Sunday, November 14, 2004

Islam south of the Sahara ...

Reuters reporters Arthur Asiimwe and William Maclean look at the spread of Islam south of the Sahara. They write that while there is anecdotal evidence of the growth of Islam in the region, data is scarce. However, they did find some numbers for Rwanda and South Africa ...
"When I realized that the people I was praying with killed my parents, I decided to convert to Islam because Muslims saved many lives and did not take part in the killings." [Genocide surviver Zafran Mukanwali, a 22-year-old Tutsi woman, and a former Catholic.]

Before 1994, Muslims comprised between 1 percent and 2 percent of the overwhelmingly Catholic population in Rwanda. Today that figure is 5 percent, census returns show. Muslim leaders say the number of mosques has risen to 570 from 220.

[...] In South Africa, Islam is growing among blacks in a country where 80 percent of the 45 million people are Christian.

Currently, less than 2 percent of South Africans, or about 650,000 people, are Muslim, mostly members of the country's Indian and Colored (mixed-race) communities.

But the semi-autonomous Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) estimates 74,700 Africans are Muslim from fewer than 12,000 in 1991 when apartheid outlawed racial interaction.

"The gap is closing and we are finding each other," Sheik Thafir Najjar, who heads the Cape Town-based Islamic Council of South Africa, says of reconciliation since the end of apartheid.

Money helps. Islamic non-governmental groups in Africa, many backed by Gulf oil cash, grew from 138 in 1980 to 891 in 2000, more than twice the rate of increase in the total number of Africa's NGOs in the period, says Mohammed Salim, a Sudanese political scientist at Leiden University in the Netherlands. (source)