The constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom. The constitution stipulates freedom of conscience, faith, and choice for all, including the freedom to change one’s religion or faith, and that all are entitled to equal protection under the law without discrimination, including on the basis of religion.
The law prohibits religious groups from registering as political parties.
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous archipelago. While Zanzibar has its own president, constitution, court system, and legislature, it is also subject to the Tanzanian constitution and its religious freedom provisions. The Zanzibar constitution and Zanzibar’s laws and policies generally protect religious freedom. Its constitution stipulates that every person has freedom of thought or conscience, belief or faith, and choice, including the freedom to change religion or faith and that all are entitled to equal protection under the law without discrimination, including on the basis of religion.
On the mainland, secular laws govern Christians and Muslims in both criminal and civil cases except for family-related cases involving inheritance, marriage, divorce and the adoption of minors, where Muslims may choose Islamic law. In 16 mainland regions, a kadhi court system hears civil cases concerning Muslims. Judges trained in Islamic legal traditions administer the kadhi courts. If the parties do not agree with a kadhi court decision, magistrate courts hear the cases.
In Zanzibar, Muslims have a parallel system of kadhi courts for matters of divorce, child custody, inheritance, and other issues covered by Islamic law. All cases tried in Zanzibar courts, except those involving constitutional matters 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 president of Zanzibar appoints the chief kadhi, who oversees the kadhi courts and is recognized as the senior Islamic scholar responsible for interpreting the Quran.
Religious groups must register with the Ministry of Home Affairs on the mainland and with the Chief Registrar on Zanzibar. To register, religious groups must provide the names of at least 10 members, 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 the National Muslim Council of Tanzania (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 must produce letters of acknowledgement from the leaders of their denominations.
On the mainland, BAKWATA elects the mufti. On Zanzibar, the president of Zanzibar appoints the mufti, who serves as a leader of the Muslim community and as a public servant assisting with local governmental affairs.
The Zanzibar mufti nominally approves all Islamic activities and supervises all mosques on Zanzibar. The mufti also approves religious lectures by visiting clergy and supervises the importation of Islamic literature from outside Zanzibar.
Public schools may teach religion, but it is not a part of the national curriculum. School administration or parent and teacher associations must approve such classes, taught on an occasional basis by parents or volunteers. Many private schools and universities are associated with religious groups. There is an Islamic university in Morogoro, a Roman Catholic university in Mwanza, a Lutheran university in Dar es Salaam, a Bahai 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. Police reports must state religious affiliation if an individual will have to give sworn testimony. Public school registration forms must specify a child’s religious affiliation so administrators can assign students to the appropriate religion class if one is offered. Students may also choose to opt out of religious studies. Applications for medical care also must specify religious affiliation so that any specific religious custom may be observed.