Tibenderana, Kazenga P., Islamic Fundamentalism – The Quest for the Rights of Muslims in Uganda, Fountain Publishers: Kampala, 2006, 136 pages, ~ $ 5.-
This is a distinctly uneasy book for Christians to read! The author comes from a Christian background, but spent years of teaching in Zaria, Nigeria and at Makere University in Uganda before his recent appointment as vice chancellor at Kampala International University. It’s a scholarly book that reflects on the revival of religious thought since the 1970, Islam’s struggle with modernity and cultural independence from the West (“We will be modern but won’t be you” p. 5), the status of Islam within the Ugandan family of different religions (1991 statistics), the various Islamic sects in Uganda (Sunni, Shia, Ismaelis and Ahmadiya), and the ‘Golden Era’ of Islam under Idi Amin’s rule from 1971 to 1979.
In helping us to understand Islam the author goes way out adopting the Islamic position when he states: “Theologically, the Qur’an means the word of Allah incarnated”, “The Arabic copy that a Muslim uses today is an exact replica of a heavenly prototype”, “The sharia, in a technical sense, is the totality of God’s commandments”, “The lesser jihad,… is the source of the Islamic notion of what Christians call a ‘just war’, rather than a holy war”, “From the fundamentalists’ point of view, it is a natural right for people to revolt against evil”.
In the main section of his research (from 110 questionnaires sent out some 2/3 responded) he lists ten rights which Muslims should pursue to see implemented, such as “to be ruled by a fellow Muslim and in accordance with the sharia, to have a completely Islamic education, for a man to marry four wives, and for a man to divorce any of his wives whenever he chooses.” The author also says it is essential for Islamic institutions of higher education to start programmes for the Islamisation of knowledge: this means to add Islamic principles to every normal non-religious subject of study. He advises the Ugandan government to drop its opposition to the formation of an Islamic political party, which he suggests is the only peaceful way forward.
Throughout the books extensive quotes from the Qur’an back up these rights of Muslims which help the non-Muslim reader to get a better feeling for the Muslims’ quest ‘from timidity to Self-assertiveness’ (chapter 6). Right throughout the book the author seek’s to express the Muslims’ convictions based on his special research: “Many Muslims strongly believe that since the overthrow of Idi Amin’s regime in 1979, they have been oppressed and marginalised by successive Ugandan governments”. Nor does he conceal his own bias, eg when he comments on the Ugandan Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) plan to solicit money from donor countries and NGOs to spread Islamic thought and knowledge: “This is a good idea which should be supported by all men of good will for the sake of advancing Islam in Uganda.” No surprise, therefore, that the Rector of the Islamic University in Uganda fully endorses the book praising Prof. Tibenderana to have “tried his very best to write the book from a neutral position.” In the reviewer’s opinion, it would serve all Christian leaders throughout Africa well to flee ignorance by studying the shocking conclusions of this research on a Muslim’s religio-political rights in awareness of the Islamic agenda in their own country. WEG