ARTICLE (peer-reviewed): The 1996 ‘Muslim holiday’ affair. Religious competition and state mediation in contemporary Mozambique

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Political commentators often cast religious con? ict as the result of the numerical growth and political rise of a single faith. When Islam is involved, arguments about religious fundamentalism are quick to surface and often stand as an explanation in their own right. Yet, as useful as this type of explanation may be, it usually fails to address properly, if at all, two sets of important issues. It avoids, Ž rst, the question of the rise of other religions and their contribution to tensions and con? icts. Second, it reduces the role of the State to a reactive one. The State becomes an object of contest or conquest, or it is simply ignored. Adopting a different approach, this article investigates a controversy that took place in Mozambique in 1996 around the ‘ofŽ cialisation’ of two Islamic holidays. It looks at the role played by religious competition and state mediation. The article shows that the State’s abandonment of religious regulation – the establishment of a free ‘religious market’ – fostered religious competition that created tensions between faiths. It suggests that strife ensued because deregulation was almost absolute: the State did not take a clear stand in religious matters and faith organisations started to believe that the State was becoming, or could become, confessional. The conclusion discusses theoretical implications for the understanding of religious strife as well as Church and State relations. It also draws some implications for the case of Mozambique more speciŽ cally, implications which should have relevance for countries such as Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe where problems of a similar nature have arisen.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-427
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Volume26 (3)
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2000


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