On Monday, I performed my afternoon prayers at Sparki mosque, near where I work. I noticed that a group of my fellow worshippers had gathered outside the mosque, but I didn’t ask what was happening. As I walked to work, I logged in to Facebook on my phone and saw that Sheikh Aboud Rogo had been shot – it was then that I realised why there had been such tension in the air.
I then saw some commotion at Saba Saba junction, which is quite traffic-heavy. I noticed that the shops were closed. Shop owners told me that a group of men – mostly youths – who had been demonstrating over the sheikh’s death had suddenly started looting shops and vandalising them in anger. By this time the youths were a way further down the road; I could see smoke rising from afar. A group of shop owners then decided that they should retaliate, and were about to head toward the demonstrators when the police came and forced them to disperse.
Photo taken by our Observer of the crowd gathered at Saba Saba junction.
Today, we’ve heard that rioters have torched churches in other parts of the city; this is sad, as Islam does not encourage violence.
The sheikh was a very popular person, famous because he produced videos of his lectures. He stayed popular even after he was linked to the bombing of the American embassy in Nairobi in 1998 and the bombing of the Israeli-owned hotel in Kikambala. Because there was never any conclusive evidence, most Muslims here didn’t believe these accusations at all, but rather believed that this was just America talking, and that the Kenyan police didn’t really know anything.
“There is laxity in protecting Muslims’ rights in Kenya”
The youths' anger is multi-faceted. There is the feeling that Muslims are unjustly targeted, that the government has just decided to call “terrorist” any cleric with a fundamentalist approach to preaching. What angers them even more is that those who are arrested never get fair trials here in Kenya. Case in point is the extradition to Uganda of suspected terrorists in the 2010 Kampala bombing
And then there are the disappearances. Samir Khan [not to be confused with Samir ibn Zafar Khan
, the former Pakistani American editor of Al-Qaeda’s magazine], an imam at Sparki mosque, was abducted and found dead, his body mutilated
, just a few months ago. [Khan was close to Rogo, and was also accused of having links to terrorism]. I was in Nairobi at the time, and never heard him preach. But this shocked many people
, and the authorities never gave any answers about what happened. The lack of answers in all these matters is what has led the anger to explode.
I personally feel, like many Muslims here, that there is laxity in protecting Muslims’ rights in Kenya. People need to be given fair trials before being branded terrorists.