December 26, 2009

Rights, the law and religion: Islamic courts in East Africa

In Tanzania too there has been a raging debate over the introduction of the Kadhi’s courts in the legal and judicial system. Like in Kenya, the most vocal and visible opposition against Kadhi’s courts assumes a religious character, with the church being at the forefront of those most hostile to its introduction. But the motion to reinstate Kadhi’s Courts in Tanzania was first introduced by an opposition leader, the Honourable Lyatonga Mrema of the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP), undoubtedly as a political strategy to win Muslim support in the 2005 General Elections. The ruling party is said to have appropriated the motion, turning it into a campaign pledge to make the same a reality in exchange for the Muslim vote. Not surprisingly, as the 2010 elections loom, the issue is gaining renewed vigour.

Religious forces have kept the matter very much alive in various spaces, including pulpits, newspapers and blogs, intensifying the pressure on the government to concede on the issue. Using a variety of advocacy channels, some Islamic bodies institutions have embarked on a media advocacy strategy aimed at consolidating Muslim opinion over the introduction of the Kadhi’s court. Dismissive remarks by the Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda during the 2009 budget session on the issue of the Kadhi elicited a harsh reaction from Muslim quarters. To appease the situation, the chief mufti, Sheikh Shaaban Simba, formed a committee to advise and negotiate with the government over the matter. In response, the prime minister also formed a committee to engage with the Muslim Council.

Concrete proposals to introduce Kadhi’s courts failed to come up during the recently concluded parliamentary session in November. In the meantime, the government has directed the Law Reform Commission to collect views and make recommendations on the matter. Women’s voices are noticeably absent from the discussions. From available reports, there is no female representation on this crucial body, advising on the most intimate aspect of family and social relationships.

This absence of women’s interest in the ongoing discussion is not only a physical absence but also an absence of gender considerations in the overall content of the proposals in substance. Largely, the voices of women have been sidelined or muffled by political forces informing the debate. Yet, it is they who stand to loose the most from what is being proposed. Indeed, the overwhelming interest in Kadhi’s courts does not seem to be a preoccupation of Muslim women, but of sections of the Muslim community who seek political advantage both from political parties and in the larger community. Otherwise, it consumes most those sections of the community who stand to benefit the most from the existence of Kadhi’s courts.

Pambazuka - Rights, the law and religion: Islamic courts in East Africa


December 23, 2009

Pambazuka - The failed promise of aid in Africa

Great book review that captures some of the uneasiness I feel with Dambisa Moyo's critique of aid. I have not read the Tandon book but I will be picking up both of these books to read in full very soon. They represent an important and ongoing debate about the merits and demerits of "helping" as it were, including the strategic political motivations behind the billions of dollars given to often corrupt and reactionary African governments.
Pambazuka - The failed promise of aid in Africa


Sudan approves referendum law on Southern autonomy

Sudan's parliament has approved a controversial bill paving the way for a referendum on possible independence for the country's oil-producing south.

MPs passed the bill on Tuesday, despite opposition from southern Sudanese legislators over a clause that would allow southerners living outside South Sudan to cast absentee ballots.

Al Jazeera English - Africa - Sudan approves referendum law


December 22, 2009

Search and Translate to Kiswahili in Firefox

The latest update to the ever-handy (though not always 100% reliable) Kamusi Project, the Online Kiswahili Dictionary. This Tool enables you to search Kamusi from your Google Search Toolbar. Enjoy!


December 15, 2009

Back in Oman

I'm here in Oman working with my colleague and friend Mike Henderson on the Dream Film Project. This film project, in addition to being the product of a lot of vision and hard work on the part of the co-directors, Mike and Sultan, will be (we hope) a window into some aspects of hip hop as a global youth culture. Specifically we will be exploring the ways in which Omani youth use hip hop a a medium of exchange, social bonding and self-representation. We also hope to raise some issues about the tension between "deen" and culture, about how to live Islamically as a young person in an Islamic society and at the same time nurture a love for artistic expression through hip hop and b-boying.

It rained the first two days we were here. The wadis filled up, the streets overflowed, and several people died from doing driving stunts in the flooded wadis. But this week the weather has settled down, highs in the mid-90s and a cool, balmy and beautiful 80-85 degrees at night. We start shooting today with our cinematographer and new cameras courtesy of Innovation Group LLC.


December 4, 2009

Zanzibar Pictures from the 1950s and 60s

I would like to thank Ms. Chappel and Ms. Abdullah for uploading these photos to the Facebook group: "Zanzibar and Oman." Subhanallah they have a very nice collection of old photos, references, and links. I think you may have to request to join the group here:


December 1, 2009

Hussein Machozi - Kwa Ajili Yako (For Your Sake)

got kinda a Wayne Wonder feel to it....


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