Muslim clerics slam gov't over “unjust closure” of madrasas on pretext of training terrorists

Muslim clerics slam gov't over “unjust closure” of madrasas on pretext of training terrorists
Sheikh Swaleh Kiryowa speaking to the members

Muslim clerics have criticised the government for relying on rumors to close madarasas, alleging that these Islamic schools train terrorists.

These remarks were made during the annual general meeting of the Bilal Islamic Institute Former Students' Association (BIIFSA) held at Madinah Islamic Secondary School Katereke in Nsangi sub-county, Wakiso district. The event took place on Saturday January 6 2023.

Some members during the meeting

Clerics called on the government to conduct thorough inspections before accusing madarasa owners of being breeding grounds for terrorism.

Despite increased scrutiny by security agencies, clerics argue that madrasas, also known as Quranic schools, provide Islamic theological teaching and have been part of Ugandan education since 1844.

Madrasas can be established in homes, community halls, or any suitable space where Muslims can teach Islamic theology. They are comparable to Sunday schools for Christians, providing instruction in Arabic, Islamic studies, and increasingly, secular subjects.

In 2015, the government threatened to close madrasas, alleging that learners were being isolated from their communities and indoctrinated under the guise of Islamic education.

Sheikh Badrudiin Magala, the vice chairperson of BIIFSA, emphasised that madrasas are not breeding grounds for terrorism. He himself started his education in a madrasa and graduated without any teachings promoting violence.

Sheikh Badrudiin Magala,speaking to the members

"In these schools, we were never taught to kill non-Muslims or engage in suicide bombings. Such notions are not part of Islam. We have witnessed individuals in some countries committing acts of violence, and they are not Muslims. Islam teaches peace," he stated.

Sheikh Magala appealed to the government to recognise that Muslims are not terrorists and that individuals who commit crimes should be held accountable as individuals, not representatives of the Muslim community.

He also urged Muslims to unite, as the lack of unity has contributed to lingering suspicions from the government.

Sheikh Swaleh Kiryowa, the treasure of BIIFSA called on the government to refrain from relying on hearsay, which has often led to the unjust closure of many Quranic schools in Uganda.

"They should visit these schools and engage with the school administration. They can inquire about any concerns they may have and even interview the students. Most of our madrasas are private schools, and sometimes someone may be against my school for personal reasons, falsely accusing it of training terrorists," he explained.

Sheikh Kiryowa emphasised the importance of registering all madrasas under the Ministry of Education, as it would provide a formal framework to address any allegations. He acknowledged the challenges some madrasas face during the registration process due to stringent procedures but encouraged them to persist.

Expressing his disappointment with allegations that madrasas are breeding grounds for terrorism, Kiryowa highlighted that these schools not only teach Islamic education but also provide secular education to Muslim children.

He pointed out that other religious institutions, such as Watoto Church, also teach their respective religions alongside secular subjects. Therefore, it is unfair and distressing to label madrasas as breeding grounds for terrorism.

Sheikh Kiryowa stressed that not all Muslims should be stereotyped as terrorists, and he personally knows of no madrasas involved in training terrorists.

Sheikh Badrudiin Magala(left) and Sheikh Swaleh Kiryowa

The primary objective of the annual meeting is to bring together former students, particularly those who studied at the Bilal Islamic Institute, to foster a sense of brotherhood and contribute to the development of the Muslim community. The association is duly registered.

"We urge all BIIFSA members to actively participate in our annual general meeting to stay informed about the association's progress. We also encourage members to contribute to the annual subscription," Kiryowa noted.

BIIFSA was formed based on the realisation of the need for such a platform, and a reunion was organised in May 2021 at Bilal Islamic Institute (Kakiri), leading to the establishment of the general meeting and the election of an executive committee.

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