Islam in the Service of Colonialism ? Portuguese Strategy during the Armed Liberation Struggle in Mozambique



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Edward A. ALPERS, Lusotopie 1999, pp. 165-184


Islam in the Service of Colonialism ?
Portuguese Strategy during the Armed Liberation Struggle in Mozambique


A


ccording to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Lourenço Marques, Teodósio de Gouveia, in the mid-1950s « four terrible enemies of the influence of the Western, Christian world loomed over Africa, and therefore also over Mozambique : Mohammedanism, Protes­tantism, communism, and indigenous nationalism. As you see », he told the journalist conducting the interview, « there are many "isms", but unhappily all are dangerous ». Islam had greeted Vasco da Gama upon his arrival at Mozambique Island in 1497 and soon revealed its « treacherous » nature, which has not changed ever since, he proclaimed. Echoing so many Christian observers of Islam in Africa, Dom Teodósio noted that Islam « had a theory of life almost equal to that of the black, who adapts to it readily », noting especially its permission of polygamy and divorce. The result was the creation of « a religious regime socially and politically different from ours » that could lead to the existence of a religious minority in Mozambique1.

Anyone familiar with the history of Portuguese expansion will not be surprised by the attitude towards Islam revealed by the good Archbishop2. Driven by a combination of crusading spirit and commercialism, the Portuguese saw Islam and Muslims as their enemeies before they ever set sail around Africa. For them, the Reconquista of the Iberian peninsula continued to play itself out in the struggle for souls in eastern Africa from Ethiopia to Mozambique. When at the end of the nineteenth century the Portuguese found themselves finally having to exercise some meaningful control over the territories they had historically claimed for four hundred years in northern Mozambique, they began to realize that their assertion of authority coincided with a resurgence of Islam along the coast and the initial wave of serious Muslim penetration into the northern interior. The result produced a concomitant sense of crusade among the new generation of Portuguese soldiers and administrators who directed the conquest of northern Mozambique, as well as among the feeble representatives of the Catholic Church in the north.

How, then, can we explain the decision of the Portuguese to enlist the Muslim leadership of Mozambique against Frelimo during the liberation struggle for Mozambique during the 1960s and 1970s ? To get at the answer, we need to know something about the twentieth-century history that led up to this historic decision.

The Growth of Islam and Portuguese Policy3
As elsewhere in eastern Africa, the major vehicle for the expansion of Islam in the early twentieth century were the turuq (sufi orders, sing. tariqa). The Shadhiliyya established a foothold at Mozambique Island in 1896 ; by 1936 two dissident branches had hived off to create new orders on the island. The Qadiriyya founded a branch there, as well, in 1904 ; by 1963 four other branches had proliferated as a consequence of internal disputes. The first Shadhiliyya tariqa was founded by emissaries from the Comoro Islands and maintains a strong Comorian connection to this day. The original branch of the Qadiriyya was installed by a shaykh (religious leader) from Zanzibar and similarly still nurtures those links, albeit through the Comoros since the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution. Dissident branches looked to different centers of these two orders to establish their legitimacy, but all eight pre­serve their Mozambican headquarters on the Island. Over time both turuq established subordinate branches up and down the coast and deep into the interior along the railway and roads of the slowly evolving colonial state.
A separate branch of the Qadiriyya also won adherents in Niassa province, entering Portuguese territory through southern Tanganyika and Nyasaland. By the 1930s, the African population of northern Mozambique was increa­singly Muslim with a scattering of Catholic converts and a few Anglican outposts in Niassa.

The first evidence we have of a potential political problem from Dom Teodósio’s primary « ism » is a district report for Nacala from 1937 that reports the circulation of flyers in several coastal settlements that refer to the defense of Ethiopia against Italian invasion and cite the momentous Abyssinian defeat of the Italians at Adwa in 1896 as inspiration. The source of this leaflet was described as a Mozambican descendant of Arabs, which at once triggered a characteristically paranoid Portuguese colonial diatribe lamenting the absence of Catholic presence in the north, thus « leaving the natives to be captivated by the ascendancy of the "cherifes" and by the incessant multiplication of schools and mosques where an essentially anti-European religious creed is preached ». The Africans, frets the writer, are ours in body only, but not in spirit. « We cannot delude ourselves as to their fidelity… should a greater threat to the integrity of our dominion in this zone of the Empire appear » This tocsin prompted a confidential circular that debated the options available to Portuguese authorities. One possibility was to shut down mosques and Qur’an schools. Although these were not necessarily centers of dissemination for such anti-Portuguese propaganda as the « defense of Ethiopia » flyers, their religious literature undercut the loyalty of the Africans to the Portuguese. After all, there was legislation on the books requiring that all schools be licensed and most Muslim educational facilities did not possess licenses. In the end, however, this was seen as a self-defeating strategy that would only stir up passions against the Portuguese. « Authorized or not, the arabized mosques and schools represent necessary sustenance for the native mind - something that we can orient, but that it will be nonsense to suppress ». Failing a viable Catholic educational system in the north, Portuguese authorities in Mozambique District decided to leave well enough alone4. Those in the Cabo Delgado region of Porto Amélia did not, however ; here they closed schools and mosques in March 1937, seizing religious literature, a foolish decision that was rescinded by the new Governor of Niassa in October 19385.

The same kinds of fears reveal themselves in a memorandum written by the local administrator of Memba, in Cabo Delgado, also in 1937, who allows that « I consider Islamism a doctrine as disruptive and prejudicial as bolshevism », thus neatly foreshadowing another of Dom Teodósio’s « isms ». If bolshevism represented a threat to all nations, he worried that Islamism represented « a second cancer…. that patiently gnaws away and weakens their possessions », because it neither admits « racial inequalities or supremacies nor recognizes political frontiers »6. Such concerns about the internationalist aspects of Islam led the Portuguese to be especially suspicious of Muslim Indians, the so-called monhés, most of whom suffered the double handicap of being British subjects7. Further compounding the situation for the Portuguese was their understanding of the role played by Zanzibar in Muslim affairs in Mozambique. In at least one instance in the early 1930s, a religious dispute in Cabo Delgado was referred for adjudication « to the principal sharif of Zanzibar, who is consequently regarded as the chief prelate of the Mohammedans of this region »8. A few years later, Administrative Inspector Pinto Correia offered a particularly xenophobic reading of this situation in a paragraph on « foreign mission activity » :

Many continue to be devoted to the influence of the sharifs of Zanzibar, behind which misrepresentation is hidden an Intelligence Service [emphasis in original], solid proof of which exists in our dominions. Schools and mosques flourish on all sides, signifying a religious organization which among Muslims is synonymous with a political organization which is moved and oriented by foreigners originating from Tanganyika, Nyasaland and even Kenya, and the activity of which is building freely among the masses of natives over whom the surveillance of the administrative authorities is entirely absent9.

At about the same time on Mozambique Island he recorded his outrage at discovering a plaque on a building located between the « great mosque » and the African market that read, « The Mohamedan Madresa School – Mozambique – 1923 » in English and Arabic script, but without a word of Portuguese !10

By the end of the decade, Pinto Correia had developed his own strategy for addressing what he believed to be a serious challenge to the Portuguese presence in northern Mozambique on the basis of his appreciation of the powerful influence exercised by Qadiri leader Shaykh Abdul Majid from Mecufi throughout the administrative district of Lurio. He reasoned, « Given the impossibility of destroying the Muslim faith, and thus for the time being restraining its expansion, we should channel it, subordinating it to the interests of Portuguese sovereignty ». Thus, he argued for supporting repair of the mosque at Mecufi. More boldly, however, in a section entitled « Nationalization of Indigenous Islam », he proposed funding a Caixa Portuguesa Maometana (Portuguese Muslim Fund) from local taxes out of which such projects could be supported. Pinto Correia also saw this strategy as part and parcel of the continuing battle of Christianity against Islam, noting that the former was rapidly losing ground to the latter and deploring especially the apostasy of one older Christian on Ibo Island. He noted, in particular, the strategy pursued by Lyautey in Morocco and the Italians in North and Northeast Africa as a model for the Portuguese in Mozambique, pointing out that Lyautey was not only Catholic and a soldier, but the brother of a Jesuit ! « Nevertheless, Lyautey, upon composing his will », he concludes, « stipulated that the following inscription, more or less, be engraved upon his tomb : "Here lies F., inhabitant of France in Morocco, and who never in his life forgot to respect Islam" »11. It will come as no surprise,


I expect, that Pinto Correia’s proposal was apparently stillborn ; certainly, no further mention of it occurs in the records I have been able to identify.

During the following decade it seems that the same worries continued to nag the Portuguese. From Niassa, where Islam was well established among the Yao, an official recognized that the Portuguese needed to learn more about the organization of Islam « for future purposes of great national interest and the social development of these people »12. On a different front, Pinto Correia’s successor as district inspector in Cabo Delgado writes that one important chief « is a Muslim cleric and, according to general opinion, a possible representative of the Mohammedan Bishop [sic] of Tanganyika ». Later in his report he notes that the district is riddled with itinerant Muslim « padres (priests, sic) » who are trained in Tanganyika, such that he fears the « denationalization » of Islam. At the same time, he realized that « the closing of mosques, and supervision that approaches persecution on the part of the administrative authority makes no sense », and will only backfire. What is required are more Catholic missionaries13. Working the same district in the same period, another inspector also comments on the « direct dependency » of Muslims on Zanzibar. In Porto Amélia, he notes, there is an influential Muslim « Bishop » with whom the Portuguese differ. This Said N’tondo « has so much influence among the Muslims, that he receives correspondence directly from the Chief [sic] of Zanzibar and was chosen to go to Mecca, by airplane, a few years ago »14.



By the 1950s, that is, by the time of Archbishop Gouveia’s wrought-up pronouncement with which I began this paper, the Portuguese had still learned nothing with respect to the growing Muslim community in the north. Moreover, African nationalism, the fourth of Gouveia’s four « isms », was now beginning to make its presence felt from across the border in Tanganyika. An anonymous and undocumented source asserts that clandestine Islamic associations were created in the early years of the decade in all four districts of northern Mozambique. In addition, it claims that « militant elements of the Makuas also established a very strong under­ground Islamic political force, called the Brotherhood of Muslim Makuas », and that all these groups were put down brutally by the Portuguese in 1954-195515. These claims remain to be substantiated. In 1960, no doubt worried by the circulation of anti-Portuguese ideas emanating from across its East African borders, the Missiological Mission of the Portuguese Overseas Ministry commissioned a study of Islam in the north by Albano Mendes Pedro, a Catholic missionary who had worked in that part of the territory16. The author reports on the robust character of Islam throughout the region, noting that every community had its own mosque and tariqa. He comments on the extent and complexity of hierarchical organization within the Muslim community, which he attributes to three decades of going outside the territory to acquire further Islamic education, citing Tanganyika and Saudi Arabia as important destinations for training. What especially concerned him, however, was the wide availability of Islamic literature from Cairo, Bombay, and Lahore, phonograph records from Egypt, and broadcasts by Radio Islam from Cairo. All this activity was worrying because « The Islamism of the natives of Mozambique never accepted the domination of the Portuguese as definitive », while « The current African nationalist agitation makes the Muslim chiefs of Mozambique deliriously happy »17. It was his sense that all these factors made for the creation of a unified Islamic community « beyond the existing political frontiers »18. For example, Yao Muslims in Niassa « are subordinated to a grand mufti and depend on Bagdad, in Iraq, through Nairobi, in Kenya », while on the northern coast « subjection to Masqat, in Oman, in the Persian Gulf, is known ». Muslims had ties to many foreign centers of the faith. « Mozambican Islamism », he fretted, « owes most of its inspiration and orientation to Egypt, Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan »19. Pedro’s fearful reading of the situation belies his missionary calling, I think, where he suggests Portugal might be facing « the phase of open war » with Islam, reminding his readers that « The Portuguese people carry in their soul, from the beginning, the spirit of the anti-Islamic Crusade »20. Not surprisingly, the remainder of his report consists of a series of Catholic-Islamic oppositions as a framework for his recommendations for invigorating the Catholic presence in Mozambique. Much of what he says concerns various forms of cultural and moral propaganda, from education to radio broadcasts, to combat Islam. Yet even this profoundly Catholic observer includes the caveat, « To avoid unnecessary friction with Islamism is imperative »21.

Portuguese intelligence did not depend solely upon itinerant undercover Catholic priests. Portuguese authorities were especially suspicious of Makua Muslims in Cabo Delgado district for the same reasons that vexed Pedro in Niassa. In 1953, the administrator of the Circumscription of the Macondes warned he had learned that « there exist in the hands of amualimo [Muslim teachers] and other such Mohammedans, all of them natives, clandestinely imported publications containing subversive propaganda of bolshevist coloration and relating to the doctrine of the Mau-Mau sect »22. According to confidential reports from Quionga, on the far northern coast of Mozambique, the local chief had received three letters from his nephew, who had fled to Tanganyika in 1956. Writing from Zanzibar, Hemedi Alawi asks his uncle, Bakar Hemedi, to look after the condition of his fields, his cashew trees and his houses, because soon the whites will be gone. He notes tensions between Arabs and Africans at Zanzibar, and refers to Abeid Karume as President of Zanzibar and Julius Nyerere as President of Tanganyika. In a second letter he reports that in Zanzibar people want to be governed by the Africans. The official comment on this correspondence emphasizes the problem of infiltration of ideas that « we call "nhyererianas" » and how to combat them with loyal chiefs23. Yet all the evidence indicates that, despite several suggestions by officers on the ground to adopt a more flexible attitude towards indigenous Islam, on the eve of African independence in Tanganyika – soon to be followed by Zanzibar, the revolution, and union with the former as Tanzania – the Portuguese in Mozambique had not made any fundamental changes in their policy towards Muslim Mozambicans. The founding of Frelimo at Dar es Salaam in June 1962 and the beginning of armed struggle in September 1964 would change all that.



Islamic Policy during the Era of the Armed Liberation Struggle24
Common sense might suggest that, confronted by a unified liberation movement that combined dominating elements and personalities that reflected « indigenous nationalism », « Protestantism », and « communism » – at least from the perspective of the ruling elite of the Portuguese colonial state, the decision to try to enlist Islam as a counter force to Frelimo was a logical decision based on territorial conditions. Looking at the wider context, however, we must remember that by the time armed struggle began in Mozambique, the Portuguese state was already entangled in parallel wars of liberation in its other African colonies. Guiné-Bissau, in particular, where the Portuguese had enlisted conservative Muslim forces among the Fula elite against the liberation movement, provided a ready model for colonial intelligence services in Mozambique25. In fact, in the mid-1950s we can begin to see that Islam was being taken more seriously at the metropolitan level with the denunciation of Islamic nationalism by Adriano Moreira, who was Director of the influential Instituto superior de ciências sociais e política Ultramarina (Higher Institute of Social Sciences and Overseas Politics) from the late 1950s to the early 1970s and served briefly as Overseas Minister (1961-1962)26. The late 1950s also witnessed increased interest by the Portuguese military in the influence of Islam, as we know from a recently published 1959 lecture at the Instituto de Altos Estudos Militares, which emphasized the significance of « the Islamic movement » in Guiné and Mozambique, although Mozambique was mentioned only in passing27. Greater public awareness came with the publication in 1958 of José Gonçalves, O Mundo Árabo-Islâmico e o Ultramar Português (The Arab-Islamic World and Overseas Portugal) in 1958 by the official Junta de Investigações do Ultramar and his related study on Islam in Guiné-Bissau a few years later28. In his general study, Gonçalves includes a substantial section on Islam in Mozambique, warning his readers of the need « to neutralize that de-Europeanizing Islamicization » that was spreading rapidly throughout northern Mozambique. The solution, he suggested, was « to intensify our politics of integration », that is, the purely theoretical notion upon which Portugal based its claim to empire. He specifically recommends initially focusing Catholic missionary activities on the Maconde, « most of whom have avoided Islam », and then extending this policy to other animists as opportunity arose to extend effective Portuguese rule. At the very end of his presentation, he urges that at the very least there be formed, « a study group of the Muslim-Arab influence on Overseas Portugal, designed to follow closely the penetration of Islam, to determine the degree of its poltical virulence and propose appropriate measures to safeguard national sovereignty, where this is seen to be threatened by the march of Islam ». Such a group was in fact established in 1960 at the Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa (Geographical Society of Lisbon)29. By 1965, then, the wider context of Portuguese colonial policy had changed sufficiently to bring about a new policy towards Islam in Mozambique.

In that year, the Portuguese intelligence branch known as the Serviços de Centralização e Coordenação de Informações (Services for Centralization and Coordenation of Information, hereafter the SCCIM, for Mozambique) distributed a study entitled Winning the Adherence of the Populations, a form of bureaucratic babble characteristic of the Portuguese and many other international intelligence services, as well. Essentially, this document reflects a kind of psycho-sociological prescription for winning the hearts and minds of various sectors of the Mozambican population against the onslaught of revolutionary African nationalism represented by Frelimo. To take only one example of this line of thinking, the author comments that Africans are susceptible to persuasion by prophets because their mentality is characterized by mythologizing. To combat this tendency, he urges that the Portuguese woo the religious leadership :

A more comprehensive attitude on the part of the Administration seems possible for gaining their collaboration as an indispensable requirement in the struggle against subversive action carried on by religious elements. It is believed to be an efficient weapon to combat religious movements that assume inconvenient attitudes to the national interests.

And in the absence of or when the existing forces don’t collaborate, it does not seem difficult to "invent them" and thrust them into the heart of "the MASSES"30.

Although the body of this report contains no real analysis of the situation in Mozambique, its style of discourse anticipates the attitude that the Portuguese colonial administration soon came to adopt towards the Muslim population of northern Mozambique.

The next step for the Portuguese was to acquire substantive information upon which they might determine a course of action acceptable to both civil and military intelligence services. Accordingly, in 1965 the SCCIM prepared a confidential questionnaire on Islam31. Instructions to the questionnaire indicate that it was to be administered to all Muslim leaders with any claims to prestige or knowledge of their religious communities. Administrators were specifically admonished not to adopt any unfavorable attitudes towards their informants, « with an eye to gathering results as objective as possible ». The questionnaire is composed of four sections with a total of twenty-eight questions, most of them with a number of follow-up inquiries. The wording of the questionnaire indicates that the individuals who drafted it were familiar with the various formal differences within Islam, and asks for details on each respondent’s place within the Islamic hierarchy and their specific affiliations. On the other hand, some of the theological questions, such as how Jesus and Mary are regarded by Muslims, belie what can only be regarded as Catholic wishful thinking. The basic document, however, was designed to provide a framework for understanding the nature of the Islamic communities of Mozambique, from what takes place in mosques and what languages are used to whose leadership was recognized. And this it achieves. In particular, there are questions that probe the relationship of Mozambican Muslims to external religious and political authorities, such as the Sultan of Zanzibar. The final set of questions leaves no doubt that what the Portuguese hoped to find was a way to create a centralized territorial Islamic hierarchy that could be co-opted by the colonial administration.



It is not clear from the existing documentation whether or not the execution of this project was undertaken as a separate exercise. According to José Alberto Gomes de Melo Branquinho, a study of the Islamic hierarchy was carried out in 1965 for Cabo Delgado and Mozambique districts, although I have not thus far succeeded in locating a copy of this document. There seems also to have been an extensive survey of more than seven hundred Muslim leaders across the colony that was concluded in 1967, but again I have not yet discovered a copy of it for public consultation32. Whatever the disposition of these reports, some of the questions of the 1965 questionnaire were incorporated into a series of district studies that the government commissioned government to study traditional leadership in the colony. The first of these was carried out by Melo Branquinho for Manica e Sofala Province and in November 1965 led to the decision to commission similar studies for other districts. What we possess for the time being, then, is Melo Branquinho’s lengthy, detailed study of traditional authorities in Mozambique district, nearly ninety pages of which is devoted exclusively to Islam. This study was ordered in September 1966, begun in 1967, and completed in 196933. There are two aspects of Melo Branquinho’s report that deserve special mention. The first is his careful analysis of the Islamic leadership network, which among other things provides a unique map – both organizational and geographical – of the eight turuq branches in Mozambique district. To my mind it provides an extraordinary framework for more detailed research into the history of the turuq in this part of eastern Africa. The second is his political analysis of the threat posed by Islam to Portuguese rule in the area of his study and his consequent policy recommendations. In this paper I only address the former insofar as they relate to the latter.

By the time Melo Branquinho began his research in 1967, the armed struggle had been under way for three years and Frelimo presence was well established in both Cabo Delgado and Niassa. As we have already seen, Islam in Cabo Delgado was considered one of several threats to Portuguese suzerainty and because of Frelimo’s success there Muslim opposition, both real and imagined, was dealt with harshly. In the section of his report entitled « Islamism and Subversion », Melo Branquinho documents a significant number of anti-Portuguese incidents dating back to 1959 that connected Muslim leaders in Cabo Delgado to their counterparts in Tanganyika. These included regular communication and travel across the porous border, dissemination of anti-colonial propaganda, and even a team of touring shaykhs from Tanganyika who were said to be deliberately stirring up sentiment against the Portuguese. In mid-1964, before the opening of armed struggle in Cabo Delgado on 25 September of that year, a friendly mwalimo (Muslim teacher) informed Melo Branquinho that at Montepuez, an important trading center in the interior of Cabo Delgado district, a certain shaykh Sabite told a meeting of Muslim leaders : « This land must be ours ; within a short while we will see people from Tanganyika come to throw out the Portuguese whites. In the mosques you must announce this news to the faithful so that all unite with those people in the hope of gaining victory ». The same shaykh told them that these were the orders of Abdul Kamal-Megama, the influential Qadiri leader of Mecufi, on the southern coast of Cabo Delgado district, who had great influence throughout the district. Little wonder, then, that Megama, who in 1963 had gone on pilgrimage to Mecca, was suspected by PIDE of having ties to the anti-colonial movement. Subsequently, in 1965 he was imprisoned in the notoriously brutal prison at Ibo and murdered in early 196634. Nor was he the only notable Muslim to die in the Ibo prison. According to Muarabu Shauri, testifying in August 1970 before a special United Nations Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on human rights in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, « a sheikh of the Muslim religion named Fazeira Yusuf » was shot to death by pistol there in January or February 196535. Elsewhere Melo Branquinho notes the arrest by PIDE, the Portuguese secret police, of a shaykh Chibuane Namanga, who resided in Tanganyika, and his imprisonment in the hospital in Nampula, the district headquarters of Mozambique district ; in October 1965 the imprisonment in the area of Muite, in Mecubúri, of « a great number of Islamic dignataries, among them the shaykhs Buanamire or Panamiore Gicone, considered the most important local chief, Pilale Selege, Selemane Gicone, Mussa Male and Navara Mulima, for suspicion of politically subversive activities ; » the imprisonment in March 1966 of a shaykh Niquisse Mussa Mirasse « Mucomane » and his confession of links to a Yao fish trader from Vila Cabral (Lichinga) who was known to have held meetings around Lalaua « to talk about politically subversive subjects ; » and, finally, the imprisonment in the same area of « a great number of Islamic dignataries, about thirty, among them the great shaykh Pedro Limua Mustafá and Assoliane Avuleque, for suspicion of politically subversive activities »36. At Lalaua, in particular, official retribution was particularly brutal and extended to the entire Muslim community, so that « all the mosques were burned or destroyed, religious books seized, although it was suspected that many had been buried, and the few dignitaries not implicated and the Islamized population were compelled, chiefdom by chiefdom, to come to the post headquarters, to submit to a trial by eating pork »37. As the dates of these anti-Islamic sweeps indicate, things had picked up « since the first terrorist events », to use Melo Branquinho’s term for Frelimo’s military activities38. Whatever the substance of these charges, it is clear that the Portuguese took severe measures against any member of the Muslim elite in Cabo Delgado about whom there might be even a whisper of suspicion that he might be an « apologist for the independence of Mozambique » or engaged in « a work of anti-nationalist [i.e. anti-Portuguese] mentali­zation »39.

For Melo Branquinho, the most important conclusion of this review was that almost none of the cases he reported involved Muslim leaders from Mozambique district and that of those that did few had connections with Cabo Delgado owing to the fact that the leadership structure and organi­zation of the turuq, as he demonstrates in the first part of this section of his report, was highly decentralized. He suggests that « the Islamic envi­ronment » of the district had not reached that of Cabo Delgado, especially as it existed around Montepuez, where it was potentially disas­trous for Portuguese sovereignty. Moreover, he urged that « we cannot consider that possibilities for the improvement [aproveitamento, but also with the impli­cation of « exploitation »] of the responsible authorities for the religious and political conduct of the masses of Islamicized Macuas are lost »40. Melo Branquinho warned against taking a heavy-handed approach in Mozambique district and urged that district officials « find a solution to the situation created by the then administrative authorities of Lalaua and of Muite, which only brings inconveniences to the political order » and blames entire communities for the acts of individuals. « We gain nothing », he contended, « with all this »41. « What is imperative is to reorient the mentality of the future Islamic chiefs or the locally responsible Muslims so that they should not come to regard us unfavorably ; it is a moral force that the Administration must exercise »42. The object must be, he argued, « their integration, as Muslims, into the pluriracial and plurireligious Portuguese Nation ». The way to do this was through the leadership of the turuq, all eight of which were based at Mozambique Island, and through the ziyara that were regularly organized by them, but especially by the Qadiriyya Sadate43.

Melo Branquinho also learned from his research that not only was there no centralized Islamic chain of command in Mozambique district, but also that because of the autonomy of each tariqa that Muslims recognized no external religious authority. The Portuguese had always feared the influence of the Sultan of Zanzibar, not realizing that the importance of Zanzibar as an East African center of Islamic learning had no theological connection to the Ibadi Busaidi ruler. Thus, the overthrow of the last Sultan of Zanzibar in the 1964 Revolution considerably alleviated Portuguese fears. And when in September 1967 a report was published that the Sultan might visit Mozambique Island, they were clearly encouraged by the response of local Muslim authorities, who organized a commission of local turuq (Comissão das Confrarias Maometanas Nativas) (Commission of Native Muslim Brotherhoods) that « rejected the spirtual authority of the Sultan of Zanzibar, whose spiritual ties are with the founders of the turuq who were natives of the Comoro Islands and Madagascar, so that today they are completely independent, even of Mecca »44.

Melo Branquinho concludes his extensive report by commenting that « the weakness of Islam in Mozambique District resides in the lack of homogeneity and in its internal divisions, and the fragility of its organi­zation », observing further that Islam there « is, therefore, more a current than a force ». Nevertheless, he cautions, « it is certain that it is not very easy to promote the integration of the Islamized people of Mozambique into the Portuguese Nation, above all those of Arab or Indian origin », whom he may have regarded as more susceptible to reform currents present in southern Africa that emanated from Pakistan45. With respect to the turuq, he advocates that the way to pursue the national interests is to encourage « the traditional tendency of Islam » by devising a highly disciplined and urgent plan for religious activity that would offer « not only a more practical alternative than Christianity…., but also a way to achieve social evolu­tion »46. More practically, he recommends the establishment of a unified Qur’an school at Mozambique Island as being « an ancient yearning of the influential Muslim chiefs ». Finally, he further suggests that wider diffusion of the Portuguese language might be achieved by translating the Qur’an into Portuguese47.

By the time Melo Branquinho submitted his report to the SCCIM, initial steps had already been taken to implement a new policy towards the Muslims of Mozambique. On 17 December 1968, corresponding to 26 Ramadan 1388, the Governor-General of Mozambique, Baltazar Rebello de Souza, broadcast greetings to the Muslims of the entire « Province », marking « the first time in the History of Overseas Portugal that a governor thus addressed, formally and specifically, the Muslim communities ». The timing of this radio broadcast was not left to chance, being carefully selected for the propitious Laylat al-Qadr, the 27 night of Ramadan, which marks the revelation of the Qur’an and when angels are believed to speak directly to those on Earth. The Governor-General began his broadcast with the first sura (chapter) (al-Fatiha) (« The Opening ») of the Qur’an. The body of his message emphasized the ecumenical character of the Catholic Church, citing the common elements of the Qur’an and the Bible, while also mentioning the importance of al-Bukhari’s Hadith (the most respected collection of reports of the Prophet’s conduct, doings or sayings) in his discourse about Mary and Jesus. He also noted the significance for Portuguese Catholics of the shrine to Mary at Fátima, « the name of the beloved daughter of the Prophet », concluding his homily by emphasizing their common brotherhood under God, family values, and « devotion to the progress of the Portuguese land of Mozambique »th. Clearly, the Portuguese battle to win the hearts and minds of Muslim Mozambicans had begun.

What was Frelimo policy towards Islam ? In a word, there was no such policy. The earliest reference I have found to Islam in an official Frelimo document dates to a statement denouncing the celebration at Lourenço Marques on 7 May 1965 of the 25 anniversary of the Missionary Agreement that entrusted all official education in the Portuguese colonies to the Roman Catholic Church. The statement quotes the « Ten Principles » directed to seminary students by the Auxiliary Bishop of Lourenço Marques, Don Custódio Alvim Pereira, as evidence of the pro-colonialist position of the Church in Mozambique. The 10thth and last of these states : « The slogan "Africa for Africans" is a philosophical lie and is in defiance of Christian Civilisation, because actual events tell us that it is Communism and Islam which want to impose their civilisation on the Africans ». To this Frelimo replied : « We have nothing against the Catholic religion. One of the basic principles which inspires the policy of FRELIMO is respect for all religious beliefs. Among our militants, there are many Christians and Muslims »48.

A year later, on the 2 anniversary of the opening of the armed struggle for liberation, Frelimo President Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane noted the necessity for Mozambicans to unite together, despite any differences among themselves, to defeat Portuguese colonialism. On this occasion he specifi­cally, and uniquely, recognized that « We derive from the spiritual contribu­tions of our various religious traditions - Mohammedan, Christian, animist, etc., the necessary moral courage to sustain the sufferings for which we are destined in the next years of the national liberation struggle »nd. Less than a year later the absence of any reference to religion in a call for tribal unity within Frelimo is noticeable, just as is a second denunciation of the role of the Church in sustaining Portuguese colonialism, which ends with the statement that « Many of our militants have announced their decision to abandon catholicism »49. By the time of the great leadership divisions that racked Frelimo in 1968, led ultimately to the assassination of Mondlane on
3 February 1969, and were not resolved until Samora Machel was elected President in May 1970, there was little room for attention to matters of religion, as ethnic politics and the definition of a more rigorous socialist ideology dominated most of the movement’s internal discourse. But by the 5 aniversary of the armed struggle, the party leadership was already alert to the fact that « The Portuguese have made no secret of their intention to employ various tactics to "win over" the local population ». Psychological warfare was counted among these by Frelimoth. In the early 1970s, Frelimo communications regularly pointed out the dangers posed for the struggle by Portuguese psycho-social services, noting that these were becoming increa­singly sophisticated as the colonial authorities worked to divide Mozambicans in order to maintain their rule, especially by co-opting tradi­tional leaders to their cause50. But religious leaders are not specifically mentioned.

Although Governor-General Souza successfully repeated his Ramadhan message the following year at the reopening of the Gulamo Mosque at Lumbo, on the mainland opposite Mozambique Island, and was emulated by his successor, Eduardo Arantes e Oliveira, in December 1970, it appears that the Portuguese did not systematically follow up on the path-breaking radio broadcast by Souza and that an inexplicable lapse of fifteen months occurred before they played their next card51. According to Monteiro, during this interim period Portuguese military intelligence advocated for « opportunistic psychological actions » as part of a larger strategy to enlist Mozambique’s Muslims to their cause. The components of this strategy were to be demonstrating respect for Islam, recognizing Mozambican Islam as an important socio-religious force and creating permanent consultative structures, and preserving Muslim culture while concurrently supporting programs that would support greater use of the Portuguese language by making available « fundamental Islamic texts »52. It would seem, then, that Melo Branquinho’s efforts had not been in vain. Although efforts to constitute a « Council of Notables » appear not to have coalesced, Portuguese authorities did, in fact, eventually pursue an active program designed to capture the support of influential Muslim leaders throughout Mozambique. The key Portuguese strategist was Fernando Amaro Monteiro, who has written extensively about both this episode in the struggle for Mozambique and his experiences as its moving force53. By the beginning of 1971, Monteiro, who was then a researcher at the University of Lourenço Marques, convinced his superiors that they should assemble a trained team to lead this effort. Accordingly, he offered a course on Islam that was commissioned by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Director of the SCCIM. From the individuals who attended these lectures, Monteiro selected a team of four men who joined him in what became the Working Group on Islamic Subjects (Grupo de Trabalho sobre Assuntos Islâmicos), which reported to the Provincial Cabinet for Psychological Action. Although it only existed as a separate entity from April through August 1972, Monteiro continued to serve as a consultant to the colonial government for the duration of the war, that is, until the Portuguese revolution of 25 April 197454.

The first sign of this concerted strategy can be seen in Moçambique em Imagens (Mozambique in Pictures), a propaganda broadsheet of carefully selected photographs and captions that first appeared in 197155.
The February 1972 number of this publication includes a single photograph of the Governor-General of Mozambique at his official residence greeting four « Muslim dignitaries » who had just returned from pilgrimage to Mecca56. The following month, however, a special number featured a visit of the Governor-General, accompanied by General Kaúlza de Arriaga, the military commander leading Portuguese armed forces against Frelimo,
to Mozambique Island on the occasion of the 474 anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s first celebration of the Mass on Mozambican soil. In fact, of the six photographs included in this poster, only one shows the Governor-General attending Mass in the chapel of the Palácio de S. Paulo, one shows him walking with other Portuguese dignitaries inside the Fortaleza de S. Sebastiaõ, and the remaining four feature the Muslims of the Island. One photograph shows the Governor-General greeting a line of ordinary Muslims, several of whom are playing tambourines (taris), beneath which appears an excerpt from his message to the Muslims of the Province :
« In the entire world no people manages to live in greater and more natural affection than we, the Portuguese, in the variety of our colors and beliefs ». Another shows him walking side by side with Shaykh Momade Said Mujabo as they enter Gulamo Mosque. The other photographs show people gathering outside the mosque and the Governor-General addressing the faithful inside and receiving their greetings, with a caption quoting Shaykh Haji Abdul Razaque as saying, « Spokesman for my brothers in faith and in this sacred place, we affirm our unconditional support to the Government and offer our prestige for the good of Portugal, one and indivisible ». A final quote from the Shaykh states, « This occasion clearly demonstrates the coexistence among the Portuguese of the two religions in Mozambique, Christian and Muslim - the understanding, growing and genuinely sincere respect, and ecumenism »th.

The culmination of this psychological action campaign occurred later that year with the publication of a Portuguese translation of a selection from al-Bukhari’s Hadith. Prior to publication, the colonial authorities assembled a significant group of Muslim leaders at Mozambique Island for them to consider giving their approval to this popular edition. These dignitaries included representatives of all eight turuq at Mozambique Island, plus Shaykh Momade Said Mujabo and twelve others drawn from the entire colony, excepting Cabo Delgado, including Lourenço Marques, Inhambane, Beira, Vila Pery (now Chimoio), Quelimane, Bajone (in Zambézia), Novo Freixo (Cuamba), Marrupa, and Vila Cabral (Lichinga). According to Monteiro, ten were Africans, nine were mixed Afro-Asian or Afro-Arab, and two were Asian. All were Sunni Muslims. The final version of the Hadith includes the formal endorsement and recommendation to the faithful to read it by all twenty-one leaders, dated Mozambique Island, 5 Rajab 1392 and 15 August 197257. Before the end of that year, the Portuguese issued yet another special number of Moçambique em Imagens devoted entirely to this momentous propaganda success. It features a photograph of the publica­tion, one of the faithful at prayer, another of the assembled Muslim dignitaries in the Town Hall prior to the signing, named individual photographs of six in the act of signing the declaration of endorsement, Shaykh Momade Issufo of Lourenço Marques reading the statement, three other leaders seated in repose, a drawing of the Gulamo Mosque at Lumbo, and finally a photograph of Shaykh Momade Said Mujabo with the following caption attributed to a letter from him to Sayyid Omar b. Ahmed b. Abu Bakr b. Sumait al-Alawi of the Comoro Islands : « The Muslim people of this land are gladdened by the esteem and interest of their Government in their religion, especially of late, having created a sense of joy and satisfaction among us »58.

During this same period, Monteiro’s group had been busily at work preparing a report on Islamic radical reform that clearly influenced the Portuguese decision to throw their support to the turuq59. The stimulus for this report appears to have been tensions that surfaced at Lourenço Marques at the end of 1971 between « the bulk of Afro-Muslims, sociologically the majority, and the action of a Licenciado [an advanced degree holder] in Theology from the University of Medina named Abubacar Ismael, known as ‘Mangirá », who was born in Inhambane but lived in the capital city.
The object of his criticism was a fatwa (authoritative legal opinion) that had been issued at Mozambique Island by Shaykh Momade Said Mujabo in August 1968, in which he resolved a long-standing dispute among the turuq at António Enes (Angoche) over the proper manner to conduct funerals by recommending a compromise between the twaliki, who celebrated by shouting, and the sukuti, who advocated silence60. Maulana (an honorific title) Abubacar Ismael had received some support from two apparently disgruntled members of the local Muslim community, including the former Imam (leader of the spiritual community) of the mosque of the Associação Afro-Mahometana (Afro-Mohamedan Association) in Lourenço Marques, Momade Issufo, who was a native of Mozambique Island, where he was regarded with suspicion for his doctrinaire beliefs. He also attacked the local practice organized by the Associação Muçulmana da Beira (Muslim Asso­ciation of Beira) of making pilgrimmage to a local saint’s sanctuary61. Furthermore, the Maulana had received reformist literature from Pakistan via South Africa criticizing excessive celebration of Maulid, the celebrations of the Prophet’s birthday, thus raising fears that anti-Portuguese Islamism might strike « a harsh blow at the center of Mozambican Islam ». All of this was deeply worrying to local officials of the security police, the Direcção Geral de Segurança (General Security Directorate), as the hated PIDE had been renamed62. Accordingly, in July 1972 the Working Group on Islamic Subjects produced a short report on Muslim thought with a final section on the challenge of Wahhabism in Mozambique that was widely distributed to all the key administrative and intelligence representatives throughout the territory63. So when Sharif Seyyid (another leadership title) Said Mohammed Habib Bakr, who exercised authority over dozens of Qadiriyya branches throughout northern Mozambique, threatened the following month at the great show of support for the publication of the Hadith to hold a series of violent meetings unless the Portuguese did something to relieve these pressures, it was clear that decisive action had to be taken.

Building upon the developing aura of good will that had emerged from the August meeting at Mozambique Island and, it would seem, the specific relationship between Shaykh Momade Said Mujabo and Sayyid Omar b. Ahmed b. Abu Bakr b. Sumait al-Alawi, during the following month the Portuguse called upon the Mufti of the Comoros, the very same Sayyid Omar b. Ahmed, to resolve the differences regarding bid’a (innovation) between the eight turuq of Mozambique Island and their reformist critics. When the Mufti decided in favor of the turuq and against their zealous opponents, the Portuguese realized that they had further enhanced their reputation among the Muslim leadership of the north64. The result was the inclusion of the endorsement of the translation of the Hadith selections in the final publi­cation of this text. No wonder that this « political instrument to promote the diffusion of Portuguese among the Islamized strata of the Province » was so enthusiastically received in Lisbon65.

In the end, although Maulana Abubacar Ismael continued to cause the Portuguese some problems with his reformist views on Islam, he did not prove to be an impossible thorn in their side66. For their part, the Portuguese continued to show support for Mozambique’s leading Muslims by featuring their photographs in Moçambique em imagens. In January 1973, the Governor-General is shown as guest of honor at the communal celebration of ‘Id al-Adha, the sacrifical festival of the hajj season. The following month’s edition includes a photograph showing him being thanked by recently returned pilgrims from Mecca and Medina, « where they were transported at the invitation of the Government ». On this occasion, the caption continues, the Governbor-General affirmed : « I consider them as brothers and I have appreciated the manner as in all parts of the Province by which I have been warmly received, and, also, the loyalty, the vehemence, the warmth that all place in the building of a better Mozambique for which we are fighting »67. Later that year, there occurs a photograph of the celebration of Ramadhan in Cabo Delgado, featuring a crowd carrying a Portuguese flag near the Town Hall of Porto Amélia (Pemba), « where they presented their compliments to the Mayor ». The final number for the year includes the by now familiar photograph of the Governor-General shaking hands with a group of pilgrims about to leave on hajj under the heading, « On the Road to Mecca »68. A month later these same pilgrims are featured at the top of the poster, all wearing Saudi kefiyyeh and elaborately embroidered robes, as they express their gratitude to the Governor-General « for the facilities granted »69.

However effective this pro-Muslim strategy may have seemed to the Portuguese at the time, not to mention its perception by the Muslim leader­ship of Mozambique, and especially those of the turuq, time was running out. Three months later the military coup in Portugal took place that set Mozambique on the road to independence on 25 June 1975 under a Transitional Government led by Frelimo. In fact, the very last number of Moçambique em Imagens is dated 25 April 1974 and includes photographs of the Revolution of the Carnations and the freeing of political prisoners from the notorious Machava Prison in Lourenço Marques. Considering the legacy of collaboration with the Portuguese that marked the final few years of colonialism in Mozambique, it is not surprising that at independence Frelimo did not embrace the Muslim leadership of Mozambique and its organizations as comrades in arms70.


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