Written by Robert Mureithi
Saturday 2nd October 2010
I made my way to the venue of Story Moja Hay festival (Railway grounds) for the second day this event was going down. I arrived at 1145hrs just in time to catch the British High Commissioner, Rob Macaire leading a discussion on Muslim in Kenya and Muslim in the UK. The High Commissioner had an eminent panel made up of Ahmednasir Abdullahi former Law Society of Kenya (LSK) chair and Hassan Ole Naado, CEO of Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance.
The High Commissioner began by giving a brief background of who he is. Pointing out that he is a professional diplomat who has served his country in Romania, US and his last posting was India. The High Commissioner’s last posting was, India which has a very large Muslim minority. Therefore, from this background one can say he is well versed with the topic at hand. Mind you, he also has considerable experience of working at the Middle East complex political situation so he is no push over (I respect those guys who have put their fingers on the line for the never unending problems of this region).
So having done what diplomats do, he let the other members of the panel introduced themselves. Starting with, Mr. Ahmednasir Abdullahi who is a lawyer by profession. He practices in the city under Ahmednasir Abdikadir & Co. Advocates and pens down opinions for the Nation newspapers. The other member of the panel was Hassan Ole Naado who is the CEO of Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance.
So the High Commissioner kicked off the debate with his own account of ‘Muslims in Britain’. According to the High Commissioner Britain has a high proportion of Muslim legislators unlike any other European Country.
So how have Muslim population changed the UK society?
Muslims have changed the Britain in many ways. Among this are;
Muslim Statistics have also had an impact on;
The above three issues being major issues in the UK political landscape.
So this has necessitated the UK government to begin interactions with the Muslim community in the UK so that they can find solutions to;
- development of extremism and
The High commissioner finished his account of ‘Muslims in the UK’ by pointing out that he does not buy the ‘clash of civilization’ theory.
The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ is a theory, which was proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington after the end of the cold war. In his theory he argued that with the end of Cold War, Civilizations were bound to clash based on their cultures and religions i.e. Christians vs. Muslims.
Hassan Ole Naado began the Muslims in Kenya debate by pointing out that Muslims were among the first foreigners to settle on the Kenyan coast and brought with them civilization. He also posed why most Muslims live mainly in Majengo.
According to Hassan, the Muslims were late entrants into the civic society movements in Kenya. However, they have set up associations such as the Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance so as to put Muslim youth issues to the fray.
Some of the major issues faced by the Muslim youths in Kenya are;
- Intimidation from government security agencies
- Foreign policies also affect the Muslim youths in Kenya e.g. Issue of Palestinian
- Neighbouring countries such as Sudan & Somalia provide a danger for Muslim youths
Hassan also pointed he does not buy the clash of civilization theory but stands at the point of ‘dialogue among civilizations’.
Mr. Ahmednasir Abdullahi began this discourse at hand by pointing out that in a BBC interview a former Prime Minister of Malaysia was asked if he was a ‘fundamentalist’. Well, his reply was that he is a fundamentalist of his religion NOT a fanatic.
Ahmednasir further pointed out that Muslims are normally contested on how they observe their religion. However, he pointed out that most liberal democracies especially in Europe allow Muslims to practice their faith.
He also noted that the standard system in UK is adorable unlike French, Spain or Belgium. Likewise, America was tolerant to Muslims before 9/11 and had proved a system for minorities to agitate their rights dating back from 1940’s when Jew’s Italian’s, Japanese and Chinese were discriminated. Noting this, Ahmednasir emphasized on need to use appropriate venues for Muslims to ask for their rights.Ahmednasir also alluded to the fact that good constitutions do not make good countries BUT it is the courts that make sure that a good constitution is implemented to the letter.
In the question and answer session the British High Commissioner alluded on the need not to confuse religious issues to political issues
The High Commissioner noted that the Somalia issues was a high priority issues of his government.
In the afternoon (1400hrs-1530hrs) I attended the AfriCOG Marquee which was having a session on ‘whistle blowers’. This Panel was composed of Michela Wrong and Judy Kibinge. This session was moderated by Rasna Warah
This seemed to have been the session everyone was waiting going by the numbers that were at AfriCOG Marquee. Everyone wanted to hear from Michela Wrong who got everything right on Kenya especially the corruption, corruption in high places!
So both Michaela and Judy Kibinge were provided with opportune moments i.e. John Githogo (former PS Governance& Ethics) arriving in London and seeking a place to stay while for Judy it was the tenth anniversary of Transparency International (TI).
M. Wrong also pointed out that she came to Kenya about 3-4 times in a year to conduct her research on the book It’s Our Turn to Eat.
In the question and answer session, Lee B. the deputy chief of Staff US embassy in Kenya first pointed out that when he was posted to Kenya M. Wrong’s book was one of the books he read. He asked for Wrongs assessment of the country 2-3 years now that the country got itself a new constitution. M. Wrong who pointed out that she was a pessimist stuck to that!
In the evening session 1600-1800hrs I was all over the place. However, I cooled my heels by watching a play my moving home at the Kenya Buzz Marquee. Thereafter, I called it a day.
Njathika blogs at: http://njathika.blogspot.com/