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Tanzania’s Christians Unhappy About Push to Join Islamic Body

ICC Note

As secular state, Tanzania should not join the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). OIC has been engaged in initiatives that limit rights of Christians and other non-Muslims. This is the case with anti-defamation legislations that are aimed at restricting Christians and other non-Muslims from exercising their freedom of religion.

By Patrick Goodenough

10/27/2008 Tanzania ( – A top Christian body in Tanzania is calling on the country’s foreign minister to resign for promoting a move to join the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Foreign Minister Bernard Membe at the weekend said in a radio interview that he would not stand down, saying he had done nothing wrong and that no decision on OIC membership had yet been taken.

The Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT) late last week made the resignation demand after Membe confirmed that the government was looking at the possibility of joining OIC, a grouping of 56 countries that has stoked controversy in recent years with attempts at the U.N. to outlaw the “defamation” of Islam – a move critics say threatens freedom of expression.

The CCT accused the minister of violating the constitution which declares Tanzania to be a secular state. OIC members are expected to uphold and promote Islamic teachings.

“ Tanzania is a secular state, and there must be no government involvement in religious affairs,” said the Rev. Owdenburg Mdegella of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the CCT.

Tanzanian churches are also petitioning against a proposal, raised during an emotional parliamentary debate in August, to set up Islamic courts to deal with disputes among Muslims on the mainland. Zanzibar has had such courts for decades.

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