World, Africa

Genocide changed destiny of Rwandan Muslims: Vice-Mufti

Rwanda’s Vice-Mufti Sheikh Salih Nshimimana says conversions to Islam increased exponentially after 1994 genocide

Genocide changed destiny of Rwandan Muslims: Vice-Mufti FILE PHOTO

KIGALI, Rwanda

A genocide that stunned Rwanda in 1994 was a turning point for the country's Muslim community, which led to the expansion of Islam in the East African nation, Vice-Mufti Sheikh Salih Nshimiyimana said.

The Rwandan Muslims had welcomed and protected the minority Tutsi and the peaceful people belonging to Hutu ethnic majority, who had taken refuge with them during the genocide.

The genocide, in which nearly one million people were killed, took place between hardliner Hutus and minority Tutsis after the death of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana in a plane crash.

The Hutus accused the Tutsis of assassinating the president that led to an organized violence against the minority group across the country that lasted for about 100 days.

"I praise Allah for the behavior adopted by the Muslims during the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis in 1994. The Muslims protected all these people without any religious distinction. It was not easy," he said.

"In accordance with the Quran’s teachings, Muslims helped all their brothers and victims of the genocide," said Nshimiyimana.

He recalled that during the pre-genocide period, Muslims were deprived of many of their rights.

Muslims represent 10 percent of the Rwanda’s 11.6 million population.

"After the genocide, Allah gave us a good leader [President Paul Kagame] … and today we have the same rights as other Rwandan citizens and we can visit our mosques in serenity,” he said.

Nshimiyimana said that conversions to Islam increased exponentially after the genocide.

"They realized that the truth resided in the essence of the guidelines of Islam,” he said.

The vice-mufti also noted that the Rwandan Muslims expect the support of Turkey and other Muslim countries.

"Turkey is a great country, a major country and has a special place in the history of Islam. Turkish Muslims can support their brothers here, especially in the field of education, the construction of new mosques and many more, "he added.

"We want to see better relations between Rwanda and Turkey. Our Turkish brothers help us during the month of Ramadan and during the feast of sacrifice. We pray that Allah protect Turkey because if it [Turkey] faces difficulties, it will have an impact on the entire Muslim world."

Nshimiyimana mentioned that the country has about 500 mosques currently, which he said, is insufficient to meet the need.

Reporting by Bayram Altug;Writing by Felix Nkambeh Tih

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