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Violence erupts between Christians and Muslims in Tanzania

Violence erupts between
Christians and Muslims in Tanzania



By: George Conger.

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

Violence erupts between Christians and Muslims in Tanzania

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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