Idd al-Adhuha prayers yesterday turned into a “political platform” as politicians across the religious divide and Muslim leaders alike sought to keep the spotlight on the forthcoming general elections. For Muslims leaders in the country, their message was clear: “Vote wisely and don’t sell your freedom. Vote for leaders who will protect Muslim interests and property.”
And for candidates, it was an opportunity to campaign for their preferred presidential flag bearers and themselves—promising a better Uganda in the years ahead. At Gaddafi National Mosque in Kampala where national prayers took place, Mufti Sheikh Ramadhan Mubajje urged Muslims to front themselves in elective positions, saying they have the same stake in the affairs of the country like any other person.
“At any level of leadership it is the power one wields that matters. So you will not have your interests advanced when you are in the back seat. Come out and participate in politics like people from other religions do” he said
Mubajje asked all the presidential candidates to state their position on the “touchy” matter of homosexuality or else face the wrath of the pious religious faithful.
“We have not heard any candidate speaking on the matter of homosexuality yet it is against God’s teachings,” he said. “We are concerned about this matter as religious leaders and we are waiting for the presidential candidates’ position on the matter.” He said it was such “evils” coupled with other immoral behaviour that see nations crumble, adding that he is in agreement with other religious leaders opposed to homosexuality. The Mufti also asked the government to table a Bill operationalising Kadhi courts, where Muslims can refer issues such as divorce, marriage and inheritance.
He also called for calm during and after the presidential elections and that of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) slated for next month. But Hajj Muhammad Kisambira, the chairman of the parallel Muslim leadership based at Kibuli, said they will boycott the UMSC elections. “Sheikh Mubajje has no moral authority to organise Muslim elections and we urge all those under our leadership to shun that exercise,” he said.
Mubajje’s rival, Sheikh Zubair Kayongo, also urged Muslims to vote for leaders who will advance their interests.
In a speech read by Sheikh Kisambira, Kayongo said: “We don’t only deserve a piece of the national cake but also deserve to participate fully in national political affairs.”
Lukwago, Mabikke spar
At Nakivubo Stadium, where two MPs fighting for the Kampala mayoral seat, Erias Lukwago and Micheal Mabikke were present, the faithful prayed condemned corruption and asked Allah to punish “selfish and corrupt” leaders.
Mr Lukwago promised to improve Kampala’s infrastructure and work to recover Muslim property, while Mr Mabikke asked the congregation to vote IPC presidential flag bearer Kizza Besigye—adding that he would appoint a Muslim deputy mayor.
Sheikhs Siraje Kawooya, Mustafah Bahiga and Abdullah Kibaata prayed for peaceful general elections and once again accused the government of turning the disputed Nakasero Mosque into a barracks. “They have turned Nakasero into a barracks, but we shall not rest until we get our mosque back,” said Sheikh Kawooya. “Some leaders don’t want us to live and you should not vote for them.”
A section of the Muslim community opposes Sheikh Sulaiman Kakeeto’s (head of Nakasero Mosque) plan to pull down the old mosque structure and put up a four-storeyed shopping mall with a mosque on top. But a bullish Sheikh Kakeeto, praying at Clock Tower Grounds, insisted that the mosque project is on course and will kick off soon.
“Those who are opposing the project are self-seekers and they are against development. We are still dialoging with them but even if they fail to agree with us, we shall go ahead with the project because it is for the good of the entire community.”
At Arua Primary School grounds, President Museveni challenged the Imams and other religious leaders to incorporate the message of fighting household poverty in their sermons which he said was the pre-occupation of his government.
He said if all households had sources of income, it would be easy for religious organisations to fund their development activities through funds from their followers. “Your leader has just told me about the need for a bigger mosque and that there are 34,000 Muslims in Arua Municipality, if all these had a source of income they would build the mosque themselves,” he said.
In Kasese, Muslims demanded that President Museveni fulfills the promises he made to them 13 years ago if he wants their votes. District Khadi Sheikh Abdul Juma said Mr Museveni promised to construct a maternity ward at the Kasese Muslim Health Centre and establish a polytechnic college in the area. At Masaka Muslim Supreme Council Mosque, Sheikh Twaha Bugembe urged the congregation to vote only leaders who will promote the growth and development of Islam.
The prayers still demonstrated the on-going division within Masaka Muslim leadership with those against district Khadi Sheikh Huzairu Kiruta holding their prayers at the UMSC Mosque grounds and those under his leadership praying in the Mayor’s Gardens.
In Entebbe, the Muslims demanded that authorities resolve the wrangles on their three-acre land in the municipality to pave way for implementation of their development plans.
In Mbarara, the district khadi, Sheikh Abdulnoor Kaduyu, asked Muslims to work towards correcting the image of the religion. “Everywhere you go throughout the world Islam is labelled with bad practices and deeds like terrorism and prostitution. Our image has been tarnished and we have to work towards rebuilding and reviving our image,” he said.
In Kamuli, the district Khadi Sheikh Ibrahim Muganza asked the Muslims to champion the crusade against human sacrifice. “We must learn from Idd Adhuha that Allah is very much against human sacrifice so let us be the ones to be at the forefront of fighting this vice,” said the khadhi.
Reported by Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Yasiin Mugerwa, Ephraim Kasozi, Ismail Musa Ladu, Thembo Kahungu Misairi, Rajab Mukombozi, Opio Sam Caleb and Felix Warom.