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New cardinal highlights fresh threat of 'extremist Islam'

by Tola Mbakwe

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to Church in Need, Cardinal-designate Désiré Tzarahazana of Toamasina claimed that radical groups are "buying people" for their cause and that plans are in the works to build more than 2,600 mosques in the country.

The rise of Islamism is palpable. You can see it everywhere. It is an invasion, with money from the Gulf States and from Pakistan – they buy people," he said.

He gave the example of women in northern Madagascar being paid to wear a burka in public in order to advertise the expansion of Islam in the country.

Cardinal-designate Tzarahazana added: "In my own diocese there are mosques being built everywhere... even though there aren't enough Muslims to use them.

Describing how the radical groups from Pakistan and the Gulf States fund large numbers of foreign Muslims to enter Madagascar, he said: "They are also bringing over Muslims en masse from Turkey. This is a phenomenon that greatly concerns us.

"Once or twice a week, the Turkish Airlines unloads a plane full of Muslims, who then settle in the country... and [they are] not leaving again."

The Cardinal-designate said young people were receiving incentives from certain religious organisations aboard: "You see young men setting off to study in Saudi Arabia, and when they come back they are imams.

"We organised a meeting with a group of imams to share our concerns, and one of the imams himself testified: he was one of our former seminarians.

"Of course he did not say that he had been attracted by the money, but that is what is happening, on account of the poverty here."

Carinal-designate Tzarahazana claimed that "extremist Islam" is increasing specifically in the Mahajanga district and Comores Island and also noted a growing number of younger "radical Muslims" there.

The church leader said he's raised the concerns with the government but accused it of "inaction".

However he said the Church's role in this is to speak up as they enter into a "new crisis".

It's reported that 40 per cent of Madagascar's population are Christian.

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