This time not the state…it’s the churches

My last blog entry asked a question, why fighting the state? The issue has always been why are the Islamic extremists groups always find a scapegoat-especially the state in revenging for an insult of their religion by a single person?

On Friday, 12th Oct. 2012, I was heartbroken to hear the news of attacked churches in Mbagala area in Dar-es-Salaam. These churches were attacked and burnt by a group of Islamic extremists. The reason for this appalling act is an alleged insult of Islamic Holy Book by a 14 years old boy. What the boy did was definitely not a wise move. However, that does not justify attacks on churches in the area. First, it is an individual who did the insult; second, the extremists attacked several denomination churches in the area including the Lutheran Church, the Anglican Church, and the Assemblies of God. If the group try to (unconvincingly) argue that they wanted to punish those who were responsible for the boy’s upbringing, e.g. his church, it still cannot explain attacking different churches.  My take for this group’s disgusting, childish, and unwise actions is that the group had other motives and the boy’s action was just a ‘justification’ or an ‘excuse’ for carrying out their pre-planned actions. Otherwise why would they so angrily attacked and burnt the churches so quickly? How did they mobilize themselves so quickly? I wonder if the government’s intelligence or police had not learnt of such arrangements prior to the attacks.  I have tried to follow up news and waiting to hear or read a strong statement from the government, but unfortunately none has come out so far. However, about 30 suspects have been taken to the court, but the charges do not mention terrorism. The charges are conspiracy, arson, robbery, and theft of properties. (see http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/news/4-national-news/26601-36-appear-in-court-over-mbagala-chaos.html).  On the other side, the boy is also held in a juvenile court on the charges of insulting religion. I am surprised why the same charge does not apply to those who have burnt churches.

In this blog I have, at least twice, highlighted that there is an emerging trend in Africa of Islamic extremists groups and that African governments should seriously take note and deal with them. These groups are increasingly emerging across the continent and at times governments have dismissed them as groups of bandits. They are not. They have an agenda far more than that.  There is an urgent need to prevent these grassroots groups.

 There have been efforts to tackle terrorism in Africa. These have included passing and ratification of counter-terrorism legislations as well as military actions such as the Kenyan defense force’s intervention in Somalia to fight against Al-Shabaab.  Peter Kagwanja’s essay published in the African Security Review 15/3 2006 with a title ‘Counter-terrorism in the Horn of Africa: New Security frontiers, old strategies ’, gives a good descriptive account of terrorism in Horn and East Africa as well as regional and country’s responses. I encourage everyone who is interested to read Kagwanja’s essay to get a general picture of terrorism in the region. Of course there has been significant changes with regards to terrorism and counter terrorism efforts since  the article was published in 2006, however it is still imperative to get the background information in order to understand the current situation. These groups are a threat to Africa. Tanzania, a blessed country that has enjoyed peace probably more than any other country in the African continent, should not take things for granted. If these trends continue there may be a risk of polarization based on religious affiliation.

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