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Muslim Martyr Commemoration Set for June 10

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Muslim Martyrs will be commemorated annually on June 10th, as announced by Professor Badru Katerega, chairperson of the Uganda Muslim Martyrs Development Committee, during a press conference at his residence in Buziga on Friday evening. According to Professor Katerega, the date was changed from June 1st to avoid confusion with the celebration of other martyrs.

“Muslims were the first Ugandans to be martyred way back in 1874/75. However, they are little known. It has taken us 15 years to raise awareness about Muslim Martyrs because Muslims didn’t write their history,” he said.

The commemoration will begin with prayers for the Muslim Martyrs at the Shuhadah Mosque in Namugongo on June 8th, 2024. “We shall follow the trail of the Muslim Martyrs before concluding with a massive event at the national mosque on June 10th that will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC). This event is meant to create awareness about the many Muslims who were martyred in this country,” he said.

Professor Katerega emphasized that the event also promotes religious tolerance. “It is also advocacy for religious tolerance because some of our families have people of different religious persuasions.” Addressing critics, he explained that martyrdom is a revered form of death in Islam.

“By and large, Islam upholds martyrdom and holds martyrs in high esteem. Our goal is to preserve our heritage and promote religious tourism to meet both local and international standards,” he said.

He thanked the government for supporting these efforts. “I am happy that the Muslim leadership and the country’s leadership believed in my efforts regarding Muslim Martyrs. I am happy that the government has finally agreed to support our efforts through the tourism ministry under the faith-based tourism program.”

Recently, parliament allocated slightly more than Shillings 200 million for the Muslim Martyrs commemoration. Haji Sulaiman Musana Kawunguzi, coordinator of the Muslim Martyrs Development Committee, said they had already submitted a development plan to the Ministry of Works, pending implementation.

Speaking at the same press conference, Dr. Ziyad Swallah Lubanga, Director of Sharia at UMSC, noted that Muslim martyrdom began during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. “Fourteen Muslims were killed during the Battle of Badr. At least 230 Muslim martyrs were recorded in the 23 years of the Prophet Muhammad’s mission,” he explained.

Citing the Quran 3:169, Dr. Lubanga noted that Islam honors those who die defending their faith. “And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision.”

He added, “Even the Prophet Muhammad taught us about martyrs. There are many categories, but in our context, we are talking about those killed in the way of their Lord, no matter where they are found. Whoever died in Uganda for his faith is a martyr, and there is no way to differentiate them from other martyrs.”

Dr. Lubanga emphasized the importance of documenting these martyrs. “This means it’s the responsibility of those remaining behind to document those killed in the way of their Lord. Our task is to inform others about our martyrs, just like others have done in their countries. These people shouldn’t be forgotten. In 2023, I traveled with the Mufti to Madina and visited the cemetery of Muslim martyrs, where a mosque was built for those visiting the site to pray for the martyrs,” he said.

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