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Islam in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Congolese Quran-stand, used for supporting the scriptures during prayer
A Congolese Quran-stand, used for supporting the scriptures during prayer

Islam is a minority religion within the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the large majority is affiliated to various Christian denominations and sects. Though estimates vary, it is generally believed that approximately 1 percent of the country's population identify as Muslim.[1] It was first introduced from the East African coast during the Arab traders in the 19th century and remains largely concentrated in parts of Eastern Congo, notably Maniema Province. Most Congolese Muslims are Sunni and follow the Maliki school of jurisprudence (fiqh).

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Islam was spread to the Congo in the 19th century by "Arab" traders, such as Tippo Tip, from the East African coast as part of the Arab slave trade.[2] Although the Arabs did not expressly intend to spread their religion or culture, many African peoples adopted the ideas they brought.[2] With the expansion of European colonial rule into the eastern Congo under the auspices of the Congo Free State, European colonists came into conflict and defeated the Arabs, largely ending this process. Under Belgian colonial rule (1908–60), Muslims were distrusted and considered a potential source of sedition.[2] Christianity, especially Catholicism, was promoted by the state. The arrival of the Qadiriyya (a branch of Sufism) from Tanganyika in the 1920s was particularly repressed by the colonial government.[2]

The independence of the Congo in 1960 brought legal freedom of religion and allowed the Muslim community to organise publicly for the first time.[2] Since the end of the Second Congo War, the Congo's Muslim community has been increasingly united with the emergence of a national leadership.[2]


Today, Islam is a major religion within the Democratic Republic of the Congo where it is estimated that around 10 percent of the national population identifies as Muslim.[2][3] In 2012, the Pew Research Center estimated the figure at 12 percent.[4] However, another Pew estimate in 2007 put the figure at just 1.4 percent.[5] Islam is particularly prominent in the east of the country where it has been present since the 18th century. The highest concentration of Muslims is in the Province of Maniema and especially the cities of Kasongo and Kindu where they represent 80–90 percent and 25 percent of the population respectively.[2] Besides indigenous Muslims, the population also includes recent immigrants from Lebanon, India, Pakistan and other parts of the African continent.

Congolese Muslims are represented at a national level by the Islamic Community of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Communauté islamique du République démocratique du Congo, or Comico) which succeeded the Islamic Community of Zaire (Communauté islamique du Zaïre, Comiza) founded in the 1970s. However, the religion has little political influence in national politics and are underrepresented in its institutions. In the 2006 general elections, just four Muslims deputies and three senators were elected out of 500 and 108 respectively.[6]

Violence between Muslims and other religious groups in the Congo, especially Congolese Christians, has been attested in North Kivu since 2014 in connection with the Allied Democratic Forces insurgency which originated in neighbouring Uganda.[7] The Allied Democratic Forces, whose political ideology is based on Islamism, is widely suspected of having perpetrated the Beni massacre in August 2016.

The vast majority of Muslims in the country identify themselves as Sunni, following the Maliki school of jurisprudence (fiqh). 10 percent are Shia and six percent are Ahmadi.[8] Congolese Muslims are frequently divided between conservative Sufis and Reformists (Salafists) as well as along local ethnic, geographical, and generational lines.[2]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life / Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Leinweber 2012.
  3. ^ "Congo, Democratic Republic of the". CIA World Factbook. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa" (PDF). Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population" (PDF). Pew Research Center. October 2009. p. 30. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  6. ^ Battory & Vircoulon 2017, p. 6.
  7. ^ "Villages 'obliterated' as Christian persecution grows in eastern Congo". The Catholic Herald. 19 Aug 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  8. ^ "The World's Muslims: Unity and Diversity" (PDF). Pew Research Center. 9 August 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2012.


External links

Media related to Islam in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at Wikimedia Commons

This page was last edited on 26 July 2019, at 18:27
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