President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania
THE government on Wednesday reiterated that it is not aligned with any religion and called for unity among different spiritual sects in the country to enhance harmony.
Addressing Muslims during an Idd el- Fitr Baraza in Dodoma, President Jakaya Kikwete said it was only through co-operation that religious institutions can effectively participate in national development and the country's peace and stability will be maintained.
President Kikwete encouraged constant communication and advised religious leaders to revive the system of inter-faith contacts, a move that will help remove differences and place all denominations on equal footing.
"When you always talk you will never fight and amicable decisions are always reached through discussions - this will also help ensure the best ways for you to conduct your religious duties," he explained.
President Kikwete said he was troubled by religious leaders using their time to disparage other religions, noting that this will put the country's peace at stake.
He said the country does not have a national religion where everyone must follow, noting that everyone is entitled to freedom of worship.
"I am saying this from the bottom of my heart; the government has this stand because it acknowledges the position and importance of religions in contributing to the development of the country," he stressed.
Under the 1992 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), President Kikwete said the government will extend assistance to religions that have requested for assistance.
"Religious bodies have been in the fore front in assisting the government to bring development to the public, otherwise, some would have gone without education or health services," he noted.
He urged Muslims to forward their requests, noting that his government was ready to work with them to ensure better living standards for the people.
"If you have not forwarded your requests, do not blame the ones who have. Forward your requests and when you are denied, fight to get your rights," he stressed.
The president also stressed that the Kadhi's court will be established and manned by Muslims themselves and will not be parallel to the normal judicial system.
"No one is a stumbling block to the establishment of the court. Even Christians support the idea, but the consensus is that it should be established and run by Muslims themselves and will handle only cases related to marriage, inheritance and divorce," Mr Kikwete said, adding that all criminal and civil cases will be handled by the ordinary court and it will have no mandate to institute "Sharia Law."
He explained that the Law Reform Commission under Chairmanship of Prof Ibrahim Juma had advised the government that it would be improper for the state to establish another court.
"Prof Juma is a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam and a guru of Islamic Law. It's his commission that advised that Muslims should be in charge of the court," Mr Kikwete said.
Mr Kikwete also called on religious leaders in the country to join the government in the fight against narcotic drugs.
"Drug abuse is a serious problem and joint efforts are needed to tame it," the president said during the speech that lasted for over an hour.
Daily News of Tanzania.