NAIROBI – The brutal killing of imam Abubakar Ibrahim Shariff, known as Makaburi, in a drive-by shooting in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa earlier this month has sparked the anger of the Muslim minority, recalling a string of killings targeting Muslim scholars in the African country.
“The death of Makaburi is among many unfortunate deaths of a number of Muslim scholars in Mombasa,” Adan Duale, a Kenyan Muslim Member of Parliament who is close to the President, told OnIslam.net.
“The lives of all these Kenyans are sacred and it's unacceptable for them to die in these circumstances.
“The state with all its security agents must bring the killers of these sheikhs and innocent Kenyans to book. They owe the nation an explanation. We need answers without delays,” he added.
Makaburi, a prominent Kenyan Muslim scholar, was killed as he left a court compound about 15 km north of the port city of Mombasa on April 1.
His killing became a new point of friction between the police and the Muslim community, after the recent police violent storming of Masjid Musa in Mombasa, which left Muslims in Kenya incensed with anger.
Secretary General for Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya Sheikh Muhammad Dor described Makaburi’s killing as an act of “terrorism.”
He expressed frustrations that previous killings of Muslim religious personalities have not been resolved, blaming them on the lack of commitment and sincerity from the government.
“Many Muslim scholars did not agree with Makaburi's opinions on issues such as Jihad. But killing him is not the solution. It will only increase conflict and misunderstanding among Kenyans,” he said.
Human Rights activist Hussein Khalid has also expressed fears that the killing may push some Muslim youth to commit acts out of anger in “retaliation”.
For many Kenyan Muslims, imam Makaburi’s death revived angry emotions among members of the religious community in the coastal area, where most of Kenya's Muslims live, over past killings of Muslim imams.
Last October, Muslim scholar Ibrahim “Rogo” Omar was gunned down in Mombasa.
His killing was similar to that of imam, Aboud Rogo Mohammed, who was killed in August 2012.
Another unresolved murder of a Muslim preacher is that of Samir Hashim Khan who was allegedly pulled from a public bus in Mombasa in April 2012 by men who identified themselves as police officers.
A few days later, Khan’s badly mutilated body was found dumped, several hundred kilometers away in a wildlife park. Police investigations have yielded no fruits.
Working over the past months to calm Muslim youth anger after Masjid Musa attack, Muslim leaders warned that these killings have seriously undermined efforts to de-escalate the conflict between the religious minority and government security agencies.
“We were making good progress to rebuild a good working relationship between the Muslim community and police,” Sheikh Muhdhar Khitamy, the head of Coast Branch for the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, told OnIslam.net.
“Now we are back to square one. Everyone sees the government as an enemy of Muslims.”
Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security Joseph Ole Lenku and Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo have repeatedly distanced the police from Makaburi's killings and promised a “robust investigation.”
They also called his killers “terrorists.”
But most Muslim leaders are unconvinced at the government gestures, terming them a mere Public Relations exercise, without much substance since previous such killings remain unresolved.
Currently, Muslim leaders are striving to calm the anger among sections of the Muslim community following Makaburi's demise.
Last October, protests and riots erupted in Mombasa after news of imam Rojo’s death spread, with rioters killing at least six people, including five police officers.
Three churches were also torched. Muslim leaders condemned the actions of the rioters. Subsequent investigations launched by the government concluded that the killers could not be identified.
Influential Muslim politician Billow Kerrow has warned Muslim youths against attacking people and buildings of other faiths in retaliation to Makaburi's killing.
“Blame the government if you will but let's be careful not to blame the church or Christians for the killings and disappearances to avoid creating inter-religious conflict that will very adversely affect our relations,” he advised.
“It is vital that we, the Muslims, distinguish the government from our Christian brothers, majority of who have the greatest respect for our faith.”
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