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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom:

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State, September 5, 2000


The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice, subject to measures that it claims are necessary to ensure public order and safety.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

Generally there are stable relations between the various religious communities; however, some urban Muslim groups are sensitive to perceived discrimination in government hiring and law-enforcement practices. In addition, there is some tension between secular and fundamentalist Muslims.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Government Policies on Freedom of Religion

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice, subject to measures that it claims are necessary to ensure public order and safety. The Government does not penalize or discriminate against any individual on the basis of religious beliefs or practices, and it does not designate religion on any passports or records of vital statistics. However, individual government officials are alleged to favor persons who share the same religion in the conduct of business.

The Government requires that religious organizations register with the Registrar of Societies at the Home Affairs Ministry. In order to register, religious organizations must have at least 10 followers and must provide a constitution, the resumes of their leaders, and a letter of recommendation from their district commissioner. Groups no longer are required to provide three letters of recommendation from the leaders of registered Christian churches or from registered mosques.

Prior to 2000, religious groups were exempt from paying taxes because they were presumed to be nonprofit organizations. The Government discovered in 1998 that some religious groups were importing goods duty-free and then selling them for a profit, and began requiring these groups to pay taxes. After successfully identifying these organizations, the Government now allows legitimate religious groups to order goods internationally without paying duty, provided they receive an exemption certificate from the Tanzania Revenue Authority.

Religious Demography

Christians, including Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Protestants, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, constitute approximately 45 percent of a population of about 30 million. Approximately 40 percent of the population are Muslim. Adherents of traditional indigenous religions and atheists account for approximately 10 percent of the population. Approximately 5 percent of the population practice other faiths, including Hinduism and Buddhism.

Governmental Abuses of Religious Freedom

The law prohibits preaching if it incites persons against other religions. In July 1999, police used tear gas and clubs to disperse a peaceful demonstration by Muslims protesting a government ban on Muslim school uniforms in public schools. In September 1999, police arrested a popular Muslim leader for inciting his followers against other religions. A week later, the police canceled a planned Muslim demonstration to protest his arrest. In October 1999, the Muslim leader was charged with seditious intent and denied bail.

In February 1998, police arrested a popular Muslim leader for violating this law, which triggered widespread riots in the Mmwembechi area of Dar Es Salaam. Police opened fire on the protesters, killing three persons and wounding several others. Approximately 200 Muslims were arrested. There are reports that police tortured and sexually humiliated a group of Muslim women arrested during the riots and forced them to sing Christian songs while in custody. Riots broke out again in March 1998 after police cancelled a scheduled demonstration protesting the treatment of these women. Authorities used tear gas, water cannons, and clubs to quell the rioters; at least a dozen persons were injured and at least 50 Muslims were arrested.

With the October 2000 elections on the horizon, government officials have warned religious leaders to avoid using religion to incite their adherents to violence during and after the electoral campaign. Thus far, a repeat of the 1998 Muslim riots in Dar Es Salaam has not occurred, although undercurrents of Christian-Muslim tension remain in some quarters (see Section II).

The Government failed to respond to growing tensions between the Muslim and Christian communities (see Section II). The Government appears to recognize that a problem exists, but it chose not to take action. The Government cancelled several meetings with Muslim and Christian leaders aimed at improving relations between the two communities. Even senior Muslim officials in the Government appear unwilling to address the problem, apart from general criticism of those who would foment religious conflict.

National and regional parole boards, constituted in 1998, were dissolved when it was found that they did not include Muslim members, and the Government named new boards in January 1999. It was disclosed in February 1999 that the Government was investigating reports that the National Muslim Council of Tanzania was receiving millions of dollars from unknown sources in the Middle East and was considered a possible "security risk."

The Government has banned religious organizations from involvement in politics.

Customary or statutory law in both civil and criminal matters governs Christians. Muslims may apply either customary law or Islamic law in civil matters. Zanzibar's court system generally parallels the mainland's legal system but retains Islamic courts to adjudicate cases of Muslim family law, such as divorce, child custody, and inheritance.

Missionaries are allowed to enter the country freely, particularly if proselytizing is ancillary to other religious activities. Citizens are allowed to go abroad for pilgrimages and other religious practices.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

Forced Religious Conversion of Minor U.S. Citizens There were no reports of the forced religious conversion of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section II. Societal Attitudes

While Muslim-Christian relations are generally stable, some urban Muslim groups are sensitive to perceived discrimination in government hiring and law enforcement practices. For example, Muslim women charged that human rights organizations in the country ignored police abuses against them following the dispersal of the rioters in Mmwembechi (see Section I).

The Muslim community claims to be disadvantaged in terms of its representation in the civil service, government, and parastatal institutions, in part because both colonial and early post-independence administrations refused to recognize the credentials of traditional Muslim schools. As a result, there is broad Muslim resentment of certain advantages that Christians are perceived to enjoy in employment and educational opportunities. Muslim leaders have complained that the number of Muslim students invited to enroll in government-run schools still was not equal to the number of Christians. In turn, Christians criticize what they perceive as lingering effects of undue favoritism accorded to Muslims in appointments, jobs, and scholarships by former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, a Muslim. Despite these perceptions, there does not appear to be a serious widespread problem of religious discrimination in access to employment or educational opportunities.

A few leaders in the Christian and Muslim communities appear to be fomenting religious tension between their groups. For example, there were reports that some Muslims leaders distributed audiotapes of the Mmwembechi riots to the Muslim community; the tapes later were outlawed by the Government for being incendiary. Christian leaders reportedly have used the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Dar Es Salem and Nairobi, Kenya, as a justification to criticize Muslims.

There are signs of increasing tension between secular and fundamentalist Muslims, as the latter feel that the former have sold out to the Government. The fundamentalist Muslims accuse the Government of being a Christian institution, and Muslims in power as being only interested in safeguarding their positions. In these circles, secular Muslims who drink alcohol or marry Christian women are criticized severely. Muslim fundamentalists attempted, unsuccessfully, to introduce Muslim traditional dress into the national school system. Fundamentalist groups also have exhorted their followers to vote only for Muslim candidates.

During the period covered by this report, there have been two seminars sponsored by local nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) that sought to address divisions between Christians and Muslims. Prof. Rweikaza Mukandala, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Dar es Salaam, said his organization, Research, Education and Democracy in Tanzania (REDET), was conducting a countrywide study of Muslim claims that they are being discriminated against in educational and employment opportunities. The study, which also assesses the overall relationship between the Christian community and their Muslim counterparts, should be completed in August 2000. Mukandala said the University decided to undertake this study due to the belief that religion again would be a contentious issue during the October 2000 elections.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights.

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