One of Pope Francis’s new Cardinals has warned how “extremist Islam” is being imported into Madagascar, claiming that radical groups are “buying people” for their cause and that plans are afoot to build more than 2,600 mosques in the country.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to Church in Need, Cardinal-designate DésiréTzarahazana of Toamasina highlighted a religious shift within the country, saying: “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 added: “There is real pressure being exerted. For example, in the north [of Madagascar] they give money to women to wear the full veil, the Burka, in the streets, in order to advertise the expansion of Islam in the country. And then in the evening, they put on their normal clothes again.”
The prelate, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Madagascar, said: “In my own diocese there are mosques being built everywhere… even though there aren’t enough Muslims to use them.
“There is a plan to build over 2,600 mosques in Madagascar.”
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 organizations aboard: “You see young men setting off to study in Saudi Arabia, and when they come back they are imams.
“We organized 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.”