Rwanda: Muslims to Elect New Mufti of Rwanda On Sunday

The Rwanda Muslims Community will on Sunday, May 26, elect a new Mufti to replace Sheikh Salim Hitimana, who has led the community since 2016.

The elections for the Mufti and his executive team were initially set to take place at the end of 2020, but the process was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Sheikh Suleiman Mbarushimana, the advisor to the Mufti.

Explaining the electoral process, Mbarushimana said that it is a very transparent and all-inclusive exercise, which begins from the grassroots.

"The elections start at Mosque leadership level, then to district, provincial and finally the national level."

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He explained that from the Idjuma mosque to the provincial level, two elective posts - the imam and deputy imam -require candidates to have studied Islamic theology.

From those elected at the provincial level, Mbarushimana added, they elect the national leaders, who include the Mufti and the Deputy Mufti as well as their executive committee.

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At the provincial level, there are three auditors while at national level there are five auditors as well as officials in charge of conflict resolution with knowledge in laws, he said.

Besides the executive, at the national level there is the Supreme Muslim Council of Rwanda, which comprises 61 people including Imams from all 30 districts, five Imams at Provincial level and representatives of other special categories among others.

"The council is the one that will elect the Mufti and Deputy Mufti on Sunday, May 26," Mbarushimana said, adding that this process has been taking place smoothly for decades.

However, this time, some individuals claiming to be community members have called into question the election process, which started on May 11, saying that it is not transparent, but without substantiating their claims.

These claims have been dismissed by different members of the community that The New Times spoke to, many of them saying that these rumours stem from two self-seeking individuals with criminal history who are using YouTube platforms to sow seeds of discord in the close knit community.

Sheikh Mbarushimana also dismissed the claims saying their aim is to distort the image of the Muslim community in the country.

"These people want elections to be skewed in a way that would give advantage to people they prefer which is not possible because rules are clear. We are an organised community and cannot be swayed by a couple of self-seekers," he added.

Other members of the community have linked the individuals to radical groups and have seen the existing cordial relationship between the council and the national government as an impediment to their sinister agenda to radicalise members.

When Mufti Hitimana was elected in 2016, he vowed to battle Islamic radicalism amid concerns that Rwandan youths were being lured into extremist groups like Al Shabaab and Islamic State (ISIS), which members said he has achieved during his tenure.

According to Rwanda's 2022 Population and Housing Census, two percent of Rwandans are Muslims.

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