The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. Government policy prohibits discrimination against persons based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Religious organizations are banned from involvement in politics.
Zanzibar forms part of the union government of Tanzania. While Zanzibar has its own president, constitution, court system, and legislature, Zanzibar is subject to the Tanzanian constitution and the religious freedom provisions therein.
Customary and statutory laws govern Christians in both criminal and civil cases. Muslims are governed by customary and statutory law in criminal cases, but civil cases fall in a separate system. In Zanzibar, Muslims have a parallel system of kadhi courts (Muslim courts administered by a judge trained in the Islamic legal tradition) to judge matters of divorce, child custody, inheritance, and other issues covered by customary Islamic law. All cases tried in Zanzibar courts, except those involving constitutional issues and Islamic law, can be appealed to the Union Court of Appeals on the mainland. Decisions of Zanzibar’s kadhi courts can be appealed to a special court consisting of the Zanzibar chief justice and five other sheikhs. The kadhi, who is the senior Islamic scholar responsible for interpreting the Qur’an, is approved by the president and recognized as a judge. There is also a kadhi court of appeal. On the mainland, Muslims are subject to Islamic law in civil cases. If the involved parties cannot come to an agreement with the guidance of Muslim leaders, these cases are heard by magistrate courts, as there is no kadhi court system on the mainland.
The National Muslim Council of Tanzania (BAKWATA) has called for the establishment of a mainland kadhi court. In 2010, a committee formed by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda forwarded recommendations on the proposed structure and operation of a mainland kadhi court and its legal authority, budget, and incorporation into the existing legal system to a panel of clerics and legal experts. At year’s end, the government had yet to make a decision on this matter.
Religious organizations must register at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on the mainland and with the chief government registrar on Zanzibar. Registration on Zanzibar normally took 90 days. On the mainland, the registration process sometimes took as long as four years due to vetting and investigation. In order to register, religious organizations must provide the names of at least 10 followers, a written constitution, resumes of their leaders, and a letter of recommendation from their district commissioner. In addition, Muslim groups registering on the mainland must provide a letter of approval from BAKWATA. Muslim groups registering in Zanzibar must provide a letter of approval from the mufti--the government’s official liaison to the Muslim community. Christian groups on the mainland are also required to produce letters of acknowledgement from the leaders of their denominations.
On the mainland, BAKWATA elects the mufti. On Zanzibar, the mufti is appointed by the president of Zanzibar under the 2001 Mufti Law and serves as a leader of the religious community and as a public servant who assists with local governmental affairs.
The Zanzibar mufti nominally approves all Islamic activities, including gatherings on Zanzibar, and supervises all Zanzibari mosques. The mufti also approves religious lectures by visiting clergy. The mufti also supervises the importation of Islamic literature from outside Zanzibar.
Public schools may teach religion, but it is not part of the national curriculum. Parents or volunteers teach religion on an occasional basis. School administration or parent and teacher associations must approve the classes. Many private schools and universities are associated with religious institutions. There is an Islamic university in Morogoro, a Catholic university in Mwanza, a Lutheran university in Dar es Salaam, a Baha’i secondary school in Iringa, and numerous Islamic and Christian primary and secondary schools throughout the country.
The government does not designate religion on passports or records of vital statistics; however, it requires religion to be stated in police reports in cases where individuals may be asked to give sworn testimony. The government also requires children to indicate a religion on school registration forms so children can be assigned to the appropriate religion class if the school offers religious instruction, and on applications for medical care in order that any specific religious custom may be observed.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Maulid, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Hajj, and Christmas.