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I have never sat in a taxi

By Joan Akello

Hajji Nsereko Mutumba, 60, PRO Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC), speaks to Joan Akello about Islam and business.

Anything we do not know about you?

I founded the Kampala Cattle Traders and Butchers Association (1982) and Foundation for Islamic Development (1986), was among the youths in Kampala who joined politics on the Uganda Patriotic Movement(UPM) card in 1980, and I have never sat in a taxi; I’ve been driving since 1974.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

When one is successful, well, and rich without debts.

When and where were you happiest?

Whenever I meet my 80 year-old mother, Janet Nakalanzi Tasabwa who is a Catholic.

What is your greatest fear?

When my mother is not pleased with me and debts. One of my elder brothers committed suicide because of debts yet on the surface he was rich.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I’m straight forward

Who do you most admire?

President Yoweri Museveni. On July 17 1997, Allied Defence Force (ADF) threw two hand grenades in my home in Kibuye to kill me for supporting National Resistance Movement and the president. This did not deter me from loving Museveni; he stands for pan-Africanism, is patient and tolerant of criticism.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Providing for my family

What is your current state of mind?

At peace and comfortable.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Religious leadership; people think they are super human, next to an angel therefore they should not have a private life.

On what occasion do you lie?

It’s forbidden in Islam but when I don’t have enough money and I’m given a list from home, I usually say I have forgotten whatever is not bought.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My belly; I’d like it flatter.

Which living person do you most despise?

Anyone who demonizes others uses religion to fuel conflicts. Religion should promote peace. Islam means peace that is why pastors are my friends and I attend their functions.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Behaves well, faithful and gentle.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Must be decent in her dress code and overall behaviour before society and men; I saw a woman fighting a man on TV. Equal opportunity does not mean equality so women should not think of doing everything men do because of equality; some degrade women like selling offals, fish.

What about Muslims who are not practicing Islam?

You better choose to be Muslim or what you are. Islam does not have provisions for prostitution, or terrorism.  Terrorism is not exclusive to Muslims; we have seen Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bomb hospitals, homes of innocent Palestinians.

You seem agitated by Islam being associated with terrorism

Islam provides for a jihad (the struggle) say towards poverty, but not terrorism.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My mother, my president and my two wives. It is acceptable to marry more than one wife but it is not an order.

Which talent would you most like to have?

Be an active politician to change the status of my people. We have been bedeviled by politicians who promise and deliver nothing.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I ‘d like to become a Sheikh.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Forming the Foundation for Islamic Development which has empowered youths and women to be self sustaining, built schools, hospitals and mosques. I’m also the founding PRO of UMSC.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

A rich man who becomes a pauper or somebody who once had power becomes powerless. The Quoran tells us to pray for people with power and money.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I’m tough looking but a happy man inside.

Who are your favorite writers?

Those who write about religion and politics such as Chief Musamaali Nangoli especially his book No more lies about Africa.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Sheikh Abdul Razak Matovu, the first chief Khadhi of UMSC; in 1965, he introduced Islam theological education and many sheikhs have formal education now and;  Museveni; he has stood by his aspirations that Africa can solve her own problems that is why he has helped Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia and Uganda.

But the opposition says Museveni has betrayed himself by staying in power for so long

It is just like promising that you will return after visiting your mother but you fail because she is sick. Museveni found a sick Uganda.

What is it that you most dislike?

Debts and those who don’t understand religion.

What is your greatest regret?

It happened 16 years ago but I still regret involving people in the cattle traders association who later betrayed us and sold us out because of greed to Hassan Bassajjabalaba.

How would you like to die?

In my bed, even if I’m in a coma, I want to be left to rest.

What is your motto?

The struggle continues. We should struggle for our lives; it does not stop here.

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