before the draft was passed by Parliament. Mombasa Catholic Diocese Bishop Boniface Lele said clauses on abortion, devolution, and kadhi’s courts needed correction.

In Western Province, Anglican Bishop for Maseno North Diocese Simon Oketch said MPs had betrayed the trust of Kenyans by failing to amend the contentious clauses on abortion and kadhi’s courts. Speaking at St Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral, Father Bidi Marandu said Catholic bishops would meet next week and issue a comprehensive statement on the matter. But Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya vice-chairman Sheikh Abdalla Ateka said Muslim leaders in the province had launched a campaign in support of the draft. Bishop Titus Khamala of the Cornerstone Ministries church said it was unfortunate that his colleagues were campaign against the proposed draft law.

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Nigeria: Police Kills Youth as Muslims and Christians Clash Again

On April 5, 2010, Muslim and Christian youths in Nigeria clashed again in the religiously volatile city of Jos [northern Nigeria], in what has been registered as the third bout of religious violence in the West African country since January. Security forces trying to restore order killed one Christian youth in the process, reports claimed.

Police spokesman Mohammed Lerama confirmed the attack, which he said appeared to have been staged on a group of Christians returning from a church meeting around 7:00 p.m. local time, in the Nassarawa Gwom area, the site of the January clashes

“Unknown to the Christian youths some people just blocked their way along the road and started chanting war songs. There was a clash, a very minor clash that led to the death of one youth, a Christian youth.” AFP quoted the Information Commissioner for Plateau State, Gregory Yenlong as saying.

“Security forces came in and brought the situation under control. Unfortunately it was the security forces that killed the youth,” Yenlong added.

The size of the clashing groups is yet to be established, however the military and police have been deployed to stamp out the unrest.

“Another person who was wounded was being treated for cuts, but we don’t know what caused the wounds. More forces have been deployed,” Yenlong told reporters.

Hundreds of people have died in sectarian violence in Jos and its surrounding villages since January. Since the beginning of the year, over 300 people [mostly Muslims] have died in religious based clashes, while an an estimated 500 people [mainly Christians] were also, reportedly, killed last month by Muslim Fulani cattle herders.

The divisions while bordering on religion is also heightened by a system that classifies some inhabitants as indigenes [Christians] and others [mainly Muslims] as settlers. Although the clashes take place between Muslims and Christians, analysts say the underlying causes are economic and political.

The city of Jos is divided into Christian and Muslim areas and has witnessed deadly riots in 2001, 2008 and 2010. Communities in Jos are divided along party lines.

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Nigeria: Islamic Microfinance Bank Launched

On April 16, 2010, the first Islamic micro finance bank in the country, Al-Barakah Micofinance Bank was commissioned in Lagos.

The bank is an initiative of The Muslim Congress which spans 16 years.

At a well attended event, the Chairman of Al-Barakah MicroFinance Bank, Dr.Abdul Hakeem Mobolaji said the bank is set up in response to the increasing demand for alternative micro credit products by the less privileged members of the society against the conventional banking practices.

He also said the bank would provide succour and financial service to the society in support of the Federal government’s drive to eliminate poverty in the country.

“What we are commissioning today represents our contribution towards providing an alternative banking for Muslims and non-muslims alike.

It is our fervent hope that more like-minded individuals and corporate body will embrace this window and deepen the financial market through provision of sophisticated Islamic instruments and finance”.

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Senegal: Fatwa Issued On Senegal’s “monument of shame”

On April 3, 2010, a leading imam issued a fatwa condemning Senegal’s monument to the “African Renaissance” in the latest blow to President Abdoulaye Wade’s project, a day before its inauguration. 

Slightly bigger than New York’s Statue of Liberty, the giant group of man, woman and infant is perched on a hill overlooking the Senegalese capital Dakar and will be formally unveiled before foreign dignitaries and celebrities on Saturday. 

The $28-million statue has been criticised as a waste of money in a country with crumbling infrastructure and welfare provision, while Muslims have branded it “un-Islamic” for presenting the human form as an object of worship. 

“We have issued a fatwa urging Senegal’s imams this Friday to read the holy Koran in the mosques simply to ask Allah to preserve us from the punishment this monument of shame risks bringing on Senegal,” imam Massamba Diop told followers at his central Dakar mosque, using the term for a religious ruling. 

Pro-Wade senator Ahmed Bachir Kounta, a Muslim scholar, said the statue was a cultural project and rejected the charge of idolatry. 

“Every architectural work sparks controversies — look at the Eiffel Tower in Paris,” he said of the 19th-century structure labelled by early critics as an expensive eyesore. 

Wade, who at 83 has confirmed he will seek re-election in two years’ time, has said he was personally involved in designing the statue. Critics have said it is more Soviet-style realism than traditional African art form. 

The monument has been built by North Korean labourers, another source of discontent in a country where formal employment is scarce. 

Wade has invited about 30 heads of state to Saturday’s inauguration, a day before the 50th anniversary of Senegal’s independence. U.S.-Senegalese rapper Akon and U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson will also attend. 

Opponents of the statue — which is billed as representing Africa’s rise from “centuries of ignorance, intolerance and racism” — are due to protest in central Dakar on Saturday despite a ban on all marches by town authorities.

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South Africa: Al-Qaradawi Criticises South African Muslims for Denying Women Access to Mosques

On April 23, 2010, Qatar-based Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi criticized the practice of denying women access to mosques by Muslims in South Africa and said that he was surprised that women were not allowed to attend any of his lectures in Johannesburg during his recent visit there.

He lamented that the same tradition, which he called “un-Islamic”, exists among the Muslims of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The South African Muslims in the Johannesburg area are mainly of South Asian descenmt, and their practice of Islam often reflects practices forund among Muslims in the Indian sub-continent.

In his Friday sermon, Sheikh Qaradawi said that during his visit to South Africa, he was surprised by the “unreasonable practice” of not allowing women from entering mosques as well as by the ban to videotape his lectures in Johannesburg.

“It was my first visit to South Africa and I was impressed with its Muslim community’s commitment to Islamic rules as well as its unity, but it was the ban on women’s entry into mosques which drew my attention. I told the (community members) that this was un-Islamic and they should stop it,” he told a congregation at the Omar bin Al-Khattab mosque at Khalifa South.

“I know they did that because they follow Abu Hanifa’s school of thought but they should know that time has changed. If Abu Hanifa himself were with us today, he would have changed his mind. It is unreasonable that women could now go to universities, markets and travel, but are not allowed to enter a mosque in some countries. I noticed a similar practice by Muslims in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who follow the same school of thought.”

One of Abu Hanifa’s most famous religious edicts was that he allowed women to work as judges, he pointed out.

Al-Qaradawi, who is the chairman of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, urged Islamic scholars to pay regular visits to Muslim minorities around the world, saying that this would enhance their link with Islam.

“I hope that Muslim philanthropists will arrange such visits so that we could help Muslim minorities,” he said, while observing that the South African Muslims were keen on being in touch with Muslims elsewhere.

During al-Qaradawi’s visit to South Africa, he met former president Nelson Mandela and gifted him some of the books he authored on Islam and the Holy Qur’an. Al-Qaradawi hailed the South African leader as the “hero of Africa”. He also gave lectures at the Muslim Judicial Council in Cape Town on duties of Muslim minorities in the world.

In Cape Town, where most Muslims trace their heritage to Indonesia, Yemen, or to indiginous communities, women were not barred from the mosques nor from the lectures.

Public Relations Officer for the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), Nabeweya Malick related that there was a strong female presence at the Cape Town’s Masjid al-Quds for al-Qaradawi’s lecture there. In answer to the debate about women attending South African mosques that was brought on by al-Qaradawi’s visit, she said: “Alhamdulilah, there is a very, very strong representation of women here. And what makes it even more beautiful is that the women are downstairs in the male section which has been separated from the men by a rope. There are also women on the second floor. I estimate the crowd are 50% male and 50% female. There is a feeling of real respect, of true brother/sisterhood of Islam.”

Malick said the women were very appreciative of the regard the sheik had shown them. Many of them had come prepared with notebooks and pens, eager to capture every word of the 84-year-old Egyptian scholar. “I could see on their faces, they value this opportunity. They also value the fact that Sheik Qardawi – someone from a foreign country – came into SA to discuss things that lie very close to the hearts of women.”

“In the Western Cape women are allowed into the mosques, they do get involved, they are allowed to feel empowered and involved in the movement of Islam.”

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