SECOND INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ISLAMIC CIVILISATION IN EASTERN AFRICA, 2003

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, organised by IRCICA, Islamic University in Uganda, Kampala, Uganda, 15-17 December 2003


Under the high patronage of H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, IRCICA, in conjunction with the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU, M’bale, Uganda), held the Second International Symposium on Islamic Civilisation in Africa, focusing on Eastern Africa. The main purpose of the symposium was to highlight significant features of a civilisation which had developed in an area for centuries, but which has not been fully studied by scholars and writers. The symposium was organized under the general theme of "Islamic Civilisation in Eastern Africa" and held on 15-17 December 2003 in Kampala, Uganda. 200 participants from different countries attended the symposium. A total of 51 papers, organized under the sub-themes listed below, were presented:

Spread of Islam in Eastern Africa

Islam and Trade in Eastern Africa

Kiswahili and Islamic Literature

Islamic Education and Intellectualism in Eastern Africa

Issues in Islamic Civilisation, e.g. Art, Crafts, Law and Dress

Islam and Contemporary Issues


The objectives of the International Symposium on "Islamic Civilisation in Eastern Africa" were to:

Increase and popularize knowledge of the history and heritage of Islam in Eastern Africa;

Make the religious and cultural heritage of Islam better understood by Muslims and non-Muslims inside and outside the Eastern African region;

Strengthen affinities and cooperation among Muslims and peoples of other religious cultural heritages;

Offer a forum for the true understanding of Islamic culture in the world and create a network among scholars all over the world.


For the purpose of the symposium, Eastern Africa was taken to include Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Eastern Congo, the Comoros, South Africa, Yemen and Oman.

The symposium drew participants from the countries of: Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Iran, South Africa, Germany, Nigeria, Gambia, Tanzania, Malaysia, USA, Britain, Turkey, Oman, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Comoros, Jordan, Egypt, Somalia, Slovenia and France.

The following distinguished personalities were present at the opening ceremony: Hon. General Moses Ali, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Disaster Preparedness was the Guest of Honor and represented His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, members of the government (cabinet ministers), the Mufti of Uganda, members of the Parliament, among others. The opening ceremony started with prayers by the Mufti of Uganda.

Prof. Dr. Mahdi Adamu, Rector of the Islamic University in Uganda delivered a welcome speech.

Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, IRCICA Director General then took the floor and delivered a speech in which he pointed out that the project to convene a scholarly meeting that focuses on the history and culture of Eastern Africa had been in the work plans of IRCICA for more than a decade. He thanked the personalities concerned in the Government of Uganda and the Islamic University in Uganda for their valuable contributions to this symposium. Professor İhsanoğlu also expressed his belief that "the present symposium will help to develop studies on the evolution and the interaction of the cultures of Eastern Africa, the monuments, the tangible and intangible heritage, archives and documents, and will expose them to world opinion as evidence of the development and the cross-fertilization of cultures in the history of the region."

The Keynote Address was given by Prof. Ali Mazrui, Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at the State University of New York, USA, on "The Impact of Islamic Civilization and Culture on the Societies of Eastern Africa."

The Guest of Honour, Hon. General Moses Ali addressed the symposium participants and delivered the speech of H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda. He opened the symposium formally. In his speech, the President stated that the symposium would provide an opportunity to review the contribution of Islam to the development of societies in the Eastern African region. He also expressed his belief that the proceedings of the symposium would be published as a book. He then pointed out the influence of Islam in the Eastern African region and pointed out with examples that Islam as a religion is pro-humanity and progress.

The Closing Ceremony on 17 December was chaired by the Hon. Hajji Ally Muwabe Kirunda-Kivejinja, Minister at the Presidency of the Republic, who delivered a speech and formally closed the symposium.

After three days of intensive deliberations, the symposium came up with the following observations on the various sub-themes:

As a general resolution, the symposium resolved to thank IRCICA and IUIU for bringing the Muslims of the region to deliberate on this very important aspect of their lives and future.

The symposium noted that:

The dedication of the early Muslims who had worked very hard to spread Islam, and had maintained between themselves strong bonds of Islamic brotherhood.

Islam had spread peacefully in the Eastern African region, even though there are attempts by its detractors to present a contrary picture.

The history of Muslims had been negatively presented by the colonial writers and their followers.

The above trend was still continuing even at the present time.

The symposium agreed:

To re-interpret the history of the Eastern African region from an objective perspective in order to offset the negative intellectual and psychological impact of the history written from a Euro-centric perspective.

There is a need to rewrite world history to clearly reflect the contribution of Islam and Muslim scholars or nations.

That Muslim traders introduced in the East African region an organized trade culture.

Through their trade activity, Muslim traders facilitated the spread of Islam in Eastern Africa.

That Islamic culture contributed significantly to the development of the Kiswahili language, and is part of the heritage of the Muslim peoples of the Eastern African region.

That Islamic civilization has had a strong positive impact on many areas of social life in the region.

The first major break through in architecture in the Eastern African region came with the introduction of Islam.

That Islamic civilization has had a strong positive impact on many areas of social life in the region, for example architecture, dress, law, and education.

There is more to learn about Islamic civilization in Eastern Africa.