Muslim Group Backtracks

A Muslim group that last week gave the government 60 days to revise the country's Christian-biased education curriculum or face legal action yesterday backtracked on its demand saying it had not consulted Zimbabwe's muslim community before issuing the ultimatum.

A lawyer for the Islamic Convent of the Strict Observance (ICSO), Lewis Uriri, last night told the Daily News that the ICSO would apologise to fellow Muslims for issuing the ultimatum and that further action on the issue would only be taken after full consultation with Muslims in the country.

Uriri said: "I still have to put the issue in writing but my understanding is that the group has decided basically not to go ahead with the whole thing. ICSO do not purport to represent the entire Muslim community.

"The position they have put forward is solely the position of itself and does not in any way represent the official position of the Council of Islamic Scholars."

ICSO last week demanded that the government change Zimbabwe's Christian-influenced school curriculum or it would apply to the Supreme Court for an order outlawing as unconstitutional the almost mandatory teaching of Christian subjects and the reciting of the Lord's Prayer at school.

The group said some of its members had been forced to withdraw their children from exclusively Muslim but expensive private schools because of steep fee increases.

They said they had enrolled their children at relatively cheaper government-run institutions where mostly Christian-based values are observed.

In an interview earlier yesterday Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere rejected the demand saying Muslims could build their own schools, which he said the government would register.

Chigwedere said: "We accept the existence of the minority and their rights and we are not against their religion. But it will be foolhardy for them to expect us to transform a whole school curriculum to cater for two Muslim pupils at, say, Goromonzi, Marondera or St George's High schools.

"If Muslims feel that a school is not catering for their interests, they are at liberty to establish their schools which we will register."

The vast majority of black Zimbabweans are Christians although most also practise traditional African religion. There is also a variety of other religions including Buddhism. The country's British-drafted Constitution guarantees freedom of worship.