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GEORGE MUHIMBISE: Moslemizing rebel activities is the worst form of religious persecution, Ugandans must reject it

George Muhimbise is a member of Alliance for National Transformation

Where i was born deep in Mahyoro sub county, in Kitagwenda District existed only one mosque in the entire sub-county. The moslems were a minority religion that side followed by the Seventh Day Adventists.

Whereas we lived harmoniously with moslems, there existed some stigmatisation & stereotype against the moslems as bad and dishonest people.

I grew up knowing that moslems had bad traits, not trustworthy and people who loved money a lot among others.

This was exercebated by the ADF war in the mid & late 1990s which was said to be a Moslem rebel outfit.

Whereas i have come to meet many moslems, i met one of the moslems who later became my best friend and I don’t think i will ever meet a friend of that caliber in my life.

Mugisha Elias (may his soul rest in peace) came to be my best friend, and the 13 years journey we walked together transformed my life & personality.

Elias was a moslem, who even sat in the Moslem district council of Kabarole & later Kamwenge District.

Courtesy of his leadership skills, by the time of his death he sat on several local Management & Boards of schools and organisations like Kamwenge SS, Mirambi K P/S, Kamwenge Junior School, Rwenzori Anti Corrupt Coalition among others.

Elias mentored many of us who were younger than him, he hosted several graduates who would sleep at his place or use his shop as a meeting point where they could gather to discuss politics or to access news papers from which they would read job adverts.

His shop and residence in Kamwenge became a center of political strategists with both NRM and opposition politicians flocking there for advice. Many of these grew up to become LCV chairs, RDCs, District Speakers, Councilors, Mayors, public servants both in central and local government and others got jobs in big organisations & companies.

Elias was an opposition politician in FDC & later ANT but during our tenure, no opposition supporter was ever arrested in Kamwenge over political violence, even when under him we built strong activism, his diplomacy & leadership skills made us survive & build opposition in a place that was dominated by NRM and hostile to opposition.

Elias, an opposition activist used to host us for eiddi feasts where he would slaughter an animal and he would host local politicians, public servants including RDCs, religious leaders including non moslems and his home would be a re-union of different shades of opinions.

Elias was not materially rich but had a rich heart, even when some of his peers bragged to him blaming him for remaining in opposition while they enjoyed lucrative jobs, he never bothered and his satisfaction was always in supporting & mentoring others, i inclusive.

To cut the long story short, Elias changed my perception towards moslems and since then i started treating every person as a unique individual regardless of his tribe or religion.

Today, and for the past many years, many moslem clerics have been shot dead on an assumption that they are rebels or ADF rebel collaborators.

Unfortunately these have been condemned unheard, and their right to a fair hearing been denied.

It is regretably unfortunate that the state of Uganda has fallen in the scheme to demonize moslems as criminals and Islamic faith as next to criminality.

Even when there is overwhelming evidence that criminals have used moslem names as a cover, with Gen Museveni having confessed to have once named himself Khassim, with his brother calling himself Salim Saleh when they were commiting rebel activities, the state of Uganda has deliberately refused to put a distinction between islam and terrorism.

The worst scenario is when security at Kyambogo University the would be centre of civilisation had to force a moslem student to change her moslem attire in the name of fighting terrorism. You realize that the country has gone to dogs when a University is run like a market or when professors in a University behave like UPE drop outs!

The coincidences that all or majority of the people who have been arrested in terrorism related charges and murder cases of prominent Ugandans have been moslems by name speaks volumes of how Ugandan government has victimized the Islam Faith. This trajectory if not checked is dangerous for the future of this country, it will subsequently bring permanent hatred for state by moslems who see their fathers being tortured, arrested, killed, persecuted etc without being charged in court or often later to be found innocent!

For record, there have been many rebel outfits or groups that are led by christians and they have never been tagged to Christianity.

Joseph Kony was a christian who purported to fight for restoration of ten commandments of God, he was declared a terrorist by the international community, todate he is never called a christian terrorist. Joseph Kibwetere who burnt thousands in his church in Kanungu was a christian, no body ever called him a christian terrorist. Bishop Jean Marie Runinga who was the President of M23 rebels in DRC was an evangelical church Bishop and his rebel group was not called a christian rebel force. Dr Rierk Machar, Salva Kiir and Dr John Garang all who led SPLA rebels in Sudan for over two decades were christians and their rebel group had never been christianized.

In a nutshell, there is a deliberate effort to blackmail moslems as terrorists & unfortunately our leaders are either consciously or unconsciously falling for it.

The danger it poses is that those that are stigmatized & harassed will feel a sense of insecurity & hence craving for self defence, in the end they may turn into real terrorists as a response to the injustice and we may end up making terrorists in the name fighting terrorism.

Injustice to someone is injustice to everyone, we must fight it even when we aren’t the victims. Every religion has good & bad people, we should stop the stigma against moslems.

Muhimbise George, +256787-836515
[email protected]

The author is a member of Alliance For National Transformation.

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