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LEST WE FORGET

January 15th 2010 is a day which will remain etched for a long time in the minds of Muslims in the country.

It was on this sad day that Jamia Mosque, the largest Islamic institution in the country came literary under attack from goons with the police providing support to them in their attempts to storm the mosque. Several people lost their lives while scores were injured after the police used live bullets on what was planned to be a peaceful demonstration.

The police went further and aimed bullets at the mosque which shattered the mosque windows and narrowly missed worshippers within the mosque. This day saw goons attacking and destroying Muslim owned properties while the police whose mission is Utumishi kwa wote (service to humanity) sat by watching as gangs destroyed properties worth hundreds of millions of shillings in the Central Business District around Jamia Mosque.

Hundreds of worshippers were trapped inside the mosque as the police virtually threw a cordon around the mosque preventing worshippers from leaving or entering the mosque. An investigation was promised to unravel what went wrong but to this day, we are yet to be told why police aimed their guns at innocent people. While the catalyst appeared to be the detention of the Jamaican preacher Sheikh Abdallah Feysal, series of events in the past were pointers that this was the result of an orchestrated campaign against Muslims.

For a long time, concerns have been expressed about the open unfairness on the part of the police towards Muslims. On that particular day, this was proven as the unfair policies came to the fore. The January 15th incident was the culmination of a series of events over the years which have unfortunately not gone well with the Muslim community.

Official discrimination of Muslims has been the norm since independence and even with the numerous complaints little has been done to reverse this trend. Since the so-called war on terror had been in place, Muslims have been roundly accused of involvement in the vice and this has been used as an excuse to deny them their constitutional rights.

The effects of piracy in the Indian Ocean have also spiraled in the country with the Somali community (read Muslims) roundly accused of being beneficiaries from the proceeds of this crime. Media reports without any shred of evidence have consistently accused Somalis of using piracy money to buy properties resulting in hike in property rates.

It is some of these vents which is driving xenophobic tendencies witnessed last year on during this day when Muslims came undervicious and an unprecedented attack. We where on the brink of seeing a sectarian conflict which could have had devastating consequences for the country. Vital lessons need to be derived from this event which could be used to foster good relations among the different religious communities in the country.

Kenyans have for the past 47 years lived in peace and harmony in a multi cultural, multi ethnic and multi religious society and for a large part of this period, mutual existence has been the norm. There is need to cultivate a culture where this important principle is respected and maintained as it is this which will form the building block which will hold the country together.

In this regard, the government, the media and individuals all have a responsibility in seeing to it that unfairness and discrimination is cast asunder while mutual respect and tolerance is cultivated and nurtured.

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