“Journey” Teaser series: How did a Priest turned Grand Mufti of Rwanda end up at a run down mosque in South Dallas?

For a full answer to this and other questions, see Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.

We found the former Grand Mufti of Rwanda in a small, run down Dallas Salafi Mosque. Sheikh Issa Gisesa met with us after a Sunday afternoon Quran class (in Arabic) that he allowed us to sit in on. Imam Gisesa was the highest official of religious law over the Muslims in Rwanda.

But, before he was a Muslim, he was a Catholic. And not just a Catholic but a Catholic Priest. His birth name is Edward and it is befitting that his Muslim name is Issa, which means Jesus. Islam is spreading in Rwanda, he told us, and 2,000- 3,000 people convert every month, partly because the 1994 genocide was conducted in Christian churches. “Before I was a Muslim,” said the Imam, “I was a Tutsi.”

Imam Gisesa is in his 70’s and told us he fled Rwanda after he started to have doubts about his faith.  “People looked at me as the devil because I questioned.” He was afraid of being captured and hid from his pursuers in a Muslim community in Burundi. The Muslims there welcomed him and treated him like family.  He began to study Islam and in 1958, he became a Muslim. He went away to study in Medina,  in Saudi Arabia. After the genocide in Rwanda he returned, and was voted Mufti of Rwanda. After five years he decided to return to Saudi Arabia for studies, this time to Mecca, and then decided to come to the United States. The imam had led such an incredible life and we found him, the Grand Mufti of Rwanda, having experienced all the pain of genocide, sitting with us in a small Salafi mosque in a depressed area of South Dallas.

Order Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.
Next: Why are so many white women converting to Islam?


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