By Tanyaradzwa Chiwara
The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Zimbabwe’s president, Sheik Ishmail Duwa is urging French President, Emmanuel Macron to respect religious tolerance in his country.
The call follows purported utterances against the Islam community allegedly made by the French leader.
The Supreme Council of Islam Affairs in Zimbabwe said it is closely following current developments in France, where there appear to be “state-led efforts to denigrate the Islamic faith while stigmatizing Muslims.”
Sheik Duwa said anger has erupted in the Muslim world over the supposed caricatures depicting the prophet Muhammad.
Speaking in an interview on the sidelines of a meeting to mark Prophet Muhammad’s birthday celebrations and an inter-religious seminar last week, Sheikh Ishmail Duwa said his organisation calls for zero tolerance to hate speech and urged the French leader to preach unity rather than violence.
Duwa said, “The supreme council is acutely aware that state actors do not necessarily translate to the French people in general and therefore cannot attribute the dangerous, reckless, and highly inflammable negative statements to French citizenry. However, it has been proven that even in the most sophisticated societies, state leaders to a larger extent influence public opinion.
“It is a shameful example of self-interest that President Emmanuel Macron is spreading anti-Muslim sentiment. The Muslim representation in Zimbabwe is in solidarity with our only supreme prophet Muhammad.
“Muslims are peace lovers, hence we witnessed an interfaith religious seminar today to show that our religion is accommodative. We adhere to the tenets of religious tolerance and co-existence in the quest for sustainable peace,” said.
Representative of the Zimbabwe Islamic cultural centre, Asghari Reza, reiterated the essence of interfaith dialogue and engagements as a bridging gap in demystifying the perception that Muslims are violent and intolerant, but rather peace lovers and peacemakers.
Reza said, “We are honoured to have mutual engagements and create dialogue platforms in the world. In our quest for peace, we would encourage several seminars to be enrolled so that we demystify the notion that Islam is married to violence, but rather, peace and harmony.
“Heterogeneity in religion should be applauded as this does not infringe on people’s freedoms and rights as enshrined within the confinements of international values, norms and standards,
“It is however, important to note that utterances and attitudes exhibited by some leaders in the world should notably be treated cautiously as they are responsible for moulding minds of the generality of the populace. They lead to either take peace as precedence over violence,” Reza said.
Fatima Zahr college founder and director, Sheik Makwinji denounced the callous murder of a French teacher Samuel Paty who was killed on October 16 near his school in broad daylight and urges the law to take its rightful course.
“Samuel Paty had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to his students and since then, the crime is believed to have been linked to Islam by French officials,
“As the Muslim community in Zimbabwe, we condemn the killing and preach peace to the world not hate speech. Our followers are now living in fear of a crackdown targeting Islamic organisations and are upset by the renewed support for the right to show the cartoons, which often suggest Islam and terrorism are linked,” Makwinja said.
Protests by Muslims have come amid rising tensions between France and Muslim-majority nations, which flared up in early October 2020 when Macron described Islam as a religion “in crisis” globally. The rift widened after the gruesome murder of a French teacher Samuel Paty who had shown caricatures of prophet Muhammad in class.