Mombasa throbs with anti-blasphemy rally

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Shabbir Versi

Rabi' al-Thani 12, 1418 1997-08-16


by Shabbir Versi (World, Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 12, Rabi' al-Thani, 1418)

That Muslims take strong offence at any insult to the honour of the noble Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, is not in doubt. Whether it was Salman Rushdie or his equally obnoxious Bangladeshi counterpart, Taslima Nasreen, Muslims expressed their strong displeasure at the blasphemers’ outrageous outpourings.

The latest blasphemy, perpetrated by the Zionist settler, Tatnya Suskin in Occupied Palestine, has aroused equally strong concern. From Australia to Morocco, Muslims have been offended. In Bangladesh, for instance, almost every Friday, people have protested in the streets after Juma prayers. Similar scenes have been witnessed in Mombasa, Kenya.

More than 10,000 placard-waving Muslims participated in the July 26 rally called by a group of imams. The rally brought the entire coastal resort town which usually bustles with tourists and traders, to a complete standstill as Muslims expressed their outrage at the cowardly act. The marchers carried placards denouncing Israel and condemned the Zionist prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The protesters who burnt an effigy of Netanyahu outside the Israeli consulate also torched numerous Israeli flags. The rally ended by presenting the coast provinces commissioner with a memorandum calling for severing diplomatic ties with the Zionist State.

Kenyan Muslims rarely take to the streets to vent their anger or air grievances. Observers were surprised that the march drew more people than all previous political demonstrations. One Muslim commented that such astonishment was misplaced. ‘The rally is indicative of the Muslims’ concern for the plight of their brethren in Palestine, and coming two years after the mini-rally denouncing Serbian crimes at the fall of Srebrenica, clearly shows their awareness that they are part of the Ummah as well of the global tide of Islamic awakening,’ he said.

Moreover, the rally was a slap in the face of Israel whose public and private companies have been investing heavily in the country, including the Muslim majority coastal zone centred on Mombasa, in the fields of transportation and communications, engineering, horticulture and tourism.

The initiative by the council of imams follows the agitation for political and constitutional reforms by their Christian counterparts. The 18-year-old government of president Daniel arap Moi is under pressure from the Church and western donors to institute major constitutional reforms prior to the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Some Muslim shaykhs have supported the call for reforms but others have not. They view the demands as being influenced by the west. As one Muslim put it, ‘the Muslim agenda in not necessarily the (same as the ) Christian one.’

Many were relieved that the opposition politician Khaled Balala played no major role in the rally. The pro-western Balala has angered Muslims who, upon returning from a three year sojourn in Germany, repeated his anti-Iran and anti-Shia refrain. So much heat was generated by his pronouncements that after one lecture at the local Sakina Mosque, Muslim youths pelted him with stones.

Another factor that is believed to have contributed to the massive participation was the shocking revelation by the Kenyan authorities of the docking of an Israeli ship carrying a consignment of lethal weapons. Eyebrows were raised when the destination of the arms was questioned. The Israeli claims that the arms were destined for the southern African country of Botswana did not go down well with the coastals. In any case, there was no need to dock at Mombasa if the arms were going to Botswana.

The Muslims’ concern is valid. The region has avoided the kind of religious conflagaration that has beset Muslims elsewhere. Knowing fully the aims of Zionism and global imperialism in fomenting strife wherever Muslims co-exist peacefully, Muslims cannot be blamed for suspecting sinister motives behind every Israeli move.

The small Muslim community in Kenya, despite its being manipulated by sectarian-minded individuals, looks set to play a major role in setting its own agenda in the country.

The emergence of the council of imams led by a former imam of the main Jamia Mosque in the capital Nairobi could herald the beginning of a nascent Islamic movement which Kenya has so far lacked. Even if such a movement is not directed against the government, the emergence of an independent but active body of Muslim thinkers is a great boost to the global Islamic movement and an encouragement to Muslims in neighbouring countries to rally to the cause of Islam.

Muslimedia - August 16-31, 1997

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