News From Across the Continent – January – February 2010

Gambia – The Launch of the Muslim Phone

In January 2010, more than 300 Islamic scholars and imams from across Gambia gathered at the headquarters of Qcell company to celebrate the launch of its newest product, the Qcell Muslim phone. The new product is the first of its kind in Africa. It comes with a colour screen, FM radio, long life battery – and a delightful ability to tells Muslims just when to pray. Unveiling the product before the Islamic scholars, the Chief Executive Officer of QCell, Muhammed Jah, explained that whatever destination someone travels to with their Muslim phone, all that the person needs to do is to select the country and the phone will automatically reveal the prayers times of that particular country, and alert the person whenever it is time for the five daily submissions to Allah. He added that when the Muslim features are activated, even when the phone is off, it will automatically switch itself on and alert its owner. (See on-line at: http://allafrica.com/stories/201001150205.html; http://freethinker.co.uk/2010/01/14/gambia-unveils-a-new-muslim-phone-that-tells-you-precisely-when-to-pray/)

Ghana – Ghana Muslim Mission Initiates Projects in the Ashanti Region

On February 15, 2010, Sheikh Dr. Amen Bonsu, Deputy Imam of the the Ghana Muslim Mission (GMM),  announced in an interview with Ghana News Agency that the Mission had so far established two senior and 11 junior high schools in the Ashanti Region as their contributions towards the provision of quality education in the country.

The Mission had also acquired a 50-acre land at Esereso in the Bosomtwe District of the Ashanti Region, near Kumasi, in order to establish a first class university. The university, when completed, would offer programmes in Administration, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Banking and Finance, Accounting, Human Resource Management and Theology.

Sheikh Dr. Amen Bonsu said that the GMM had also started the second phase of the Pakyi Number Two Junior High School expansion project to enable it to take more students. Sheikh Bonsu who is also the Acting Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Mission appealed to Muslim youth in the country to take their education seriously and desist from acts such as smoking, alcoholism which may tarnish the image of Islam. He urged corporate bodies and institutions to support the Mission to enable it execute all its projects. 

Sheikh Bonsu who is also the Acting Ashanti Regional Chairman of the Mission said GMM was determined to project a more positive image of Islam and also support human resource development. He appealed to corporate bodies, institutions and individuals to support the mission to enable it execute the project. He urged Muslims to lead exemplary lives worthy of emulations and fight the stigma attached to Muslims. 

(See on-line at: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/religion/artikel.php?ID=176760; http://www.modernghana.com/news/262966/1/ghana-muslim-mission-acquires-land-for-university.html)
 

Guinea-Conakry: Clashes Between Muslims and Christians

On February 5-6, 2010, clashes erupted between Muslims and Christians in the city of Nzerekore in eastern Guinea, which left one person dead, 29 people injured, and two missing.  The fighting apparently started after a group of Muslims gathered to open up a mosque which was closed down by authorities in late January because of tensions between the religious communities.

The incident took place in the home region of junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara, whose wounding in an assassination bid in December 2009 has led to steps aimed at restoring civilian rule in the country.

Tensions in Nzerekore, a Christian enclave in the mainly Muslim country, rose on January 29 following a row between a Christian woman and a group of Muslim men. Some residents said the men had stopped the woman from using a road blocked for prayers and that the woman responded by hitting one of them with a shoe. Other reports said she was accused of wearing indecent dress. Anyhow, on February 5, Christian youths took their revenge by trying to disturb prayers by driving motorbikes near a mosque. Soldiers from a local army base broke up the dispute and took several people off for questioning.

Although it appears that the problem was sparked by a religious dispute, there are fears that the dispute may become politicised, since many locals have been angered by the sidelining from power of Moussa Dadis Camara, the leader of the Junta, a member of one of the minority “forestier” ethnic groups of the region.

Camara, who has been held responsible by a UN report for the killings of over 150 pro-democracy marchers in Conakry in September 2009, is still convalescing in Burkina Faso after receiving heads wounds in a December 3 gun attack by an ex-aide.

Deputy junta leader Sekouba Konate agreed in January 2010 to hand over power after elections to be held by mid-year, a move which raised hopes that Guinea could avoid further bloodshed and unrest that could unsettle the whole West African region.

The nomination of Jean-Marie Dore, a veteran opposition leader, has eased some concerns of violence as he is also from Camara’s region, but squabbling over top jobs in the caretaker government risks delaying the restoration of civilian rule.

It should be mentioned that Christians make up around eight per cent of the population in the West African nation.

(See on-line at: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/02/20102623830776287.html; http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE6140DR20100205; http://www.newstimeafrica.com/archives/10782)

Mauritania – Fatwa Banning Female Genital Mutilation

On January 12, 2010, a group of 34 Mauritanian Muslim religious clerics and scholars signed on a fatwa, religious edict, banning the practice of female genital mutilation in Mauritania. The fatwa, which was signed in the Mauritania Capital Nouakchott, states that the female genital mutilation “has been proven by experts to be detrimental, immediately or subsequently. Hence, such a practice, as is performed domestically, is hereby prohibited, on account of the harm it gives rise to”.

The process, also called female circumcision, is common in other parts of Africa and the Muslim world. It involves the surgical removal of the clitoris or other genital parts and sometimes also the narrowing of the vaginal opening. The procedure is often performed by specialized women, generally traditional birth attendants or midwives, with little or no medical training. It can eliminate pleasure for women during sex and cause bleeding, disease, problems in urinating, and complications in childbirth for millions of women each year

Indeed, a 2007 Mauritanian Health Ministry study showed that 72 percent of women in Mauritania had practiced female genital mutilation. This is about the same proportion as in 2001 despite years of awareness campaigns and a 2005 law punishing anyone cutting a child and causing injury. But, it seems like education campaigns did help bring about the fatwa. The Muslim religious leaders issuing the fatwa drew on a 2008 declaration by Mauritanian doctors and midwives that female genital mutilation is “harmful to health and can have grave consequences including death”. In 2006, a Mauritanian Association of Islamic Scholars issued a fatwa denouncing female genital mutilation but few religious leaders agreed to sign it. The 2008 declaration puts more weight behind the move taken in 2010.

The Secretary General of the Forum de la Pensee Islamique et du Dialogue des Cultures (Forum of Islamic Thought and Dialogue between Cultures) in Mauritania, Cheikh Ould Zein Ould Liman, said about the recent fatwa that “our reasoning went like this: are there texts in the Koran that clearly require that thing? They do not exist. On the contrary, Islam is clearly against any action that has negative effects on health. Today Mauritanian doctors unanimously declare say this practice threatens health; therefore it is against Islam”.

Yet, the real difficulty is separating tradition from religion. Many Mauritanian women say that they cut because Islam requires it. They also believe that cutting will bring their daughters a good life. The practice is going on from generation to generation and the girls who are not cut, cannot pray or get married.

To sum up, given the widespread practice of the female genital mutilation in Mauritania and the belief that it is imposed by Islam, the fatwa will help reduce the female genital mutilations practice only if Mauritanian religious leaders take the message to the people. The religious leaders should not limit themselves to talking about the ban in their sermons. They should go to the remote regions in the country, where the female genital mutilation is widespread and convince people to stop practicing it. This process will take time and its success depends very much on the engagement from religious leaders.  (See on-line at:

http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2010/01/15/feature-01http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LDE60L13C.htm

http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=87928)  

Senegal – The “African Renaissance” Monument Causes Outrage Among Senegal Muslims

The 49-metre bronze “Africa Renaisaance” monument, which is formed of group of man, woman and infant perched on a hill overlooking the capital Dakar, is due to be inaugurated in April 2010 and is the centerpiece of Senegal’s push to be a cultural leader for Africa. The monument was designed by Africa’s leading modernist architect, Pierre Goudiaby Atepa, a close adviser to Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade.

But the monument has been mired in controversy and condemned by religious leaders. Christians objected when President Abdoulaye Wade compared the monument to Jesus Christ. So, he has already been forced to apologise to Senegal’s Christian minority after publicly likening the statue to Christ. Theodore Adrien Sarr, the archbishop of Dakar, said the comment had “shaken and humiliated” Catholics, prompting angry protests by hundreds of young Christians.

The Muslims, who make up 94% of the population, complained that the monument was “idolatrous” for presenting the human form as an object of worship.Religious leaders in Muslim Senegal have decried it as un-Islamic for presenting a woman as an object of worship.

For others, the problem is that the monument shows a woman who is subjugated to the male in the group. For example, Penda Mbow, Professor of History in Dakar University, said that “the problem is the monument itself, not whether her skirt is lengthened or not. The problem is that it shows a woman with a secondary role on the continent, which is historically not accurate.

The statue which is costing the impoverished nation $30 million (21-million-euro) has also raised eyebrows in the donor community.

At the end of the day, the monument faces a possible cover -up and remodelling after the architect suggested to cover up the womans’s bare legs. 

The Senegalese government hopes the statue will become a major tourist draw, in the way the gaudy towers of Dubai have drawn millions of visitors to a short stretch of sand in the Gulf.

Libya’s Muamar Gadaffy has grandiose dreams for Senegal and has agreed to fund a tower on a spit of land jutting into the Atlantic that bears an uncanny resemblance to Dubai’s ghastly Bourj Al Arab, except its black. Another Pierre Goudiaby Atepa project, its budget is for Euro 200 million Euro. The Kadhafi African Tower is 60 floors, with a five star hotel of 400 rooms, conference center and apartment tower. It would be the first such building to be 80 %powered by solar energy.

(See on-line at: http://www.unfreemedia.com/africa/2010/01/a-furious-controversy-has-erupted.html; http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/05/senegal-statue-offensive-woman-legs

Sierra Leone – a Seminar on Islam and the Media

A three-day seminar on the subject of “Islam and the Media” was organized by the World Islamic Call Society office in Sierra Leone. Journalists drawn from various media outlets in Sierra Leone were present at that seminar which took place between February 16 to February 18 at the Arrahmah Mosque on Bombay Street in Freetown. The aim of this seminar is to teach the journalists how to report on Islamic activities and issues. (See on-line at: ttp://www.news.sl/drwebsite/publish/article_200514585.shtml)

Zambia – The Introduction of Islamic Banking 

The Bank of Zambia has finalized regulatory and banking framework for banks that will offer Islamic financial services in the country for the first time, with bankers expecting the move to accommodate Muslim clients and help the economy of the Southern African country.
On January 31, 2010, the Bank of Zambia Governor, Dr. Caleb Fundanga, said in an interview to IslamOnline.net that “”The guidelines are intended to provide a broader framework for conducting Islamic banking services in the country”. He further said that “in Zambia, Muslims are excluded from the banking system on account that Shari’ah prohibits interest”. Indeed, the new regulations will enable Muslims in Zambia to have access to credits for capital investment from the financial institutions according to Islamic principles and without paying interest.

According to Fundanga, one challenge that would face the industry in Zambia is the lack of adequate guidance from Islamic scholars given the small proportion of Muslims in Zambia.

According to the Islamic Council of Zambia (ICZ), Muslims constitute over 12 percent of the country’s 12.5 million people.

Experts believe that Islamic finance concept would be very beneficial to the national economy. One of these experts, Chama Mwanya, a member of Zambian think-tank the Economic Association of Zambia (EAZ), says Islamic finance would help on the issue of borrowing, since according to him “lending rate is still high in Zambia making borrowing for capital investments prohibitive.”

Dr. Fundanga, the Bank of Zambia Governor, hopes that by introducing Islamic finance to the market and encouraging Muslims to use the system, Zambia will get a crucial push for its development. According to him “Islamic banking should be viewed in light of its potential to inject liquidity in the financial markets and its ultimate impact on the cost of funds as well as its ability to capture those who would otherwise be excluded from the banking system on religious grounds.”

This is the first time Zambia looks into developing its Islamic finance industry. (See online at: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1264249902468&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s