Zanzibar Muslims must get Mufti’s permit before meetings

Muslims in Zanzibar will continue to seek permission from the Mufti before holding religious gatherings as the government here says the Mufti (Constitution and Powers) Act of 2001 must be followed to the letter.

Zanzibar’s Attorney General, Iddi Pandu Hassan , said yesterday that the Act, described as proscribing religious freedom on the Isles, would remain in force to check activities of various foreign religious groups bent on introducing seditious teachings in the country.

He told the press here that when Muslims sought Mufti’s permits before any religious gatherings, the government would be able to know the people who wanted to use religion to divide Zanzibaris on the basis of religious differences.

He said recently members of religious groups from Pakistan and Afghanistan went to Zanzibar. These were sleeping in mosques. In this way, they created a situation which could adversely affect the security of the nation.

However, he said the Act could be amended if Muslims would iron out their differences with the Mufti.

He said the Act was enacted to control foreign religious groups intending to disrupt peace and tranquillity on the spice islands.

Hassan maintained that there must be an organ to co-ordinate religious affairs among the Muslims on the Isles as that was the custom even before Zanzibar attained independence from the sultan.

He said any problems in the Act would be solved when all stakeholder would discuss them before forwarding them to the government for further action.

The image of Zanzibar has been besmirched by frequent religious clashes.

Last month a group of religious Muslim fanatics clashed with the police after they broke into bars and wine shops and burnt government vehicles when the security forces broke up their meeting, being held without the knowledge and permission of the Mufti.

Twenty people have appeared in court over the disturbances and the loss of property.