MOMBASA – A recent attack on Masjid Musa mosque in Kenya has shaken up the Muslim community, falling under the pinch of authorities who use the stretched term of war on terrorism to keep the Muslims’ worshipping houses under tight control.
"Freedom of speech - that's the difference. Because most of the mosques nowadays are built, we say, they are political mosques; someone is building it for self-benefit or self-gain,” Khalid, who gave his first name only, told Voice Of America on Tuesday, March 4.
“Musa Mosque was built and left for the community. Because the committee [that] was there didn't want the jihad topic to go on, they were overthrown by the youth," Khalid noted.
Khalid is one of the young Muslim youth who was able to escape arrest last February when police forced stormed the Mombasa mosque.
The attack dates back to February 2 when hundreds of heavily-armed police officers laid siege on Masjid Musa in Mombasa for several hours, seeking to break up a one-day seminar organized by youths in the mosque allegedly to discuss the Islamic rulings on Jihad.
At the end of the unfortunate incident, a number of people were killed, including one police officer, while several others injured.
The attack was blasted by local human rights which accused the Kenyan police of using heavy-handed tactics against the Muslim community, including forced disappearances and murder.
Meanwhile, other Muslim leaders saw the recent clashes as a result of a brewing ideological battle in Kenya mosques.
"We have seen for the last few years, a tendency of some of the preaching are aligned to or inclining to certain religious ideology… When you have difference of an opinion with an individual, this ideology goes further and actually calls that person a Kafir [non-believer] or hypocrite," Hassan Ole Nadu, the deputy secretary of the General Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, said.
"I think if we are not careful in the country there might be an element of the new ideology which is informed by the global geopolitics of the ongoing in Muslim world and other parts of the world."
For young Muslim leaders, the young men at Musa Mosque are victims of a terrorist witch hunt.
"The youths like to come to Musa Mosque because it's the only mosque in Kenya that speaks the truth, that supports the oppressed,” Abubakar Sharif Ahmed, known as Makaburi, told VOA in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location in Mombasa.
“And in fact it's the only mosque in Kenya where more imams have been killed by the government than any other mosque in Kenya," Makaburi, who denies accusation of helping to finance al-Shabab and recruiting young men in Mombasa, explained.
"So Musa Mosque is not a mosque that is promoting terrorism but it's being terrorized."
Khalid, the young Kenyan Muslim, agreed with Makaburi, saying that the Musa mosque provides solace to pained young men like him - who have missing family members or love ones killed by unknown gun men.
"My dad was taken from there [Musa Mosque]. All my friends are associated with the mosque,” Khalid said.
“You will find that people in the mosque are the people who are close to you. Every ‘Eid they bring things to you, they bring you monthly basics, some are educated by the same mosque so it's like a joint family in that mosque," he said.
It is estimated that there are at least 10 million Muslims in Kenya out of the total 40 million, most of whom live in the coastal and North Eastern parts of the country.
Kenya Muslims have been sensing eradication of their rights following Wetgate mall attack in which more than 60 people were killed which was claimed by Somalia's militant al Shabaab group.
The mall attack was immediately condemned by the Supreme council of Kenya Muslims, which confirmed its support to the security and government organs during the difficult time that Kenya faces.
Yet, American and Kenyan human rights groups have released a report last November accusing Kenyan counter-terrorism officers of carrying out extra-judicial killings, abuses and torture for Muslims in the east African country under allegations of being members of al-Shabaab group.
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