We are saying the incident that occurred in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar are ugly and should never be allowed to reoccur in a civilized country like Tanzania that respects the rule of law, peace and order.
It is disheartening to see that when heads are rolling on how to improve the socio-economic status of our country, some few disgruntled individuals are deliberately pulling the rest of us down for reasons best known to themselves.
To make matters worse, these individuals are manipulating the youth and innocent citizens whom they have groomed, gave collective identity in response to achieve personal goals. For the riots in Dar es Salaam were meant to demand for unconditional release of the secretary of the Council of Muslims’ Organisations, Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda.
The riots in Zanzibar were meant to pressurize for the release of the Isles leader of a religious group ‘Uamsho,’ Sheikh Farid Hadi. But these are a continuation of several ugly incidents that have been taking place in the country in the recent past.
We have said and repeat here all these are aimed to disrupt peace and harmony under the pretext of religion. They had been reported in Zanzibar, Arusha, Kigoma, Ruvuma and Dar es Salaam where property belonging to a different faith organization attest to this fact. Several lives have been lost.
It is for this reason that we salute the swift action by the joint operation of the police, militia and soldiers of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) in dispersing the rioters. Surprisingly, the front-runners of these are youth and many of them are uneducated and unemployed.
One wonders whether they are knowledgeable enough to interpret their faith teachings. What we know, for sure, is that all religious teachings emphasize peace and harmony with others. Then why destroy other faith’s property and threaten lives under the name of religion?
The country’s Constitution stipulates that ours is a non-sectarian state and everybody is free to believe in the religion of one’s choice provided one does not breach the law. In other word spiritual matters are personal. Tanzanians in general have been living in harmony with one another irrespective of one’s religious inclination.
It is also in Tanzania where people of different beliefs live peacefully under one roof. There are also inter-faith marriages and for many years no one can claim to be discriminated against on the basis of religious divide. In fact, there have been several testimonies of people born from parents of differing religious backgrounds and have been living in peace.
Actually, these people are saying if the riotous situation is left unchecked, it is likely to even interfere with their family bonds. We are all aware of the joint social and sporting activities that have been going on between the two sides of the Union which have, to a great extent, helped to strengthen the Union between Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar.
In fact, Tanzania can stand out as an example of a country which has and will continue to benefit from the positive relations between faiths. For example, many schools and institutions of higher learning have been constructed and run by different religious organizations and are benefiting all without any discrimination along religious divide.
In our opinion, the riots under the guise of religion are bent to undermine all our social, political and economic achievements. More importantly, the riots are putting peace and harmony that we have cherished so dearly to the envy of those who do not wish to see our country prosper.
We are saying, Tanzanians must refuse to be divided along religious lines and those behind the reported riots in any part of the country must be sought and taken to task. A statement by President Jakaya Kikwete last week after touring the burnt churches at Mbagala area in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam city by youth believed to be Muslim followers must be punished was timely.