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Growing Concern in Cameroon Over Wahhabite Muslims

Growing Concern in Cameroon Over Wahhabite Muslims

Author: Nieves San Martin
Publication: Zenit.org
Date: March 19, 2009
URL: http://www.zenit.org/article-25416?l=english

Professor Notes Government's Peacemaking Efforts

A Cameroon university center that specializes in the study of Islam is noting a growing concern over the influence of Wahhabite Muslims who have arrived in the country from Sudan and Nigeria.

The concern was expressed to ZENIT by Father Krzysztof Zielenda, director of Yaoundé's St. Joseph Mukasa Institute, a university for religious of 14 congregations.

According to Father Zielenda, a Mary Immaculate oblate, who has lived for many years in the country and who is a professor of Islamic religion at the institute, "in Cameroon, Islam is changing its physiognomy."

He explained that "it is moving from the traditional Islam of fraternities, to an Islam marked by the Wahhabite movement," a Muslim sect founded in Arabia in the 18th century by Muhammad ibn-Abdul Wahhab.

The priest explained "these are more fundamentalist movements that have arrived in Nigeria from Sudan and are now coming here from Nigeria. So the Muslim world is being reformed in Cameroon."

He said Cameroon's Islam community "has always been very linked to Nigeria because the first Muslim communities came from there." He added, "And now the influence coming from there is not good because they are more fundamentalist groups."

Father Zielenda asserted that up until now Muslims and Christians have lived together in harmony in Cameroon in a large extent due to the attitude of the political authorities.

He noted: "If coexistence between religions is good here, it is because the government watches over that coexistence. For example, in 2004, in a city in the north, there was a problem because a group of young Muslims virtually called a war against Cameroon's Christians. All the administrative authorities were involved to try to calm spirits."

The priest, a Polish missionary, was then a pastor in that city and recalled that the governor called him, along with other Protestant pastors and two Muslim imams and "asked each of us to calm the spirits in our communities." He said, "The bishop also met with the governor and with the head of the Muslim community for the same end."

The missionary stated his opinion that the government's work of mediation to maintain coexistence between the country's religions was not an isolated case. He said, "I am certain that the government really watches so that those relations are not broken."

Moreover, he said, the attitude of Cameroonian Muslims in general is one of understanding with other religions, especially with Christianity.

Father Zielenda emphasized in particular their attitude on the controversial topic of Benedict XVI's address in Regensburg. He noted that they did not follow the line of many other Muslim groups in reacting to the Pope's address.

He explained: "The day after the Pope's conference in Regensburg, there was to be a joint meeting here of the government, Muslims and Catholics. The Muslims said they would not attend.

"But the same ones who did not want to attend that meeting published a document making it very clear that the Muslims who were going to confront the Pope's address had nothing to do with the Muslims who live in Cameroon."

"Traditionally relations between Christians and Muslims have been good and continue to be good," concluded Father Zielenda. "However, both Christians and Muslims are very worried over the influence of Wahhabites, which is increasingly visible."


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