News / Africa

Controversial Mombasa Mosque Sees Drop in Attendance

FILE - Muslims faithfuls carry a coffin with the body of Sheikh Mohammed Idris, chairman of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), who was gunned down by assailants near his home in Mombasa, June 10, 2014.
FILE - Muslims faithfuls carry a coffin with the body of Sheikh Mohammed Idris, chairman of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), who was gunned down by assailants near his home in Mombasa, June 10, 2014.

Some Muslim leaders in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa have called on security officials not to harass worshipers at the Musa mosque in Majengo.  The mosque has been a magnet for police surveillance because of suspected radicalism and connections to the Somali militant group al-Shabab. 

The drive to the mosque, located in the Majengo neighborhood takes a little longer these days due to heightened concern about security.  Motorists and pedestrians try to avoid the mosque in general.

Inside, there are few worshipers.  It is quite a contrast to the days when the mosque was so full, many had to pray on the streets outside.  

Musa long had a reputation of attracting young men due to what many describe as a more liberal and intellectually open atmosphere.  It is that same reputation, which attracted authorities to scrutinize those preaching for radical content.
Now the young avoid the mosque, due to fears they will be caught in another security crackdown or labeled terrorist sympathizers.
Noor Abdullah, a 25-year-old Majengo resident is one of them.  He said he stopped praying in the mosque after a police raid which left some people dead.  He said he is too afraid it could happen again and he'd be caught up in it.

During that February raid, Kenyan security forces killed three people and arrested more than 100 young people - most of whom were later released by the courts.

Al-Shabab Timeline

2006 - Launches insurgency to take control of Somalia and impose strict Islamic law
2008 - U.S. declares al-Shabab a foreign terrorist organization
2009 - Seizes control of parts of Mogadishu and the port city Kismayo
2010 - Expands control across central and southern Somalia, carries out deadly bombing in Kampala, Uganda
2011 - Blocks drought/famine aid from areas under its control
2011 - East African leaders declare al-Shabab a regional threat; Ethiopian, Kenyan troops enter Somalia to pursue the group, which is driven out of Mogadishu
2012 - Declares itself an al-Qaida ally, loses ground in Somalia, abandons strategic coastal stronghold Kismayo
2013 - Attacks Mogadishu court complex, killing more than 30 and attacks mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 69 people
2014 - Attack in Mogadishu kills more than 10 on New Year's Day

But Kenyan security forces said they recovered an AK-47 rifle, knives, video disks and flags which bore the symbols of Somali militant group al-Shabab.  

Kenyan authorities allege some of the Musa Mosque clerics are recruiting for al-Shabab among the poor young men in the rundown neighborhood of Majengo.
Sheikh Juma Ngao, the chairman of Kenya's Muslim National Advisory Council, argues worshipers should not be harassed because of a few individuals who are suspected of preaching hate and violence.

"People who are performing prayers in Musa mosque should not be any given time be harassed, even if there is one suspect or two in that mosque.  It's not a reason to the government or police to harass the Muslims in that mosque.  What they must do first they must do their investigation before taking any action like the way they did in the previous time," stated Ngao.

Local human rights organizations have accused Kenyan police of using heavy-handed tactics against the Muslim community, including forced disappearances and murder.  Police have strongly denied the accusations and say their actions are in defense of a nation under attack from militants both inside the country and in neighboring Somalia.

Abdullah said families feel they are no longer safe and some are leaving Majengo altogether.

He said it is very sad to see how empty the mosque is during the holy month of Ramadan - which is a time when people especially loved to go.  He said even people who live around the mosque have moved, leaving empty houses behind.
Sheikh Ngao said in the past four months, clerics and local human rights groups have been trying to work with the mosque leadership and young worshipers there to ensure that radicalism is not part of the culture, and to allay fears within broader Kenya.  "They were ready to quit their understanding of Jihad and join the other side of the Muslim clerics and forge forward and march forward with their mission of peace," he said.
Ngao said the message of peace needs time to sink in, and the support of holy teachers so young people can truly understand their religion - in Musa and elsewhere.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs