Sheikh Alhad Musa Salum, Chairman of the Inter-Religious Peace Committee of Tanzania has called on Muslims in East Africa to unite and foster regional development.
Sheikh Salum called for unity, solidarity, peace and religious tolerance, to help build stability and progress in the region.
The religious leader said Muslim unity is needed for the region to make political and social-economic strides.
He spoke at the Royal Court Hotel in Mombasa, at an inaugural meeting organized by Kenya Muslims National Advisory Council (KEMNAC), held to discuss the unity of the Muslim community in the region.
KEMNAC encourages the unity and cohesion of Muslim communities across the East African region, Africa and the wider world.
Sheikh Salum represented Sheikh Abubakar Zubeir bin Ally, the Grand Mufti (the highest official of religious law in Islam) of Tanzania, who had originally been slated to attend the religious forum.
The Grand Mufti sits as one of the highest authorities on Islamic law and theology and issues legal opinions and edicts and interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence.
Sheikh Salum underscored that unity of purpose is a good way to pursue plans aimed at creating an enabling environment for development in a region that is home to people from different religions and ethnicities.
The visiting cleric urged Muslim youth in the region, to reject religious extremism in all its forms and embrace peace and unity.
He underscored the need for religious leaders and scholars to confront radical ideologies and militancy in the name of Islam.
Sheikh Salum said the challenge facing the world today is terrorism and that right thinking people should close ranks in combating terrorism, radicalism and extremism and strive to bring world peace for the benefit of all.
“We want the Muslim community in the region to be united and condemn all divisive efforts’,” he said, adding that religious scholars have the responsibility to ensure extremism and radical ideologies are not tolerated by the Muslim community.
The Tanzanian cleric used the occasion to urge Muslims in the region to be peaceful, united and live harmoniously with other people of different religious affiliations.
Sheikh Salum stated that Islam is peace and indeed peace should be the true reflection of the religion and that is the message that needs to be ‘promoted as we seek to confront extremism’.
He said Islam is a religion of peace and that those using religion as a justification for violence are people with twisted ideologies, out to tarnish the name of the erstwhile peaceful religion.
KEMNAC National Chairman, Sheikh Juma Ngao, said that the objective of the meeting was to make life more meaningful for Muslims and make a peaceful region.“We know the challenges faced by Muslims in Kenya and Tanzania and the wider Africa and it is incumbent on all of us to work together to address the challenges,” he said.
Sheikh Ngao stressed on the need to bridge the gap of disunity among Muslims, as this will put an end to doctrinal disagreements and bring unity to the Muslim community.
He urged Muslims to be at the forefront in the search for peace and regional cohesion and to coexist in peace and unity with people of diverse faiths for the east African region to make meaningful socio-economic progress.
Sheikh Ngao called on the Kenya Kwanza Administration, not to neglect Muslims in employment and appointments to key positions in government.
He said the contribution of the Muslim community in the country’s socio-economic development cannot be ignored.
Sheikh Omar Buya, the National Grand Mufti of Kenya, said peace was a necessary requirement for the development of any nation and asked Kenyans to embrace peace and unity in the interest of nationhood and development.
He implored right thinking Muslims and people of other faiths to take up the challenge of riding the world of radicalization to save the future of humanity.
Sheikh Buya said the Muslim community should work closely with security agencies at the grassroots to ensure safety for all.
“We urge our religious leaders to preach peace and unity and ensure that the Muslim community is united,” he said.
By Hussein Abdullahi