Saturday, November 1, 2014

According to our security forces, over 100 'jihadist' youths allied to Al Shabaab gathered in Masjid Musa Mombasa, complete with guns and other weapons, in broad daylight, to up their 'terrorist' plans; and in the ensuing shootout, eight youths and a policeman are killed. True, our youth may have been radicalised and openly defy the Muslim leaders. But the police version of what happened at the mosque is spiced up, and their lethal action unprofessional and purposeful. To most Muslims, the deaths could have been avoid and the mosque not desecrated had the police acted on the advise of Muslim leaders prior to the raid.

The radicalisation of the Muslim youth is growing fast, accross the country and it is not all premised on religious indoctrination of 'extremist' scholars only. The massive condemnation of the incident on the social  sites among Muslim youth is an indication of the gravity of this matter. Majority of these youth however do not support terrorism, nor do they sympathise with terrorist groups. They allege that it is the policies of the state that is driving them over the edge. They are not driven by the Somalia agenda and have little to gain from being members of Al Shabaab that aims to liberate Somalia.

Well, we had it coming for long. The revolt by the youth reflects disaffection with the status quo of the Muslims in the country. Over the years,they have challenged the Muslim leadership on a myraid of issues that bedevils the community and believe the leadership has lost its legitimacy to govern. They took to open defiance and have attempted to takeover mosques and other istitutions to pursue their agenda. In their frustrations, they have categorised Muslim scholars and have grouped around those that espouse their thoughts. This has divided the scholars, with some being characterised by the youth as conformists and state agents.

The Muslim religious and political leadership has been caught up between an intransigent state apparatus and an unforgiving, disillusioned youth. At the height of these concerns in 2008, President Kibaki set up a 'Presidential Action Committee to address specific concerns of the Muslim community in regard to alleged harassment and /or discrimination in the application /enforcement of law'. Headed by a former Public Service Commission Chairman Eng Sharawe, the committee submitted its report to Kibaki in July 2009. It is yet to be officially published, let alone been actioned. According to human rights activist Korir Sing'oei, Kibaki demonstrated 'less than unequivocal commitment to following through on his promises' and 'consistently sanctioned the rendition of Muslims for trial in oppressive states without due process'.

In its report, the committee warned of growing resentment in the community that would lead to radicalisation of the youth if the grievances are not addressed. The grievances included routine police harassment and arbitrary arrests particularly in Mombasa, denial of identity documents, discrimination, profiling as terrorists, killings and disappearances, harassment of Muslim scholars, renditions, etc. In recent years, the situation has worsened. Several more have disappeared or were killed in  circumstances that invariably suggest involvement of state security apparatus. It is now nearly impossible for a Kenyan youth from Mombasa or Garissa to get an ID or  a passport whilst a chap from Mogadishu can access these documents at Nyayo House at a fee. In Eastleigh, truckloads of innocent youth are being arrested daily, mainly to extort money under alleged anti-terrorism campaign, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Muslim leaders will strive to honour their obligation. Our youth should exercise patience. The government must do its bit. These youth are our own, part of our national fabric as Kenyans. As a nation, we all have an obligation to engage them and help them realize their ambitions as lawful citizens of this country.

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