Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kenya, Muslims Can and Must Stand for Nonviolence and Justice for All

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Jan. 29, 2008 - The violence that now convulses through the East African nation of Kenya has gone, as they say, from bad to worse. It is now on the brink of catastrophe.

Since the results of the December 27, 2007 presidential election, announcing the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki by a thin margin - and some would say, a suspiciously thin one - members of the political opposition have condemned the result of the vote as fraudulent, and taken to the streets in angry protest.

But the political protests have been transmogrified into all-out ethnic warfare, pitting the largely Kikuyu supporters of President Kibaki against the minority ethnic Luo group identified with Mr. Raila Odinga (son of the famed dissident Oginga Odinga).

Despite the heroic efforts of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to broker a peace agreement between these political antagonists, the level of violence in Kenya has reached horrific proportions.

At the present time, more than 800 individuals are known to have died, and some 255,000 persons have been made homeless. The most egregious example of this violence resulted in the torching of a church several weeks ago, where more than 50 people who sought refuge from the killing were burned alive.

Kenya may be a "tribal" nation, as the term is used to describe African ethnic groups, but it is also a nation with a significant (10%) Muslim population - and Muslims could play a very constructive role in returning the nation to peace, reconciliation, and sanity.

I remember that in 1994, the nation of Rwanda was engulfed in a horrific genocide in which some 800,000 members of the Tutsi ethnic group were murdered by Hutu extremists. The United Nations, and the world, largely looked on and turned their backs on the victims of this slaughter.

But what is largely unknown to the world, including the Muslim world, is the role that the tiny Rwandan Muslim community played in sheltering thousands of the largely Christian Tutsi victims of the genocide from the knives, clubs and guns of the (majority) Christian Hutu extremists who were killing them without mercy.

Muslim homes and mosques became havens of refuge for innocent women and children who would otherwise have been brutally killed in the orgy of ethnic hatred.

And today, as a result of this collective heroism, the religion of Islam is held in the highest esteem among all the people of Rwanda - Christian and Muslim alike - and large numbers of those Rwandans who formerly professed Christianity as their religion have reverted to Islam.

In Kenya, a different African nation with a very different history of ethnic co-existence, a new episode of mass violence has now erupted.

The violence has not yet reached the tipping point that categorizes violence as genocide, but it is careening out of control, and it threatens the stability and political integrity of a nation that has largely, throughout its history, avoided the catastrophe of tribal warfare.

The organized Muslim community in Kenya, with the help of Allah (Exalted and Glorified), can, and must, help stop the madness.

Muslims in Kenya can offer their homes and religious places of worship as sanctuaries for all who are fleeing the violence that is spreading throughout the nation just as they did in Rwanda.

As a community that transcends ethnic divisions, Kenyan Muslims are in a position to speak prophetic truth to both sides of this conflict, and to be a respected voice for reason and peace while striving to restore integrity to the fundamental political process of the nation.

I pray for the people of Kenya, and especially the victims of ethnic violence, in this deeply troubled time. And I pray that the Muslim community in Kenya, like Rwandan Muslims some 14 years ago, can, and will, rise up and contribute to the preservation of safety and security that is vital for all peoples, and nations, in our world.

Our Lord, it should be remembered, has not made us into different nations and tribes to hate each other, but rather, to know each other.

Note: MAS Freedom will periodically report on developments in the crisis in Kenya, and especially the Muslim response to the violence in that nation.

Kenya Crisis Talks Begin Amid Mounting Violence

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