A sizeable number of locals are turning to Islamic, a religion largely regarded as that for people who originate from Asia, North Africa and the ever volatile Middle East.
Despite the negative perception about the religion, a recent survey shows that more and more locals converting to the Islamic faith. Islam has often been associated with deadly terrorist attacks which have become more prevalent than ever before. In some cases, the Islamic groups have taken responsibility of certain deadly attacks in Africa, America and other parts of the world. All these perceptions about the Islamic faith have not deterred locals from becoming part of the much-maligned religion. More and more indigenous Batswana alongside their fellow African brothers and sisters from Zambia and Malawi are converting to Islam, The Patriot on Sunday has established.
Botswana Muslim Association – Francistown Chapter chairperson Iqbal Ebrahim and former Francistown City Council (FCC) mayor said the Muslim religion has been practiced in isolation for long but this is changing fast. Ebrahim attributed the fast changing attitude towards the Muslim religion especially indigenous Batswana to the availability of more Islamic literature and teachings in mosques around the country. “We have Muslim teachers who dedicate their time to teaching Islam. And this has created a lot of interest in Arabic language. Every weekend, we do have children from John Mackenzie and other private schools who come here to learn Arabic and Muslim,” said Ebrahim.
32-year-old Zibanani Setume, christened Yah Ya, from Mathangwane village said he is following the footsteps of his grandfather. “My grandfather was a Moslem. And he is the one who introduced us to Islam at a very tender age,” said Ya, adding that the Islamic faith is conventional. Islamic is the only religion out of them all that has stood the test of time despite it being ridiculed by many.
A mother of three from Gerald Estates location here in Francistown who refused to identify herself said the religion is attracting more people, especially the youth for a number of reasons such as the availability of scholarships offered and general educational help. “I am a single mother of three. It is a struggle for me to raise these children alone,” said the single mother while holding the youngest. She said the Islamic preachers approached paid her at her lodgings at Gerald Estates and what they explained to her was hard to resist.“They are helping me with school fees and uniforms as well as many other things for my children who are doing in primary school,” she said. She said terrorist activities of the Islamic fundamentalist groups like the infamous Boko Haram of Nigeria have resulted in them being stigmatized.
There are an estimated 8 000 Muslims in Botswana – an estimated 0.4percent of the country’s population of about 2.1 million people - and most of them are in towns and cities as well as major villages.