Muslims have given a church 21 days to vacate “Muslim territory” in Mosiya Village, Machinga, eastern Malawi, if it “fails to bow down to our command”.
The ultimatum comes after a dispute over the church’s policy of not allowing Muslim pupils attending church schools to wear a hijab.
Yusuf Bwanali, a local Muslim, said, “This is a Muslim territory. Islam is like a culture here. If they don’t want to respect that then they should leave our community.”
According to local media sources, the demand that the church relocate was delivered in a letter from the Muslim community.
The letter described the church’s policy regarding the hijab as “discriminatory and a disgrace”.
“We will use whatever means to force the church to move,” continues the letter, “especially if it fails to bow down to our command.”
Disputes in Malawi often arise over religious dress in schools. In October 2020 Muslims set fire to a head teacher’s office at a primary school in Mpiri, Machinga, because he turned away female students wearing the hijab.
Malawi is a Christian-majority country. According to the US State Department 77.3% of the population are Christian, compared to just under 13.8% who are Muslim. Machinga, however, is a Muslim-majority area, with 67% of the population adhering to Islam.
For this reason local Muslims may regard Machinga as an Islamic territory, a sacred space which has been dedicated to Allah and now belongs to the umma (global Islamic community).