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More Rwandans Embrace Islam After Genocide

More Rwandans Embrace Islam After Genocide



Young Muslims get ready for Friday prayers in Rwanda

KIGALI, November 9 ( & News Agencies) – Thanks to their benevolent behavior, the long marginalized Muslim community in Rwanda - only 1.2% less than 10 years ago – jumped on the last statistics to represent some 16% of the Rwandan population with a gradually increasing growth rate. The large number of conversion was immediately after the 1994 Genocide.

Like many of his compatriots, Isaac, a young stonemason, converted after the bloody events of 1994, when he was a soldier in the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a Tutsi-led rebellion that is now the dominant force in government, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"I converted after my unit came into Kigali and I saw how many of my fellow Tutsis has been hidden, and therefore saved, by Muslims," he told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in the populous Nyamirambo district of the capital.

According to the current government, up to a million people were killed over 100 days in 1994 during an orchestrated campaign by the Hutu government to rid the country of its Tutsi minority.

At the time, about 1.2 percent of the population were of the Islamic faith, which was introduced to Rwanda in around 1900 by Arab traders and translators working with the German military.

Others enlarged this proportion to the current estimate of 10 percent as former Roman Catholic Jean-Pierre Sagahutu, who now works as a taxi driver, according to AFP.

"I was hiding in a septic tank behind the house of a Muslim called Idrissa. Only he knew where I was. If he had betrayed me I would have been killed," he said.

"But he didn't betray me," said Sagahutu.

Rwandan kids in Ziad bin Sabit school for teaching Qura’n

“I know people in America think Muslims are terrorists, but for Rwandans they were our freedom fighters during the genocide,” Sagahutu added.

Many Rwandans can tell similar stories about Rwandan Muslims who largely helped the population.

Generally, those who sought refuge in mosques were protected from the government soldiers and militias who sought out and killed Tutsis.

"The Catholic church, by contrast, has a sorrier record. There are many examples of mass killings inside consecrated churches and even of collusion between the clergy and the killers," according to AFP.

The U.N. court in Tanzania, trying leading genocide planners and perpetrators, has charged several Christian clergymen.

In February, the court convicted an Adventist pastor and his son of genocide and crimes against humanity.

In 2001, a court in Belgium, Rwanda's former colonial power, sentenced two nuns to 15 and 12 years in jail for their roles in the genocide, AFP reported.

Over a year ago, the Washington Post published a report putting the percentage of Muslims at 14 percent of the 8.2 million people in Africa’s most Catholic nation.

"Human rights groups have documented several incidents in which Christian clerics allowed Tutsis to seek refuge in churches, then surrendered them to Hutu death squads, as well as instances of Hutu priests and ministers encouraging their congregations to kill Tutsis. Today some churches serve as memorials to the many people slaughtered among their pews," the Washington Post reported on September 24, 2002.

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