Muslims in Swaziland / eSwatini have accused local government councillors of being ‘xenophobic’ because they refused to allow a mosque to be built in Matsapha, one of the kingdom’s major industrial towns.
They said councillors told them that they were of the Christian faith and therefore they could not allow the mosque to be built.
This was stated during a commission of inquiry set up by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development into the affairs of Matsapha Town Council.
Newspapers in Swaziland reported that the plan for a mosque was made in 2017 and rejected. The Times of Swaziland reported, ‘They [the Muslims] labelled the council as having a xenophobic attitude after it threw out their application.’
The Swazi Observer reported, ‘The community submitted that the councillors told them that they were of the Christian faith, therefore, they cannot allow the construction of that mosque.’
The Observer added, ‘All they wanted from the Council was to be granted permission to build the house of worship. They explained that the construction site or plot legally belonged to them, they were not asking for land.’
The Observer added other towns in Swaziland had allowed mosques to be built.
Muslims in Swaziland, who are almost all of Asian heritage, have faced prejudice in the past.
In November 2016 the Observer on Saturday reported Swaziland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Nkosinathi Maseko saying, ‘most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities’.
It reported he told this to a parliamentary select committee set up to investigate what the newspaper called an ‘influx of illegal immigrants’ into the kingdom.
The newspaper reported Maseko had said, ‘it was public information that most nationals of Asian origin were associated with terrorist activities; and their continued entry illegally put the country and its citizens at high risk of being a nucleus for terrorist activities.’
Maseko and the Observer gave no evidence to support this.
In September 2016 it was reported undercover police were infiltrating Muslim mosques to attend Friday prayers. The Times, reported that undercover police were also suspected of monitoring the Muslim community.
‘We do not understand the perception of the local people regarding the Islamic religion,’ one source told the Times. He added that Muslims were perceived as people who wanted to perpetuate violence.
At about the same time, the Muslim community in Swaziland were under attack by Christian leaders for distributing meat to needy people. President of the League of Churches Bishop Simon Hlatjwako was among Christian leaders who told people not to attend a special Muslim ceremony at which meat was distributed. Hundreds of hungry people ignored the instruction.
In November 2016, Muslim visitors to Swaziland said they were ‘terrorised’ by local police.
The Imam of Ezulwini Islamic Centre, Feroz Ismail, said guests had visited the kingdom from across Africa for a graduation and Jasla Ceremony. The Times reported him saying the guests, ‘were abused while in the country. They informed me that they were terrorised by the police while visiting some tourist attraction areas including the glass and candle factory.’
He said police demanded that the visitors produce their passports and other documents required for visitors to be in the country.
The Times reported Ismail saying, ‘They were ferried in police vehicles to their hotel rooms as the officers demanded that they immediately produce documents which proved that they were in the country legally.’
In 2017 the Swazi Government, which is not elected but appointed by King Mswat III, who rules as an absolute monarch, announced that Christianity would be the only religion to be taught in schools.
When the present Swaziland Constitution which came into effect in 2006 was being drafted it was decided not to insist that Swaziland was a Christian country. This was to encourage freedom of religion.
According to the CIA World factbook religion in Swaziland is broken down as Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40 percent, Roman Catholic 20 percent, Muslim 10 percent, other (includes Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30 percent.
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