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The Islamic Movement in Different Regions Essay

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Updated: Dec 13th, 2021

Recently awakened interest of the whole world to Islam on the whole and to Islam outside the Arabic world offers non-trivial results of the study of the presence of one of three main religions of the world in southern Africa. The topicality of the study of Islam in southern Africa can be explained by recent accounts of the researchers who state that observers have been unaware of the presence of Islam in southern Africa (Westerlung and Svanberg 111). Nkrumah states that two decades ago the majority of the population of southern Africa would have identified Islam as “some obscure ‘Indian’ sect” (94). At the same time, it is known that Islam can be rightfully considered the largest growing religion in Africa (Moghissi 53). Thus, the present paper is devoted to the study of the reasons for relatively weak influence of Islamic movement in the certain countries of southern Africa. South Africa can be also added to the list of these countries since the number of Muslims here is only 533,717 according to the South African census of 1996 (Feener 253).

Nkrumah states that the following southern African countries: Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, and Swaziland can be characterized by small Muslim communities “of fewer than 20000 each” (94). Thus, the reasons for this situation in these countries should be analyzed from historical perspective.

As for the comparatively low number of Muslims in Botswana, this fact can be explained by late introduction of this religion to the country (Denbow and Thebe 39). In fact, Islam in Botswana was restricted to urban areas by colonial authorities though the first Islamic presence of an Indian group was recorded in 1890 (Westerlung and Svanberg 113) and this is the reason for comparatively weak historical development of Islam in the country though today Islam actively gains its followers in Botswana.

As for the kingdom of Lesotho, the number of Muslims here is low in comparison with the number of Christians. The reason for that is that Christians are mainly the indigenous Basotho (Lipton 82), thus, the country is originally Christian. Besides, Christians are scattered throughout the country while those who profess Islam are concentrated in the north-east. The concentration of Muslims on limited territory and great numerical superiority of Christian are responsible for the state of religion in the country.

Christianity is the dominant religion in Namibia that can be explained by intensive and effective missionary work that took place during the 1800s and drew the greater part of the population to Christianity. There were no historical premises for the spread of Islam in Namibia as the only practitioners of this religion are immigrants, their descendents and those who are recently converted (Lipton 105).

The dominant religion in South Africa is Christianity as well. Though the first arrival of Muslims in South Africa was recorded in the mid-1600s (Naim 190), Westerlund and Svanberg report that Muslims got an opportunity to establish mosques and schools in the nineteenth century only (112). Besides, in the past, there was an official restriction of religious practice to the Dutch Reformed Church administered by the Dutch rulers that stifled the development of Islam and made it an underground religious community (Naim 190).

Finally, Muslims in Swaziland form less than one percent of the population due to the late introduction of the religion to the country. In fact, Islam was brought to Swaziland by Malawian workers in asbestos mines in 1963 (Westerlund and Svanberg). This accounts for its low spread in the country though it was recognized by the Swazi king soon after the introduction.

Drawing a conclusion, it is possible to state that weak influence of Islam in the analyzed countries can be explained by their being primarily Christian, due to restrictions imposed on Islam by the Dutch rulers and due to late introduction of the religion to the countries where dominant religions were already established.

Works Cited

Denbow, James Raymond, and Phenyo C Thebe. Culture and Customs of Botswana. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006.

Feener, Michael R. Islam in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. USA: ABC-CLIO, 2004.

Lipton, Edward P. Religious Freedom in Africa. NY: Nova Publishers, 2002.

Moghissi, Heiden. Women and Islam. NY: Routledge, 2005.

Naim, Abd Allah Ahmad. Islamic Family Law in Changing World: A Global Resource Book. NY: Zed Books, 2002.

Nkrumah, Gorkeh Gamal. “Islam in Southern Africa.” Review of African Political Economy. 52. (1991): 94-97.

Westerlung, David, and Ingvar Svanberg. Islam Outside the Arab World. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.

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