Friday, 2 December 2011

Islam Blooming In Rwanda.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.
When 800,000 of their countrymen were killed in massacres that began 10 years ago this week, many Rwandans lost faith not only in their government but in their religion as well. Today, in what is still a predominantly Catholic country, Islam is the fastest growing religion.
Roman Catholicism has been the dominant faith in Rwanda for more than a century. But many people, disgusted by the role that some priests and nuns played in the killing frenzy, have shunned organized religion altogether, and many more have turned to Islam.
''People died in my old church, and the pastor helped the killers,'' said Yakobo Djuma Nzeyimana, 21, who became a Muslim in 1996. ''I couldn't go back and pray there. I had to find something else.''
Wearing a black prayer cap, Mr. Nzeyimana was one of nearly 2,000 worshipers at the Masdjid Al Fat'h last Friday. The crowd was so large that some Muslims set their prayer mats on the dirt outside the mosque and prayed in the midday heat.
The Muslim community now boasts so many converts that it has had to embark on a crash campaign to build new mosques to accommodate all of the faithful. About 500 mosques are scattered throughout Rwanda, about double the number that existed a decade ago.
Although no accurate census has been done, Muslims leaders in Rwanda estimate that they have about a million followers, or about 15 percent of the population. That, too, would represent a doubling of their numbers in the past 10 years.
Muslim leaders credit the gains to their ability during the 1994 massacres to shield most Muslims, and many other Rwandans, from certain death. ''The Muslims handled themselves well in '94, and I wanted to be like them,'' said Alex Rutiririza, explaining why he converted to Islam last year.
With killing all around, he said, the safest place to be back then was in a Muslim neighborhood. Then as now, many of Rwanda's Muslims lived crowded together in the Biryogo neighborhood of Kigali.
During the mass killing of Tutsi, militias had the place surrounded, but Hutu Muslims did not cooperate with the Hutu killers. They said they felt far more connected through religion than through ethnicity, and Muslim Tutsi were spared.
''Nobody died in a mosque,'' said Ramadhani Rugema, executive secretary of the Muslim Association of Rwanda. ''No Muslim wanted any other Muslim to die. We stood up to the militias. And we helped many non-Muslims get away.''
Allahu Akbar.
'Alaykum Salam.

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