Uganda’s Muslim leaders on Saturday marked the birthday of Islam’s prophet Muhammad with calls for peace and unity.
At Kibuli Mosque, at the center of Ugandan capital Kampala, Supreme Mufti [top religious figure], Sheikh Zubair Kayongo, was sorrowful that minor differences had increased divisions among Uganda’s Muslims.
“We can only understand Islam more if we unite,” he said.
“If we continue preaching about killing, violence, taking away people’s property, how can Islam grow in this country?” Sheikh Kayongo asked.
He called on Muslims to increase their knowledge of the Islamic religion and follow the teachings of the Quran [the holy book of Muslims].
“Before you pray, learn what should be done during and after prayer and increase your knowledge of the Quran,” he said.
He stressed the need for Muslim leaders to leave behind a legacy that would be emulated by young Muslims.
Sheikh Kayongo said Muslims should not allow their religion to keep moving as if it was a new faith.
“Your deeds will determine how far Islam develops in Uganda,” he said.
Prince Kassim Nakibinge Kakungulu, the titular head of Muslims in Uganda, meanwhile, urged Muslims to go for reconciliation, following the killing of some Muslim clerics in the country.
“We shall continue to negotiate with the other group depending on the fact that we follow the truth in order to end these ongoing wrangles,” Kakungulu said.
In his New Year Message to the nation, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said something sinister was going on inside Uganda’s Muslim community.
“This is the 5th killing of a Muslim religious leader,” he added in comment on the killing of the clerics.
Nevertheless, Kakungulu expressed hope that the President would keep his word and handle these killings effectively if the police failed to do so.
The prophet’s birthday is an occasion celebrated by hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world.
In Uganda, the occasion was marked with Muslim songs accompanied by drums locally known as “Mataali.”
Need for unity
At the Old Kampala Mosque, which is situated at the Old Kampala Area, Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje also emphasized the need for unity among Muslims.
“We need to unite as Muslims,” Sheikh Mubajje said. “We have so many divisions within the Ulama (scholars),” he added.
He expressed hopes that Muslim scholars and clerics would stop talking about violence and killing in order to have time to talk about peace, patience and unity.
Sheikh Mubajje urged Muslims to follow the law and let police handle crime, instead of taking the law into their own hands.
Commenting on the killing of the Muslim clerics, the Ugandan President also added in his New Year address that some suspects had been given bail by the judiciary and proceeded to escape.
“This is unacceptable,” the President said. “Why does the judiciary release somebody charged with such serious crimes on bail?” he asked.
He revealed that the Minister of Justice would put before parliament an amendment to the constitution as soon as parliament resumes to stop this issue of bail in matters of murder, rape, defilement, treason and corruption.
Sheikh Mubajje applauded the President for these remarks.
“Our courts must be just,” he said. “There is a lot of bribery and corruption being practiced,” he added.
He called on police to work harder so that people could have trust in them and stop taking the law into their own hands.