News coming from Uganda that various factions of the leadership of the Muslim community in that country have decided to unite in order to provide exemplary and

transparent leadership is very encouraging. It has been reported that previously rival Muslim factions have united after over 20 years of disputes and supremacy battles with the Grand Mufti (supreme spiritual leader) of Uganda, Sheikh Shaban Mubajje, humbling himself and apologizing for any wrongs that could
have occurred during his reign. “I request you to forgive me for what did not go well during the period of disunity in our community and I have also forgiven those who may have played a role in causing the isunity,” Sheikh Mubajje said during the reconciliation meeting that brought together the factions. Sheikh Mubajje said that although he is the supreme leader of Muslims in Uganda, he makes mistakes like any human being would and asked for forgiveness, guidance and counseling where goes wrong. I’m not an angel that I don’t sin; I’m a mere servant before you. Welcome back home and this is the time for all of us to move forward as a solid group,” he added.

Trouble within the Ugandan Muslim community started over two decades ago when various factions disagreed over the management and disposal of properties held in trust as charities for the benefit of the poor and vulnerable groups within the Muslim community. The reason we consider this reunion in Uganda as good news is that it sets a good precedent for the Muslim community in the other East African countries, especially Kenya, where rivalry and wrangles within the Muslim
leadership has been the source of the pathetic socio-economic situation that many Muslims in the region find themselves in. Despite Islam being a religion that teaches and promotes brotherhood and peaceful co-existence both among the faithful and people of other faiths, it turns out that Muslim organizations, especially at the leadership level, exhibit some of the worst forms of rivalries. We have on several occasions seen some self-righteous Muslim leaders, due to personal differences, declare other Muslim leaders ‘infidels’ and proceed to declare fatwa on them. One only needs to refer to common controversies regarding the sighting of the moon before the commencement of the holy month of Ramadhan to understand how the Muslim community can easily disintegrate into rival factions thanks to leadership wrangles.

It is also important to note that despite brotherhood being a clarion call of Islamic teachings, Muslim communities are among those at the bottom of the social ladder due to poverty and related socio-economic challenges, yet there exist hundreds of Muslim charitable organizations purporting to promote the welfare of the poor. Above all, due to leadership wrangles within various cadres of the Muslim leadership, many Muslim youth today lack proper role models thus leaving them at the mercy of extremist groups who easily recruit them into anti-social activities such as terrorism. In this regard, when Muslim leaders reflect on themselves and decide to denounce factionalism for the sake of unity the way the Ugandans did, it provides a good opportunity for Muslims the world over to start addressing  the many challenges that the community faces in the modern world.

Hence, it is high time various Muslim leaders in Kenya and the region at large reflected on themselves the way Sheikh Mubajje did in order to create new platforms of engagement in order to take the Muslim community to new heights. Centralising management of Waqf properties will enhance efficiency, productivity, and  empower Muslims socio-economically as large sector of the community will benefit. At the national leadership circles, Muslims will be able to speak with one voice and thus lobby for equal share of national resources with their fellow citizens. If this is done, some of the hard-line and often extremist positions taken by some Muslim leaders could soften and provide the much needed atmosphere for dialogue and constructive engagement among Muslims. Muslims will then be able to close all the loopholes that have been exploited by extremist elements to manipulate the youths into advancing their destructive agendas.

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