The rights of African Muslims were trampled as the US embarked on the global war on terror after the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, according to a leading academic.
“The Bush ‘Global War on Terror’ has had terrible consequences for African Muslims and Africans in general,” Na'eem Jeenah, executive director of the Afro-Middle East Centre, a Johannesburg-based research institute dedicated to studying the Middle East and North Africa, told Anadolu Agency, referring to former US President George W. Bush.
He said African Muslims have been subjected to the same kind of Islamophobia as seen in Western countries, resulting in human rights abuses.
Jeenah said the US used the war on terror to put enormous pressure on African governments to comply with its security protocols, share intelligence and strengthen or develop military relations.
Jeenah cites an example of the US-Africa Command which he says was formed in the wake of the “global war on terror.”
“It now operates in most countries on the continent, with little regard for the sovereignty of African states,” he said.
He claims AFRICOM and US intelligence services also assist governments in African states against political opposition.
“Entrenching US military and intelligence agencies on the continent also has other objectives from a US perspective, such as opposing China’s reach into the continent”’ he said.
Rights groups on the continent have accused security operatives of wrongly arresting individuals on trumped-up terrorism charges and killing or detaining them at unknown locations.
In a 2016 report, rights group Haki Africa said Kenya's anti-terror police reportedly carried out at least 81 extrajudicial killings in the country's mainly Muslim coastal region since 2012.
The group claimed the number could be higher but some families had not come forward for fear of being victimized.
The report said most of those who had been killed were youths accused of being terrorists during police crackdowns.
Kenya’s Independent Policing Oversight Authority said at the time that 52 police officers had been charged and hundreds of others were being probed for human rights violations.
The Somali militant group, al-Shabaab, has on several occasions, committed terror attacks on Kenya, killing dozens in retaliation for Kenya’s deployment as an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.
In return, Kenyan security operatives have hunted down alleged suspects linked to the group, at times arresting innocent people.
Dr. Mustafa Mheta, a senior research fellow at the Africa Desk of Johannesburg-based think tank Media Review Network, agrees that Muslims on the continent have felt the effect of the 9/11 attacks.
“The impact of the 9/11 attacks did not affect only Muslims living in the US, Europe or those in the Islamic countries, but even us here in Africa,’’ he said from his office in Johannesburg.
He said after the 9/11 attacks, Western media outlets started propagating hate against Islam labeling it as an enemy thus the growth of Islamophobia.
“They tried to make Islam look as though it is synonymous with terrorism, a development which is not true,” said Mheta, adding that “It is now the responsibility of Muslims to dispel this myth through whatever platform they have.”
Others told Anadolu Agency that getting visas to travel to western countries has proven to be difficult after the attacks, while some said they have sometimes been pulled aside for questioning at airports.