|October 24, 2008
Churches petition against Islamic courts
Churches in Tanzania have petitioned against a proposal to set up Kadhi (Islamic) courts to handle disputes among the Muslim community. They will create religious tension in a country that prides itself on high levels of religious and social tolerance, the church leaders say.
The petition was signed by 64 leaders from the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) and Pentecostal churches. According to a BBC reporter, public opinion was sharply divided over the issue. MPs were also split over introducing Kadhi courts, which deal with domestic issues such marriage and divorce, during parliament's session in August.
Muslims make up nearly half of the population on mainland Tanzania. The semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, where 99% of the population is Muslim, has had Kadhi courts as an official part of its justice system since 1985. The government is also considering joining the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), a move that has been met with criticism by Christian leaders. Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Bernard Membe said the government would seek the people's consent on whether Tanzania should join the OIC, Tanzania's Guardian newspaper said. Church leaders say that joining the OIC would contravene the country's constitution as Tanzania is a secular state.
(The Guardian, Dar es Salaam / Rts)