Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Muslim scholars have described as Islamaphobic, President Yoweri Museveni’s comments about last Saturday’s bombing at a pork joint in Komamboga, Kampala district.
Addressing the country on Thursday about the Covid-19 pandemic and the security situation, Museveni appeared to suggest that those who attacked revelers at Komamboga did so out of hatred for pork eaters. Although there are other religious denominations in Uganda whose followers are not allowed to eat pork, the most prominent non-pork eaters are the Muslims. Museveni said that Uganda is a country that tolerates all religious beliefs but added that no group should impose its beliefs on others.
“Many of the Muslims in Ntungamo and Ankole were part of the wealth creators and not part of the parasites. Don’t involve yourselves in this nonsense of saying the government is targeting Muslims, leave the wealth creators alone. Among the wealth creators, the relationship is symbiotic; there is no parasitism…I once told Bashir that as a Munyankore, my haram list was bigger… You do different things and respect one another and corroborate where you have a common interest. This is our land and we shall protect it from all harmful practices,” Museveni said.
But speaking to Uganda Radio Network, Sheikh Siraje Kifampa Nsambu, the spokesperson of the Jumuiyyat Da’wa Assalafiya commonly known as the Tabliq, said President Museveni must realize that his words carry weight. Kifampa, to whose community most of those arrested in connection to terrorism belong, said the president’s suggestions are a continuous effort to project Muslims are criminals.
For his part, Joseph Kasule, a research fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research-MISR, who has done studies on Islamic fundamentalism in Uganda, said by the President suggesting that those who bombed Komamboga were Muslims, he was trying to absolve his government of any responsibility. Kasule added that because the world has been made to believe that the only people capable of terrorism are Muslims, it becomes fashionable and believable if the government throws the blame on their door step.
Like Kasule and Kifampa, Sheikh Mustapha Muyingo, an Imam at Kiti Mosque in Kawempe, said the President must understand that pork eating in Uganda has existed alongside Islam for the last more than 100 years. He wondered then whether Muslims have just realized that it is actually haram to eat it. Muyingo said that their religion teaches them that there are other people who believe in something else than themselves.
Sheikh Murtadha Mutyaba who propagates Islam among young people at universities said in the era of Islamophobia in the country, the last thing his community needs is the President to use the media to continue sowing seeds of hatred. Mutyaba said criminals should be treated as such, without referring to their religious beliefs. He added that Islam is a religion of peace, therefore, it is wrong to peg violence on such a religion of peace.
Meanwhile, the other issue that rattled the prelates was the suggestion by the President that having Arabic names is akin to radicalization and Arabization. Museveni revealed that one of the people suspected of having been part of the mission to assassinate General Katumba Wamala was Ubayida bin Bukenya.
“One of the boys we are hunting for the attempted murder of General Katumba is known as Ubayida bin Bukenya. Imagine Bukenya of Engabi clan has now become an Arab,” the president said. “He had been training in the center of [Hassan] Turabi in Sudan; that group destroyed Sudan. They emphasized identity. So such people are dangerous. How can Bukenya of Engabi clan be an Arab? The sheikhs need to address this.” But Kifampa wondered why the president would want to strip people of their other identity. He said there is no contradiction in one being a Muganda and a Muslim and to identify as such.
For their part, Mutyaba and Muyingo said the president must accept that religious freedom applies to all Ugandans, Muslims included. They added that by attacking one’s choice of name, the President is trying to strip people of their identity.