President Yoweri Museveni met the Muslim leaders in Uganda and promised to support them to develop themselves in accordance with the Sharia law if they happen to find any difficulties under the current Parish Development Model (PDM) initiative.
“Let me study it and see how to merge the Sharia principles within the PDM. We can study it and if there’s any problem then we can have a separate budget and channel for the Muslims so that you develop yourselves in your own way,” Museveni said.
The Tuesday meeting that took place at State House Entebbe was attended by Sheikh Obeid Kamulegeya, who leads a 21-member Muslim arbitration and reconciliation committee, Sheikh Silman Kasule Ndirangwa, Sheikh Muhammad Yunus Kamoga, the head of Jumiat Dawa Al Salafiya at Nakasero Mosque and Professor Muhammad Lubega, the National Chairperson of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) among others.
The Mufti of Uganda Sheikh Shaban Ramathan Mubajje was at the time of the meeting returning from Morocco for official duties. Muslim leaders complained that various government initiatives aimed at reducing poverty discriminate against them and asked the President to provide support to their alternative Islamic Parish Development Model.
They say Programs such as the PDM offer loans with interest which in accordance with Islamic teachings, is considered riba and is strictly prohibited under Islamic law. It is deemed haram, meaning forbidden, as it is seen as exploitative. Riba is an Arabic word that means “to increase" or “to exceed" and is commonly used in reference to unequal exchanges or charges and fees for borrowing. Interest is deemed riba, or an unjust, exploitative gain, and such practice is forbidden under Islamic law.
The President first lectured the Muslim leaders about the advantages of the Parish Development Model to Uganda and emphasized that with an interest of not more than 10% in the PDM funds, the government aims at fighting inflation. President Museveni last year launched the PDM in the Eastern district of Kibuku meant to eradicate poverty through the execution of development activities at the parishes.
“This PDM money we are putting in your SACCOs is a grant from the government and not a loan and it is your money. The riba I also don’t like is where one wants to get rich using the money of the poor. This money is yours and the challenge is how to keep it [for it] not to lose value,” Museveni told the Muslim leaders.
Sheikh Yunus Kamoga earlier informed the President that under their Islamic laws, they are obliged to share both profits and losses in whatever money is given to them.
“If we get a problem in our business, we share the losses collectively between the business owner and the SACCO members-operators but others like PDM, whether you have made profits or losses, you have to pay back with interest. That is where the problem is,” Sheikh Yunus Kamoga told the President, adding that the business owner shares 60 percent, and the SACCO remains with 40 percent.
Sheikh Kamoga further informed the President that they are successfully running Nakasero Muslim Foundation SACCO based on Islamic laws and are currently operating three branches; one at Kamukamu Plaza, Owino market and Masaka, adding that the model has proved the capacity to successfully develop the people.
“Write to me about it and after understanding it I will also educate these other Ugandans,” Museveni replied.
Sheikh Kamulegeya expressed gratitude to President Museveni for allowing the enactment of the Income Tax Amendment Bill No.2 of 2023 which cleared all legal roadblocks to the commencement for the long-awaited Islamic banking products in Uganda. “We thank you for that Mr. President,” Sheikh Kamulegeya said.
On his part, the leader of the delegation who is also the National Chairperson of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Prof. Muhammad Lubega said a concept has already been drafted of how the PDM can work under the Sharia law. The President promised to study the concept and re-invite them for a meeting to finalize.
Prof. Kisambira further thanked President Museveni for facilitating the election of Muslim leaders countrywide. He said that about 7 million Muslims aged 18 years and above participated in the elections from the total of 14,900 mosques countrywide under the 78 Muslim districts.
“This was a sign of unity, and we thank you Mr. President for supporting this cause,” Prof. Kisambira said, adding that a constitutional review commission was also instituted to streamline the Muslim constitution.
He said their next step is mobilizing all Muslim families to engage in income-generating activities and to also find a way of utilizing land owned by mosques.
“Our gospel is that every mosque must have an income-generating project. Each mosque has at least 4 acres of land which is idle,” Prof. Kisambira emphasized.
He also thanked the President for the Shs7.5 billion provided to renovate Old Kampala Mosque, saying so far Shs2 billion has been provided and utilized properly. President Museveni also promised to support their goat-rearing projects aimed at increasing meat production.
Other concerns raised by the Muslim leaders were the establishment of at least 4 regional Muslim theological schools and setting up income-generating ventures on land owned by Muslims in cities and municipalities which the President accepted. Sheikh Silman Kasule Ndirangwa thanked the President for signing the law against Homosexuality saying it has raised Uganda’s flag high as far as respecting cultures and good morals are concerned.