This unfortunate statement from President Museveni, while on the Capital Gang radio show, hit me like a tornado.
Mr Museveni, I would like to tell you that being a Tabliq, or a Salafist for that matter, does not mean that one is a terrorist. Such information coming from the head of state puts our lives as Tabliqs in danger.
Not that we fear to die, though: the Qur’an says in sulat Imran 3:145: “Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s permission.” However, we can never accept to be persecuted for what we are not.
Allah says in sulat Baqarah, 2:193: “And fight them on until there is no more persecution and religion becomes Allah’s. But if they cease, let there be no hostility except for those who practise oppression.”
What Museveni calls terrorism is, indeed, our resolve to stand up against those devoted to persecuting us for no other reason other than saying that we believe in and obey Allah.
Museveni’s revelations that we are terrorists was prompted by the killing of another Muslim Tabliq leader Mustafa Bahiga by unknown gunmen in Kampala, in the same way that another sheikh had been killed in Mayuge a few days earlier.
Bahiga had previously fallen out with the head of the Salafists in Uganda, Amir Ummah Muhammad Yunus Kamoga, over management of a mosque along William street and the construction of the proposed Ummah house.
Before the killing of Bahiga, I had not gathered the courage to watch the much-publicized 40-minute documentary by the Qatar-based television, AlJazeera, titled: “Inside Kenya’s death squad.”
Authorities in Kenya protested the documentary saying Al Jazeera was propagating hate and falsehoods. They also threatened to expel the channel from Kenya if it did not retract the said documentary.
Kenya would not be the first East African country to expel a major news channel. Just a few months ago, Rwanda suspended the BBC for allegedly broadcasting a documentary claiming that genocide never took place in Rwanda.
Back to the Al Jazeera documentary, it showed how the Kenyan security forces, with the backing of the political class, was carrying out terrorism against Kenyan citizens in the name of fighting radical Islam.
There are several sheikhs who have been slain in Kenya in cold blood and until now nobody, apart from those who carried out the assassination, know what happened. When you watch the documentary, you are convinced that Kenyan authorities have, in cohorts with other forces especially from the West, engaged in criminality in the name of fighting terrorism.
Coming back to Uganda, when the two sheikhs were killed in succession, both the president and Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura said that it was the Allied Democratic Forces of Jamil Mukulu that were behind the killings. Kayihura even apologised for failure to protect the sheiks and, by extension, Ugandans – he should have resigned the moment he said these words. How did Kayihura, before even investigating, come to the conclusion that it was ADF killing Muslim leaders?
Again, why would Jamil Mukulu kill fellow Muslims now when the ADF is almost defeated in Uganda and not then, when it was still carrying out attacks on the Ugandan soil?
How come that it is when Muslims in Kenya, Somalia and many other parts of the world are being hunted that also ADF strikes and kills sheikhs who are propagating true Islam? I have on several occasions watched with awe how our police have treated – should I say mistreated – Somalis in the guise of raiding terrorist hideouts.
I have argued before that to defeat terrorism, persecution of Muslims must stop, otherwise, those who practise true Islam like the Tabliqs will not stand and look on as they are being killed one by one. The argument on whether the sheikhs are being killed because they disagreed amongst themselves is vague because history does not support this.
In 2012 when Abdul Karim Sentamu, Abubakar Kiweewa and others were killed, the Tabliqs had no disagreements. More importantly, since time immemorial, Ugandan Muslims have had disagreements on many issues, such as the theological interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith of the Prophet, on leadership and many more.
But not even once has a soul been lost in such circumstances. Yes, times have changed, but as they change, even those we pay our taxes to guarantee our security must up their game. Otherwise, we might be tempted to conclude that there are also death squads in Uganda – just like the Al Jazeera documentary talks of them in Kenya.
The author is a journalist.