Kenya's Muslims decry 'collective criminalization'

Thousands of Muslims have been detained in Kenya in recent weeks.

Kenya's Muslims decry 'collective criminalization'

World Bulletin / News Desk

Muslims are complaining of the perceived "criminalization" of their entire community within the context of Kenya's ongoing fight against terrorism, with thousands of Muslims rounded up in recent days.

"Without [the] slightest proof, people suspected to be terrorists have been detained illegally," Siraj Mahmoud, 36, told Anadolu Agency outside a Nairobi mosque.

"Where is the law here?" he asked.

Following a recent spate of attacks in Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenyan authorities have launched a wide-ranging operation aimed at restoring public security.

The operation has seen thousands of people detained for screening, mostly thought to be Muslims from the capital's Eastleigh district, which is home to an estimated 50,000 Somali refugees.

Up until last week, at least 3600 people had been detained for screening and interrogation at Nairobi's Kasarani Stadium.

"It is painful to see my fellow Muslims being detained for long [periods] without the process of law being followed," Mohamed Ali, a 28-year-old businessman, told AA.

"They are being illegally detained," he said, not without emotion. "Some people detained aren't terrorists. They simply forgot to carry their ID cards."

He added: "It's illegal to detain people without trial."

Criminalization

Abdullah Mohamed Saleh, a 23-year-old newspaper vendor, lamented what he described as degrading treatment meted out to Muslims currently being held at Kasarani.

"They should be treated with regard for human dignity," he told AA.

Hassan Isaaq Hashe, a street hawker, was no less critical.

"So far, the government hasn't proved that the people detained are terrorists," he said. "The rule of law must be followed. Terrorism is not Islam."

Independent social researcher Ibn Ali Suleiman, for his part, has pleaded with the government to expedite the screening process to allow detainees innocent of wrongdoing to return home.

"These people have been held for more than a week. It's time they are checked quickly and freed," he said.

Renowned Kenyan human rights defender Al-Amin Kimathi put the recent raft of detentions within a wider context.

"There is no respect for the Muslims. There is no due process for certain classes of people," he told AA in exclusive comments.

"Moments of sadness have gripped the Muslim community in Kenya, bearing in mind that innocent women, children, girls and the elderly have been humiliated at Kasarani Stadium, where they are undergoing screening," said Kimathi.

"Enough is enough," he added. "The detained Muslims have had painful moments. Let them be released now."

The rights activist said the recent detentions and police raids had created the perception that a particular community was being singled out.

"Muslims have been classified in toto as terrorists… This is [the] collective criminalization of the Muslim community," he asserted. "All Muslims cannot be terrorists and refugees."

Kimathi went on to accuse the Kenyan government of using the "terrorism" label to cover up its failure to maintain public security.

"Terrorism is a pretext [used] by the authorities," he said. "The narrative now is a narrative of extremism, whereas the most extreme people are calling others extremists."

"The fact is, the government has failed to deal with the security of its people, period," Kimathi added.

Last Mod: 15 Nisan 2014, 10:50
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