News / Africa

Ideological Battle Brewing in Mombasa Mosques

FILE - Men, part of the 70 arrested during a police raid on a mosque, sit in a court in Shanzu, Feb. 12, 2014.
FILE - Men, part of the 70 arrested during a police raid on a mosque, sit in a court in Shanzu, Feb. 12, 2014.
The Muslim community in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa has been shaken up as a youth movement has taken control of an influential mosque in the city.  A police crackdown on alleged radicals has also created tension in the community.  A battle for religious ideological supremacy is brewing as Kenya continues a crackdown on suspected al-Shabab terrorists in the country.
In early February, Kenyan security forces stormed the Masjid Musa Mosque in Mombasa. They killed three people and arrested more than 120 young people.
Police say that in the raid they recovered an AK-47 rifle, knives, video disks and flags - which bore the symbols of al-Shabab.  Authorities have accused clerics at the Musa Mosque of recruiting for the Somali militant group al-Shabab in the rundown neighborhood of Majengo.
Clerics and young Muslims from the mosque deny the accusations and 100 of the 129 people arrested have been released from custody by the courts due to a lack of evidence.  However, the remaining 29 suspects will face trial.
Khalid - who will only give his first name -- said he escaped being captured by police that day in what he says was an unjustified raid.
He said he goes to the Musa Mosque - even though he doesn't live nearby - because he likes the sermons.  He said it is the only mosque in the area without a political agenda and where young people and young preachers can express themselves freely without being censored by the religious hierarchy.
"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.  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.
The dispute at Musa Mosque is part of the growing divide in Muslim communities over how far jihad, or holy war, can go and what tactics are acceptable.

Hassan Ole Nadu, the deputy secretary of the General Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, says the split at Musa Mosque reflects the competing ideologies in the Muslim world.
"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," Nadu 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."  
Local human rights organizations have accused the Kenyan police of using heavy-handed tactics against the Muslim community, including forced disappearances and murder.  Police have strongly denied the accusations and say they are defending the nation from attack.
Abubakar Sharif Ahmed, known as Makaburi, is accused of helping to finance al-Shabab and recruiting young men in Mombasa - accusations he denies.

In a telephone interview with VOA from an undisclosed location in Mombasa, Makaburi said 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.  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 explained. "So Musa Mosque is not a mosque that is promoting terrorism but it's being terrorized."
Khalid said 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.  You will find that people in the mosque are the people who are close to you. Every Eid [Muslim celebration] 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.

Late last month, the members of the mosque changed its name to Masjid Shuhada - or Martyrs Mosque.  They say the change is to show solidarity with those who have been killed by authorities or are facing terrorism charges in Kenya.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs