Excerpt : Kenyan Churches opposition to the Khadi Courts

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Indeed, we are a nation of peculiar habits, including our Churchmen. Globally, the Church has always sought to bring religion into the state but it is the politicians who preach secularism. In Kenya, the Church goes to court fulminating about establishment of religious laws in a secular state, and demands ‘a wall of separation’. 

In Southern Sudan, our Church was at the forefront demanding that the Christian and animist South be freed from the Muslim North on grounds of religious persecution. Locally, they consider the special constitutional privileges to the Muslim minority an injustice against Christians. 

The Church was categorical until last week that they were merely opposed to the constitutional entrenchment of Kadhi courts but not the courts’ parliamentary enactment or their existence.  Yet, their first statement after the court ruling was to urge the government to scrap the courts immediately.

According to the Church, religious freedom for all was intended to exalt Christianity, not other faiths. It sees itself as a depository of the nation’s moral and social guidance, but seeks justice and equality for Christians at the expense of the Muslims.  The flip side of the political court ruling was however a wake-up call for the Muslims, creating a sense of unity and determination.

In 1960, residents of the Coastal strip wanted to join the Sultanate of Zanzibar whilst the inhabitants of NFD sought to join Somalia. In both instances, the Muslim population feared they would be discriminated against on religious grounds. The British then appointed two commissions, the Kenya Coastal Strip Commission in 1961 and the Northern Frontier District (NFD) Commission in 1962, to survey public opinion regarding their future in the light of the constitutional development sweeping East Africa.

The Coast inhabitants obtained the right to practice their faith under the new regime after the Commission’s recommendation for Kadhi courts were promulgated by Kenya in 1963. The Somalis in NFD agitated for self-determination, leading to the Shifta War. As part of the peace agreement brokered in Arusha by Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda in 1967, residents of NFD were also allowed to access the Kadhi courts. The British had recognized the importance of freedom of faith and appointed the first state-funded Kadhi for NFD in 1927, based at Wajir.

Clearly, these courts symbolize the most incontrovertible manifestation of the Muslim’s faith. At Bomas, Muslims unsuccessfully lobbied that self-determination clause be included in the constitution as in the South Africa and Ethiopia. In the latter, that provision allowed Eritrea to secede; while in South Africa the provision safeguarded the rights of the white minority should they feel threatened. If these courts are scrapped, won’t the Muslims renew their agitation for secession?

Muslims feel it would be a matter of time before the Church declares Kenya a Christian state. Next may be a campaign to outlaw the call to prayer, halt IRE in schools, regulate mosques/madrassas ,  ban the Muslim veil, etc. Early this year, the Church ran adverts questioning the growing political, social and economic status of Muslims in the country, raising concerns on such matters as Islamic banks, Halal certification, etc. 

The Churches obsession with the growth of Islam in Kenya irks Muslims. It’s perception that Islam is foreign to Kenya undermines the confidence of Muslims as citizens. The pitched anti-Islam propaganda in rural churches is bound to increase radicalism and resentment among Muslim youth who already feel discriminated against, and underprivileged.

In recent years, Muslims have been targeted and harassed on anti- terrorism related security crackdowns. Muslims are calm now but it may well be the lull before the storm. Before the clergy’s impunity drives us to the brink, could someone forward their envelope to the Hague?

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