ENTEBBE, UGANDA: President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday met the Muslim leaders in Uganda and promised to support them to develop themselves in accordance with the Sharia law if they happen to find any difficulties under the current Parish Development Model (PDM) initiative.
“Let me study it and see how to merge the Sharia principles within the PDM. We can study it and if there’s any problem then we can have a separate budget and channel for the Muslims so that you develop yourselves in your own way,” H.E Museveni noted on Tuesday.
The meeting was among others attended by Sheikh Obeid Kamulegeya who leads a 21-member Muslim arbitration and reconciliation committee, Sheikh Silman Kasule Ndirangwa, Sheikh Muhammad Yunus Kamoga who is also the Head of Jumiat Dawa Al Salafiya at Nakasero Mosque and Professor Muhamadi Lubega Kisambira, the National Chairperson of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) among others.
The Mufti of Uganda Sheikh Shaban Ramathan Mubajje was reportedly returning from Morocco for official duties and was unable to attend the meeting.
Speaking to President Museveni during the meeting, the Muslim leaders complained that various government initiatives aimed at reducing poverty discriminate against them and asked the President to provide support to their alternative Islamic Parish Development Model.
The leaders argued that Programs such as the PDM offer loans with interest which in accordance with Islamic teachings, is considered ‘riba’ and is strictly prohibited under Islamic law.
“It is deemed ‘haram’, meaning forbidden, as it is seen as exploitative. Riba is an Arabic word that means “to increase” or “to exceed” and is commonly used in reference to unequal exchanges or charges and fees for borrowing. Interest is deemed riba, or an unjust, exploitative gain, and such practice is forbidden under Islamic law,” they noted.
The President in response first lectured the Muslim leaders about the advantages of the Parish Development Model to Uganda and emphasized that with an interest of not more than 10 percent in the PDM funds, the government aims at fighting inflation.
“This PDM money we are putting in your SACCOs is a grant from the government and not a loan and it is your money. The riba I also don’t like is where one wants to get rich using the money of the poor. This money is yours and the challenge is how to keep it and not to lose value,” H.E Museveni told the Muslim leaders.
Sheikh Yunus Kamoga earlier informed the President that under their Islamic laws, they are obliged to share both profits and losses in whatever money is given to them.
“If we get a problem in our business, we share the losses collectively between the business owner and the SACCO members-operators but others like PDM, whether you have made profits or losses, you have to pay back with interest. That is where the problem is,” Sheikh Yunus Kamoga told the President, adding that the business owner shares 60 per cent, and the SACCO remains with 40 per cent.
Sheikh Kamoga further told the President that they are successfully running Nakasero Muslim Foundation SACCO based on Islamic laws and are currently operating three branches; one at Kamukamu Plaza, Owino market and Masaka, adding that the model has proved the capacity to successfully develop the people.
Sheikh Kamulegeya expressed gratitude to President Museveni for allowing the enactment of the Income Tax Amendment Bill No.2 of 2023 which cleared all legal roadblocks to the commencement of the long-awaited Islamic banking products in Uganda. “We thank you for that, Mr President,” said the Sheikh.
Another leader, Sheikh Silman Kasule Ndirangwa, thanked the President for signing the law against Homosexuality saying it has raised Uganda’s flag high as far as respecting cultures and good morals are concerned.
On his part, Prof. Muhammad Lubega, the leader of the delegation and the National Chairperson of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council said that a concept has already been drafted of how the PDM can work under the Sharia law.
Prof. Lubega further thanked President Museveni for facilitating the election of Muslim leaders countrywide. He said that about 7 million Muslims aged 18 years and above participated in the elections from the total of 14,900 mosques countrywide under the 78 Muslim districts.
“This was a sign of unity, and we thank you Mr. President for supporting this cause,” Prof. Kisambira said, adding that a constitutional review commission was also instituted to streamline the Muslim constitution.
He added; “Our gospel is that every mosque must have an income-generating project. Each mosque has at least 4 acres of land which is idle.”
Prof Lubega also thanked the President for the Shs7.5 billion provided to renovate Old Kampala Mosque, saying so far Shs2 billion has been provided and utilized properly.
Among other concerns raised by the Muslim leaders were the establishment of at least 4 regional Muslim theological schools and setting up income-generating ventures on land owned by Muslims in cities and municipalities which the President accepted.
The President said he will study the concept raised by the Muslim leader and promised to re-invite them for a meeting to finalize. He also pledged to support their goat-rearing projects aimed at increasing meat production.