The majority of people are Christians. Muslims hence sometimes feel left out in some aspects of social life and political life. For instance, out of a cabinet of 69 ministers, there would only be 6 Muslim ministers. In the field of education, the Muslims were left behind, so much so that at the time of independence, there were only 2 Muslim graduates, but thanks to God and thanks to the various efforts including that of the Islamic University in Uganda the number of Muslim graduates has increased, and Muslims are able to play a more effective role in the socio-economic development of Uganda.
The Muslims have made tremendous strides in the field of education. The number of schools has increased. We also have a university, which was the first private university in Uganda. We have many Muslims in trade. We have many mosques. In agriculture, the Muslims are also there. In business, we have many Muslims engaged in businesses.
Of course, the level of poverty among the Muslims is still high, which is a major concern that we need to be able to address. This poverty is mainly due to the low level of education, which is what we are trying to address as of now, especially among the Muslim girls. Generally in Africa, women are left behind in education among other aspects, but among the women, the Muslim women are even worse off. So we are trying to make some deliberate attempts to address the issue of education and healthcare among women. Now, a hospital is being built, where some female Muslim doctors have started a clinic where the women can go and be able to get some attention. We are working on many other aspects. The odds are many, but Thanks to God there is progress. Given the fact that the political leadership does not interfere in the affairs of Muslims, that gives us the capacity to be able to move forward in a more coherent and strategic way.
The Islamophobia virus has spread to all parts of the world. There are many good Muslims, who do good things to improve the image of Islam, but there are also Muslims who do wrong things that are out of the fold of Islam, and it would be wrong to associate that with Islam; just as we have Christians who do good things and Christians who do bad things. The person responsible for the Oklahoma bombing was not a Muslim, the people who committed atrocities in Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina were not Muslims.
We as Muslims have a duty to improve the image of Islam and to project the correct image of Islam. There are many Muslim who do not understand Islam and do things in the name of Islam. We also have Christians who do not understand Islam and think that they do. Once we have this cocktail of ignorance, and social and economic pressures, you have a recipe for worldly competition and many social evils.
But we must all try to find a common ground, because theoretically, the dividing line between Islam and Christianity is very thin and very porous. As a Muslim, I cannot be a Muslim unless I believe in Jesus, in his miraculous birth, in the miracles he performed with God’s permission, and his second coming. Where the Muslims differ fundamentally is when the Christians say that Jesus is the son of God. Muslims would then say: no, he is an honorable prophet of God, yes born miraculously, but that is not the biggest miracle; Adam, the first man, he did not have a father or mother. So we have many common aspects with the Christians and in many cases the Jews. It is up to us as human whether we want to concentrate on the things that bind us together or the things divide us. If we were to concentrate on what binds us together, we would be able to make the world a better place for all of us.
How involved are the Ugandan Muslims in media?
Well, media is one of our weaknesses, but now, everyone is realizing the power of media. There have been some efforts in media however. We have FM radio stations that are operated by Muslims; even though, they are few compared to the Christian stations, but they are able to convey the message of Islam. We are not involved in print media yet, there are few, but they are not consistent. We also do not have a television station yet. However, in the Islamic University, we have a department of mass communication, where we train many of our students in mass communication, and are now working on starting our own FM radio station. The government has already approved a license for us, we bought some of the equipment, but we need assistance in buying the remaining equipment and to put up our own towers. We are making strides, but we are still way behind in that area, which is extremely crucial.
The Islamic University of Uganda
The Islamic University in Uganda is an institution established by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was established to address a historical imbalance. The colonialists in east Africa, just like elsewhere, deliberately left out the Muslims in education. Muslim heads of states met in 1974 in Lahore, Pakistan to discuss what went wrong with the Muslims. They realized that one of the problems facing Muslims was lack of education; and subsequently they decided to set up Islamic universities;: Two in Africa, one in Niger to support the French speaking countries, and one in Uganda to serve the English-speaking African countries. Of course they also established one each in Pakistan and Malaysia, and many other Islamic universities.
However, even though the decision was made in 1974, the university did not start until 1988 — that’s a gestation period of 14 years. When we started in 1988, we had 80 students, and two-degree programs. Since then the university has developed to serving 7,000 students from 21 countries. So far, we have had 13,000 graduates, who are now serving in the public and private sector. In Uganda, one of the governmental ministers was a student of ours, we also have over 20 members of Parliament, many in the civil services, the police, the army, and the commander of the Ugandan air force was also a former student of the Islamic university. Of course, we also have non-Muslim students as well in the Islamic University; about 30 per cent of ours students are Christians. We have 6 faculties: The faculty of Islamic studies and the Arabic language, the faculty of education, arts and social sciences, management studies, science, and the faculty of law. We also have a center for post-graduate studies.
Our graduates have played a very significant role. For instance, earlier, before we started graduating teachers from our university, even in a Muslim secondary school all the teachers were Christians. You would even find in some schools Christians teaching Islam. Now, we have enough Muslim teachers to run all our schools and more. We are now exporting some of our teachers to other countries. As I said previously, our students were able to contribute to society greatly. Thanks to God, the social impact of the university is real. The university also enjoys much legal support from the government.
n The author is the rector of the Islamic University, Uganda.
Courtesy of www.online.com