KIGALI - The Muslim Congress yesterday morning elected Sheikh Abdul Karim Gahutu as the new Grand Mufti of Rwanda for the next five years.
67 delegates representing all Muslim communities participated in an electoral congress. Gahutu replaces Sheikh Saleh Habimana, who has been the Mufti since 2001.
In his first message as the new Mufti, Gahutu said that his leadership would focus more on serving the Islamic community equally and effectively.
“Any benefits that will come to the Islamic community will be shared by all Muslims equally. The new leadership will also seek advice to solve any problem or advance a particular cause,” Gahutu said.
He added that he intends to extend and expand Islam throughout the country as well as promote education and construction of more Islamic schools.
Gahutu noted that; “Time has come for Islam to clearly project transparency; we will have to revise our scholarship and education system so as to give our religion a positive image.
Also, the Islamic community cannot rely on spiritual beliefs only, we need property and finances, and I believe we should effectively manage what we have and come up with plans of increasing our productivity”.
The new Grand Mufti said that his team would mainly emphasise on unity among Rwandans and Muslims, adding that all Muslims should know that they are the minority religion in the country and should live in harmony with others.
“For non-Muslims, I promise you we will come together in all fields aimed at developing our nation, especially in the areas of fighting poverty, epidemics, promoting education, unity and reconciliation among others,” he said.
Gahutu said that all his life, he has always advanced unity and security among the Islamic community and Rwandans at large.
“I will not tolerate any person who may think or stand in the way of the Muslims’ prosperity and the security of all Rwandans,” said Gahutu.
In his handover address, the outgoing Mufti Sheikh Habimana said that his leadership team has left a legacy in the leadership of Islam on the African continent.
“As we finish our two terms, we are happy to note that we successfully managed to prepare our replacements.
This is why some members of the new Supreme Council are Masters Degree holders,” said Habimana.
He also lauded Gahutu for his unremitting efforts in supporting him throughout his two terms.
Habimana said that during his mandate, the welfare of the Islamic community highly improved and several infrastructural projects were set up.
“A lot was done and what we did not achieve will be accomplished by the new team. I highly recognise the government and other religious leaders for their support.
However, resistance was one of the main challenges I faced; some Muslims are yet to understand that we need to work with other religions in the country,” he said.
Habimana said that that he now intends to focus more on improving the relations between Islam and Christianity to live together in harmony.
During the elections, the Minister of Internal Security, Sheikh Musa Fazil Harerimana acknowledged the new leadership and pledged government’s support to the Islamic community.
Gahutu is deputised by Musa Sindayigaya as the assistant Mufti while Qasim Zanahayo and Saleh Nshimiyimana were elected secretary to the Supreme Council and Executive Secretary, respectively.
Others elected include Sulaiman Nshimiyimana as the vice Executive Secretary while Omar Hamuduni Sibomana and Sulaiman Iyakaremye were elected legal officer and vice legal officer, respectively.