ZANZIBAR, Tanzania (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremist attacks and land grabs on this semi-autonomous island off the coast of Tanzania have continued unabated even as violence has increased on the mainland.
The May 5 bombing of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Arusha killed a 45-year-old woman, a 16-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. Of the two Tanzanians and four foreigners arrested – now officially identified as one from Saudi Arabia and three from the United Arab Emirates – only one Tanzanian national reportedly remains in custody as a suspect.
While Islamic extremist activity has increased in Tanzania, Christians on the Zanzibar archipelago have recently suffered attacks by Islamists and the separatist group Uamsho (Re-awakening). Uamsho, the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation, has issued explicit threats to Christians on Zanzibar Island since October 2012.
At midnight on April 20, Islamic extremists in Kianga, 16 kilometers (11 miles) from Zanzibar City, demolished most of the Pool of Siloam church building, a church leader said. Three suspects were arrested, only to be released after three days.
“When we tried to follow up the case, we found out that some of the information concerning the pulling down of the church was missing,” church pastor Israel Baraka Elijah told Morning Star News. “Hence, we decided to give up all together.”
Damages were estimated at $2,500, he added. Muslim extremists had attacked the church building before, setting part of it on fire on Feb. 19 and battering it with sledge hammers in November 2011.
Buildings aren’t the only targets. Suspected Islamic extremists on Feb. 17 shot and killed the Rev. Evaristus Mushi, a 56-year-old Roman Catholic priest, in the Mtoni area outside Zanzibar City. The murder came nearly two months after the Christmas Day shooting of another Catholic priest, the Rev. Ambrose Mkenda, that seriously injured him. Uamsho had left leaflets threatening to kill church leaders of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Tanzania Assemblies of God and Pentecostal Church denominations.
The Islamist group is fighting for full autonomy of the Zanzibar archipelago; it arose after Zanzibar’s primary opposition, the Civic United Front, formed a government with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in 2010.
How Uamsho’s separatist agenda could overlap with Islamic extremists’ objectives on the mainland remains to be seen, but the Zanzibar-based group has increased in stature by appealing to Islamist sentiments. While Tanzania’s population is 34.2 percent Muslim and 54 percent Christian, according to Operation World, the Zanzibar archipelago in the Indian Ocean about 25 miles off the Tanzanian coast is more than 97 percent Muslim.
Islamists burned several church buildings in various parts of Tanzania last October after an argument between two children about the Koran resulted in a Christian boy allegedly defiling Islam’s sacred book (see Morning Star News, Oct. 19, 2012). In Kigoma, on the western border, two church buildings were set ablaze on Oct. 14, 2012, and the roof of another one was destroyed. In Dar es Salaam, where two boys’ argument over the Koran set off the violence, three church buildings were set on fire on Oct. 12, and another was destroyed on Oct. 18.
The attacks on church buildings came after Muslims began falsely asserting that Christians had sent the Christian boy to the Muslim boy to urinate on the Koran in the Mbagala area of Dar es Salaam on Oct. 10, sources said.
On Oct. 17, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania leaders released a statement saying church buildings had also been set ablaze in Mdaula, Mto wa Mbu, Tunduru and Rufiji. The Mbagala attacks, they stated, resulted from inflammatory statements by local religious leaders....
Recently in Zanzibar Category
Will the Islamophobia never end? "Dozens of Churches Destroyed In Tanzania; East Africa Violence Spreading," from Worthy News, November 13:
DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA (Worthy News)– Dozens of Christian worship places have been destroyed by Islamic extremists in Tanzania and church leaders are fleeing its heavily Muslim island of Zanzibar, as the persecution of Christians spreads throughout East Africa, a human rights chief said Monday, November 12.
“As of May [about] 25 churches and convents have been destroyed. This destruction is mostly confined to [semi-autonomous] Zanzibar where the population is 99 percent Muslim and openly hostile to Christians,” explained William Stark, regional manager for Africa of advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC)
In one of the latest just revealed incidents, violence broke out last month after a Muslim boy encouraged a Christian boy to urinate on a Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims, on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, the capital.
“As a result of this meeting, the Christian boy was threatened with being beheaded and at least five churches were destroyed,” Stark said.
Bishop Fabian Obeid, the Chairman of the Pastor's Fellowship in Zanzibar, stressed in published remarks that when the two boys met, the Muslim boy bragged that if someone was to urinate on the Kuran, that person would be turned into a snake, a dog or a rat.
"The Christian boy [was] interested with this scenario and without giving it a second thought urinated on the Koran," he added in a statement distributed by ICC.
When the Muslim boy informed his parents, they allegedly decided to confront the parents of the Christian boy. After discovering they weren't at home, the Muslim parents reported the incident to a nearby mosque in a move that eventually sparked violence, Christians said.
“Days later, a mob of Muslim youths gathered at the mosque after being stirred up at Friday prayer. Their intent was to punish the Christian boy for desecrating the Koran. Police were alerted of the situation and the boy was detained for protection against the mob,” well-informed Stark recalled.
They apparently demanded that police hand over the boy to the crowd and behead him, seen as an appropriate punishment for desecrating the Koran according to ultra conservative interpretations of Islamic law.
“When the police refused to release the boy, the mob began to riot…the mob decided to turn their rage on churches and other Christian property in the area,” Stark said,
The mob burned down five churches, including the Seven Day Church, the Anglican Church and the Assemblies of God Church, Christians said Other property belonging to Christians in the area was also destroyed including a car belonging to the Anglican Church pastor, according to ICC investigators.
“As the riots continued, the Evangelical Assemblies of God Church in Tanzania was pulled down. In the following days, unrest in the Muslim community continued, leading to the destruction of more properties across the country and the lives of Christian leaders being threatened,” Stark said in a statement obtained by Worthy News.
The violence also spread to Zanzibar, where on October 18, a mob of Muslim protestors carrying clubs, swords and machetes invaded two churches shouting "We want the head of Bishop Shayo" as they tried to enter his Roman Catholic church, Christians claimed.
When they failed to break into the church, the mob moved on to the Anglican church of Reverend. Emmanuel Masoud where the crowd broke windows and were seen hacking at the doors while chanting: "We need the head of Masoud!" and We want the heads of all the church pastors in Zanzibar!"
Pastor Lucian Mgaywa of the Church of God in Zanzibar, said in a statement that, "These chants caused a lot of panic and some pastors, fearing for their lives, fled the island of Zanzibar to the mainland of Tanzania," though the government later “intervened and provided security.”
However, “To date, no arrests have been made in connection with attacks on churches in Zanzibar, leading many to question whether the local government condones these activities,” Stark added.
Most violence has been linked to the Islamic separatist group 'Association for the Islamic Mobilization and Propagation' (UAMSHO) which wants Zanzibar to become independent from mainland Tanzania. “In recent years, UAMSHO has become increasingly fundamental in its religious convictions and has been involved in several attacks on Christians in Zanzibar,” Stark noted.
“After the Evangelical Assemblies of God Church was destroyed [last month] a flag belonging to UAMSHO was raised over the ruins of the church," said Bishop Fabian Obeid, Chairman of the Pastor's Fellowship in Zanzibar.
Stark observed that the spreading Islamic attacks in Tanzania coincides with “an increase of Christian persecution throughout East Africa.” Even in countries such as Kenya, which is 80 percent Christian, Islamic extremist groups like al-Shabaab are beginning to take root and perpetrate more acts of violence against Christians.
“These extremist groups often use incidents like the boy desecrating the Kuran to stir up tensions in Muslim communities that have lived in peace for generations with their Christian neighbors,” Stark added....
Of course they are. Allah told them to: "Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God's guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them." -- Qur'an 4:34.
"Tanzania: Zanzibar Men Still Beat Their Wives, Says Report," by Issa Yussuf for the Tanzania Daily News, August 29:
DESPITE ongoing efforts to minimize domestic violence, promote gender equality and empower women, new study in Zanzibar indicates that many women are still beaten and bullied by men including Muslim clerics!
In its report, the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) - Zanzibar revealed that although men beat women, but the number of cases being reported to the police remain few, mainly because most women opt to tolerate violence in order to keep her family together. "Women have testified to have been bullied and beaten by men, but they think it is improper to report the case....
The study has revealed that some husbands/men in Zanzibar, Muslim dominated islands, are violent and say that Islam through the holy book of Quran and Prophet Muhammad allows them to beat disobedient women. But does Islam allow wife beating? Is there any logical explanation given regarding men being allowed to beat their wives, as 'stated' in the Holy Book (Surat An-Nisaa, verse 34)?
TAMWA's study shows that although there is a consensus among Human Rights activities, and religious leaders including Muslims that beating women is not good and unacceptable in the mature and civilized society, but some Muslims clerics maintain that beating without harm is appropriate way of reforming a woman who 'misbehaves.'...
Many people have criticized Islam because of this harsh sanction and many Muslims have written articles seeking to defend it. He says that Prophet Muhammad's viewpoint of women was that they "lack self-control" and thus for their own good, and societies' good, they must be subordinate to and managed by their husbands. Wives must obey. In an Islamic marriage when a man gives his bride a dowry he is accredited the right to manage his wife. By accepting his dowry a woman is giving her husband the right to her regulation.
Silas says that Muhammad urged his followers (Muslims) to treat their wives well and the Quran's chapter 4 is full of these sincere admonitions. He did not want to see them beaten without cause and he wanted good marriage relationships. "However, Muhammad's desires for happy marriages and kind treatment do not mitigate the authority he gave men over women or the position he ascribed to women.
Wives are to be treated gently and kindly but are still under the man's authority. If she persists in disobedience to his wishes he has the right, and the responsibility, to 'beat' her to bring her into submission once again, and re-establish a happy marriage." Silas wrote. Dr Muzammil Siddiqi, Islamic scholar in the US, and former President of the Islamic Society of North America argues that the verse mentioned in the Quran has been greatly misconceived by many people who focus merely on its surface meaning, taking it to allow wife beating....
Yes, yes of course, it is all a misunderstanding of Islam, as always.
Will the Islamophobia never end? "Zanzibar Islamists burn churches, riot - police," by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala for Reuters, May 27 (thanks to Clark):
DAR ES SALAAM, May 27 (Reuters) - Hundreds of supporters of a separatist Islamist group set fire to two churches and clashed with police during protests in Zanzibar over the weekend against the arrest of senior members of the movement, police and witnesses said.
Police accused the Uamsho (Awakening) group of ordering its supporters on to the streets - but the movement's leadership denied having any part in the unrest.
Clashes broke out in the historic commercial and tourism centre of Stone Town on Saturday night and continued until Sunday afternoon, witnesses told Reuters.
The reports of attacks on churches will raise fears of an escalation in religious tensions in the predominantly Muslim island ruled by a semi-autonomous secular government. Several bars were attacked last year.
Shops remained closed and people stayed in their homes on Sunday as riot police patrolled the streets of Stone Town, witnesses said.
"There is a lot of tension, people are hiding in their houses. All the streets are empty, it's the only the police who are out there," resident Mai Zuberi told Reuters by phone.
"There were clashes all night on Saturday and the violence continued until noon today. All the roads were blocked in the Stone Town area," Zuberi added.
Police said they had arrested 30 members of Uamsho - a Swahili acronym of its full name the Association for Islamic Mobilisation and Propagation. Uamsho has called for a referendum on Zanzibar's exit from its union with mainland Tanzania.
"We will continue to search for more leaders of the Uamsho group, which was responsible for inciting these riots," Zanzibar Police Commissioner Mussa Ali Mussa said in a statement on Sunday.
"One church was extensively burnt by the protesters, and the second was partially burnt and the protesters were prevented from completely destroying it," he told Reuters by phone separately....
Not that Muslims have any desire to place mosques on sites that are important to non-Muslims that jihadis have targeted. Oh, no. That never happens. (And certainly not at Ground Zero, you greasy Islamophobe, you.) "Zanzibar Muslims, Officials Stop Church Building, Erect Mosque," from Compass Direct News, August 6 (thanks to all who sent this in):
NAIROBI, Kenya, August 6 (CDN) -- On an island off the coast of East Africa where the local government limits the ability of Christians to obtain land, officials in one town have colluded with area Muslims to erect a mosque in place of a planned church building.
On the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, Pastor Paulo Kamole Masegi of the Evangelistic Assemblies of God had purchased land in April 2007 for a church building in Mwanyanya-Mtoni, and by November of that year he had built a house that served as a temporary worship center, he said.
Masegi intended for the house to serve eventually as his family's home within the church compound, but on Nov. 11, 2007, his congregation began to worship there.
Soon area Muslim residents objected, saying they didn't like seeing the church in the area, said Pastor Lucian Mgaywa of the Church of God in Tanzania.
"This was the beginning of the church's tribulations," Pastor Mgaywa said.
In August 2009, local Muslims began to build a mosque just three feet away from the church plot, Pastor Mgaywa said. In November 2009, Pastor Masegi began building a permanent church structure. Angry Muslims invaded the compound and destroyed the structure's foundation, the pastors said.
Church leaders reported the destruction to police, who took no action - and also refused to release the crime report for court purposes, Pastor Masegi said. When he would inquire about the case, he said, the station head would inform him that the district police chief had the crime report and therefore it was not available.
"So it's not possible to take the file to the court, because doing so would amount to defending Christianity," the station police chief told him, according to Pastor Masegi.
With the district police chief sealing off any possibility of a court hearing, the church was unable to proceed with plans for building a permanent structure. In the meantime, construction of a mosque was well underway. It was completed by the end of December 2009....
Memo to gay rights activists who compare opponents of gay marriage to the Taliban: maybe it's time to rein in your rhetoric. From The Guardian, with thanks to Teri:
A law banning gay sex has come into effect in Zanzibar, with homosexual men threatened with 25-year jail terms and lesbians facing seven-year sentences.
"This is what we have been aspiring for. If the government takes such steps, the country will really move ahead," said Sheikh Muhammed Said, a local Islamic leader.
The law was brought into effect by President Amani Karume's signature last week, the attorney general's office said. Parliament passed the bill in April.
The islands, a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, are largely Muslim.
Travel agencies that specialise in trips for gays and lesbians have threatened to boycott Zanzibar.
I think they would be wise to do so, if they value the health and freedom of their clients.
From Reuters, with thanks to FreedomNowNews:
A spate of weekend bombings on Zanzibar, which hosted visiting German President Johannes Rau on Monday, hit the homes of local political and religious leaders and a restaurant being used by Western diplomats, police said.
There were no casualties from the homemade bomb blasts at the house of Zubeir Ali Maulid, a cabinet minister in the Tanzanian semi-autonomous island's government, and the home of Zanzibar's Mufti and top Islamic leader, Harith bin Khelef, said police spokesman George Kizuguto.
A grenade hurled at the Mercury restaurant landed on the dinner table of a British diplomat on Saturday evening, but failed to go off. An American diplomat and about 25 foreigners were also dining in the restaurant at the time, police said.
Rau, who is on a tour of Africa, is making a one-day visit to the Indian Ocean island of one million people to meet government leaders, welfare groups and visit historical sites.
Police said they suspected the Society for Islamic Awareness (UAMSHO), a religious movement which has been at loggerheads with the government recently, was behind the weekend explosions.
UAMSHO has been angry with the Tanzanian government since it appointed Khelef as Mufti over a religious leader who had been chosen by the islanders. The weekend blasts followed bomb attacks last week on a church, a school bus and a number of electric transformers.
Kizuguto said five Muslim leaders held over last week's attacks would be charged in court on Monday.
"We are still investigating those involved in the weekend activities," he said.
In January 2002, four people were seriously injured on Zanzibar when suspected Islamic militants attacked bars and stores selling alcohol with firebombs.
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