There is rising concern in Zanzibar that it is poised to be the next the next country to fall to extreme Islamic rule. While long a favorite for tourists for its beaches and resorts, the Saudi-based Wahhabi movement has established hundreds of schools and programs with money from Saudi Arabia and Dubai. The result is rising criticism of what Suleiman Ali, director of Radio Al-Noor, called the outbreak of “social freedoms.”
In a mantra heard in other countries facing Islamic rule, Ali objected that “There’s no social responsibility; the government keeps producing more [social] freedom.” His station has started to warn tourists to wear headscarves and cover their knees — not an easy proposition in a beach resort area. The Saudi money has helped fund more than 2000 Muslim schools or madrassas and a movement away from the more moderate and Sufi forms of Islam in favor of the more radical views of Wahhabi Islam.
The effort is targeting the children by funding Wahhabi schools and sending many to Saudi Arabia for study. Ali’s objections to the outbreak of social freedoms highlights the inverse values of these teachings where freedom is considered an evil and “responsibility” is now code for compelled orthodoxy.
The question is whether it is only a matter of time before Wahhabi approved Burkinis appear on the pristine beaches of Zanzibar.