- Published on Sunday, 03 June 2012 03:14
- Written by KILASA MTAMBALIKE
- Hits: 1695
THERE were ugly scenes on the Isles last weekend. Scenes which were not typical to Tanzanian society, but they were as real as these words you are reading. To many, Zanzibar is the last place they'd expect to read about in lurid headlines in the newspapers.
Yet when overzealous followers of a religious propagation group went amok and what ensued resembled a battlefield, it was enough to leave a bad taste in any peace loving individual's mouth.
On Saturday, members of a group calling itself Uamsho (Association of Islamic Awareness and Public Discourse), torched two churches and destroyed other properties worth millions of shillings, including a motor vehicle.
The members blocked roads using stones and attempted but failed to raid Mjini Magharibi central police station, pressing for the release of their leaders who had been arrested earlier. The reason for all the mayhem was that the protesters were agitating for the breakup of the Union between Zanzibar Islands and Tanzania Mainland.
For anyone to even toy with the idea of torching a house of prayer, religious leanings not considered, seems unsavory, bordering on blasphemy. How can anyone claim of a clear conscience after showing serious disregard towards another's faith without the slightest provocation? At times it is very difficult to believe that these are the same "regular" folks we have daily exchanges with.
But it is true, these are people we brush shoulders with in the streets, we commute in the same vehicles and at times we pray side by side. They are our neighbours, friends, cousins, in-laws and even the occasional enemy.
These are not a species from out of this world and that's why it beats the imagination as to why some regular chap that we thought we knew would go to such lengths just to prove a point. Being humans, it is always easy to shift the blame for our actions elsewhere. As for the recent events in the Isles, we can always implicate trivial factors such as anti-depressant drugs, illicit brew and/or drugs, lack of enlightenment or any lame excuse that comes to mind.
The truth shall always remain. Bad deeds always easily eclipse in minds a good reputation, and for such a long time that it may seem like eternity. Zanzibar has for many years enjoyed the reputation as one place where tranquility is guaranteed and its people viewed as a society of waungwana (literally meaning gentlemen).
Gentlemen are expected to carry themselves in a certain demeanor and resorting to violence isn't one of them. By last week's actions, those responsible did not only tarnish the Island's image but the image and reputation of its people as well.
And if such behaviour is allowed to prevail, it might take a lifetime to regain the trust of people, both within the Islands and abroad. At best, the Isles would become ungovernable; at worst would become inhabitable.
This is because whoever was responsible for the fracas last week showed a penchant for prejudice. What do churches, bars or vehicles have anything to do with a secular union between two nations? Right thinking individuals would have made better judgment and sought befitting avenues and means to address their issues. Granted the protesters and their backers have their way, as biased as they are, what next will they want to do away with?
Religion could be put to be better and appropriate use on the Isles. It is common knowledge that Zanzibar, like many other urban parts of the Union, is plagued by drug abuse among its youths. But a more pressing social evil is homosexuality.
Despite the majority of the population in Zanzibar being keen followers of their faiths, same sex unions are seemingly tolerated. It does not seem to be cause for concern to many believers. These unions are forbidden in all the good books. Perhaps those who believe that they are the staunchest followers of their faiths should start by preaching the word of God against such acts instead of breaching the peace.
On that background, one is easily forced to believe that the protesters who damaged property and injured people are really not aware of their cause, or rather, the cause of their backers. Simply said, they are being used and do not know it.
Their actions are misplaced when one views at their demands. It is a pity, but in the long run, they will make the rest of us who do not wish to be labelled but are still firm believers look grim. As Muslims, we never gain anything from such actions.