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William Kopwe

William Kopwe



By William Kopwe

This research is about social challenges posed to and by shari’a implementation on the Tanzanian mainland. Two major concepts; ‘social’ and ‘challenge’ are fundamental to this study. By the term ‘social’ we limit ourselves to mean mainly three phenomena in the country; legal pluralism, religious pluralism and state secularity. On the other hand the term challenge is a two-fold concept. The first aspect of the concept applies to the whole matters of legal and constitutional provisions of shari’a implementation in the country. In this the study examines the possibilities and hindrance of shari’a implementation in the country in accordance with the country’s constitution and legal system. And the second aspect seeks to explore the impact of shari’a implementation in Christian-Muslim relations in the country with regard to the Religio-socio-political heterogeneity of the country.

Shari’a debate is a social reality in Tanzania mainland today. In Tanzania however, two major theories can best fit to this debate. First is the theory of ‘religious resurgence’ which has as its hallmark to return to the fundamentals of religion. And secondly, is the theory of ‘religious economies’ whereas religion is manipulated for power and economic gains. The two conditions expressed by the above mentioned theories create a volatile situation in the country which endangers the long existing amicable Christian-Muslim coexistence in the country, which calls for attention.

Therefore this research aims at studying mainly two things. Firstly, those challenges which are facing shari’a implementation in mainland Tanzania, which in this research are referred to as the challenges posed to shari’a implementation in the country and secondly the research studies the challenges which are postulated to come up as an aftermath of shari’a implementation in the country, which in this study are referred to as the challenges posed by shari’a implementation in the country.

This research has as its task primarily to address three basic questions:

  1. Why do some of the Muslims in the Tanzanian mainland demand for shari’a implementation in thecountry?
  2. Why do Christians under their umbrella bodies categorically reject shari’a implementation?
  3. What is the impact of shari’a debate and implementation in Christian-Muslim relations in Tanzania mainland?

To answer the above questions the research uses a combination of two major qualitative research methods:

Document Analysis: In this method documents generated by and from Muslim official and unofficial umbrella organisations, Christian umbrella bodies from the Roman Catholic, Protestants, and the Pentecostal churches, government and non-governmental documents, materials from the national archives and various speeches given by political and religious leaders in the country will be taken into consideration. This method is chosen so as to get information about the historical development of the issue understudy.

Expert Interviews: A range of experts chosen in accordance with their professional backgrounds, positions in the society, religious affiliations and gender will be interviewed using open ended-semi structured interviews. The total number of the experts interviews planned is 30 (So far 22 interviews have been conducted). They are divided into the following groups; religious leaders, incumbent and retired governmental officials, intellectuals, and specialists like lawyers etc. This method is employed so as to obtain a cross-section of society’s opinions of the issue understudy. This in turn will furnish the research with technical, practical and contemporary perceptions on the issue.

Several preliminary findings have been obtained from the empirical research and documents survey done, presented here in summary.

  • There are dichotomous views on shari’a implementation both from Christians and Muslims themselves in the country.
  • The issue at the bottom line for Muslims is the sense of politically marginalized by the Christian dominated regimes pre and post independence. Hence shari’a demand is partly for religious purposes and partly for social-political liberation.
  • At least all of the informants mentioned the issue of Muslims’ backwardness in education compared to the Christians in the country. This in turn more or less affects their representation in government positions and civil services in the country.
  • There is a lot of mistrust between Christians and Muslims in the country which are expressed in the form of accusations and suspicions. This state of affairs greatly challenges the whole issue of shari’a debate and Kadhi court reintroduction.
  • Shari’a debate and Kadhi court demands are attributed to the Muslim regimes in the country. Christians feel that the issues always arise during regimes which are under Muslim presidents in the country.
  • There is some degree of judicial inadequacy in Muslim personal issues by some of the magistrates which intensifies the need for the reintroduction of Kadhi courts in the country.
  • There are conspicuous intra-religious disagreements among the Muslims in the issue of official representation. This in turn affects official stance of Muslims in the country.
  • There are instances of politicization of religion in the country. Some of political parties use religion for their political end. Meanwhile there are some Muslims who allege the ruling party Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) to have been Christian oriented party.
  • There is generally peaceful Christian-Muslim coexistence in the country, which is currently being furthered by the joint efforts of religious leaders from both Christians and Muslims in Tanzania. However the move is challenged by the Muslim intra-religious disagreement of Baraza Kuu la Waislamu Tanzania (BAKWATA) as an official representative for all Muslims. And on the side of Christians, the Pentecostal Christians are not included in the movement. However the movement is having governments consent.

Therefore from the above findings we can say that shari’a debate in Tanzania mainland revolves around not only on the matter of religious zeal but also on social-political matters of both Muslims and non-Muslims in the country.

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