Over the years, Islam has gained ground in the southern African country of Zimbabwe; a nation that is regarded as Christian dominated. The spread of the religion has begun to take the notice of more and more Zimbabweans. Alarm and acceptance are being slowly propagated with equal measure among the population.
With a population of roughly 15 million people, 2% of Zimbabwe follows the Muslim faith. Although the proportion does not seem very impressive, it is a significant feat in a country that stringently adheres to Christian and Traditional beliefs. It is widely agreed that Islam is recognized as a religion for foreigners in Zimbabwe. However, the religion has found its way into the country and more converts are now found donning their Muslim kufi’s and robes going to mosques for worship and education on the precepts outlined in the Quran.
Challenges faced by the Muslim society in spreading its teaching
Experts are of the belief that in the past, the religion was practiced in isolation but has now begun to take a “pro-evangelical” stance in recent decades. With more educated youths in the ranks, it is spreading more and more rapidly. Another reason for its growing spread is the increase in availability of Muslim literature. This has been brought to light by Sheik Anubi Twabi, administrator at Africa Muslim Agency in Harare. Furthermore the availability of educational scholarships to foreign Islam, adhering countries has resulted in more and more converts. There are to date 13 Islamic embassies in Zimbabwe and these offer scholarships yearly to young Muslim students to pursue their studies abroad in the Islamic nations.
According to Muslim religious teacher Sheik Binali, the 2013 constitution of Zimbabwe has made it easier for the group to spread its word. The constitution has also allowed Muslims to move around more freely, especially in rural areas where they were labelled aliens by the inhabitants of the various regions they went to propagate their word. This was after an admission that being labelled an alien made the job harder as it hampered efforts to preach freely. The new constitution indeed has played a role in helping the spread of Islam in Zimbabwe. This is in light of its well outlined stance on equality of people and freedom of religion.
Reaction towards Islam by government and nation at large
This spread and growth of Islam has been received both negatively and positively by the general populace and government of Zimbabwe. In the past, government officials including the president, Robert Mugabe, have been known to make scathing statements towards Islam. Furthermore, Muslims allegedly cannot use state media for advertising purposes. These among other instances are a sign of how Islam was and is possibly still not a welcome religion in Zimbabwe. The numerous bouts of terror in the West has not made the situation any less dire. The terror has resulted in an increase of Islamophobic discourse in the nation.
However, relating to the government there have been winds of change with talk of government Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Lazarus Dokora, being in talks with the Muslim society with regards to the erection of more schools. The Zimbabwean government wants to build and even has plans on but cannot amass the resources to get the job done. A Harare constituency MP Terence Mukupe was also found showing leniency towards the growth and integration of Muslims in the society especially in light of the societies offer to build schools on behalf the government. The MP clearly showed his preference to the Muslims whose belief in his view is focused more on giving to the society. He compared this to the Christian community which he said “preaches prosperity but is more concerned with receiving than giving.”
Regardless of the mixed messages that are coming from the government, it is clear that a section of the Christian believing population of Zimbabwe is slowly becoming alarmed at the mushrooming mosques, and the robed men that seem to be increasing in number year after year. The reasons Zimbabweans are victims to the fear of the increasing number of Muslims between the Zambezi and the Limpopo are partly because of competition of religions. The other obvious reason is the looming threat of Jihad, which in their view often comes with Islam and its sharia law. When news of the possibility of Muslim funded schools hit social media, there was incredible outcry from the general public regarding the issue of safety. This outcry has been further propagated by the current state of international news which is constantly showing blast after blast and murders which can be linked back to Islamic terror groups. It is however evident that even in light of this, Zimbabwean citizens hard-pressed by economic crises that have now taken the form of a cash shortage have very little attention to spare. More to the point, the majority of the nation’s Christian sects, being peaceful either ignore or accept their Muslim brothers and sisters. The same people who now increasingly share their nation with them, and could soon be sharing converts with them also.
What the future may hold
It is possible that the African continent might live to see a Muslim-dominated southern Africa. This is very likely since Malawi is already a majorly Muslim nation. It is only a matter of time before the doctrine of Islam spreads more actively into Zimbabwe and Zambia mainly because of the lack of unity in Christians. The Christian faith’s failure to maintain a vice like hold over the region's faith is simply due to the fact that people are with time becoming more skeptical towards the numerous, ambiguous preachers and prophets that have taken the continent by storm. Another root cause of skepticism being, multiple churches with different doctrines popping up. At this rate, it is possible that we might soon see an Islamic Zimbabwe and Southern Africa.