The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Muslims Should Take Sides but On Principle

opinion

After the December 2012 deadline when political parties were required to have deposited their pre-election coalition agreements with the Registrar of Political Parties ahead of the March 4 general election, two major political forces emerged namely; the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the Jubilee Coalition under the stewardship of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

Indeed, the emergence of these two political forces was a game-changer because it separated the wheat from the chuff and virtually proved right Mr Odinga's earlier prediction that the next elections would be a two-horse race.

A day after Mr Odinga was formally endorsed as Cord's presidential flag bearer, and on the day Mr Kenyatta was endorsed to carry the mantle for Jubilee, Muslim scholars and Imams of major mosques from across the country paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister where they declared support for Cord, saying they would mobilize the Muslim community to vote for his ticket.

But this public support for Cord coming from a group of influential Muslim leaders would anger a section of Muslim scholars and Imams especially those who were not involved.

The latter spoke to the media 24 hours later to denounce the former, saying that the Muslim community cannot be huddled together like sheep and made to support a particular political group.

As someone who has earlier stood against the idea of individuals using the Muslim community to pursue personal political agenda, I was challenged, through social media, to comment on the emerging scenario where the name of the Muslim community is popping up again in political arena after 2007 Namlef led initiative that changed Kenya's political landscape.

In fact, the person who challenged me on Facebook posed this question-- isn't the group that went to see Raila to pledge their support for Cord trying to auction the Muslim community for selfish gains?

Whoever posed this question must have had in mind my earlier stand in which I scoffed at Mr Najib Balala for declaring that Raila had become an enemy of Muslims because he had betrayed them by sacking the Mvita MP as Minister for Tourism.

Indeed, I disagreed with that position because Mr Balala was trying to drag the entire Muslim community into his personal political differences with the PM.

However, when I look at the current situation where Muslim scholars uniting under Muslim Leaders Forum (MLF) that declared support for Cord, I don't see how the Muslim community is being "auctioned" for the benefit of individuals.

First and foremost, I remember this group saying that their support for Cord is based on one major principle-- that between Cord and other political alliances formed so far, only Raila's alliance has demonstrated commitment to uphold fidelity to the new constitution which, if fully implemented, has the solution to many of the challenges that the Muslim community has faced over the years.

In view of the opposing views coming from the Muslim community over which coalition to support ahead of the March elections, the most important thing I wish to point out is that Muslims in Kenya are a very democratic people-- therefore, their decision on which political path to take can only be reached through persuasion and not religious edicts (fatwa).

In this regard, when Muslim Leaders Forum paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister and say they want to reach-out to other Muslims in order to persuade them into supporting a political course that is committed to implementing the new constitution, then they should be given that opportunity and encouraged to do so.

Like the rest of other Kenyans, Muslims are concerned on insecurity, the historical land question, full implementation of 2010 Constitution and establishment of strong and semi autonomous devolved governance structures with strong foundation. This can only be achieved by electing reforms focused political coalition.

As a Kenyan who in one way or the other is a victim of past injustices and worried of the future, I throw my weight behind the group that has declared support for Cord on account that this alliance has shown commitment to implement the new constitution.

As one among many well meaning Kenyans who spent time and resources to ensure that the new constitution got the full support of the Muslim community during the August 2010 referendum, I must say that the Muslim scholars who went to see the PM demonstrated the kind of political maturity that all other Muslims should emulate.

But my support for the pro-Cord group does not mean that I have something against Muslims who choose to support other alliances-- I only call upon them to look back to where this country has come from in terms of the quest for reforms and good governance.

If they feel the new constitution means something, then they should not hesitate to cast their lot with reformists. I salute the current coalition making politics.

However, we should focus our singular attention to the possibility of the coalition being turned into negative tribal tussles of 'us' against 'them'.

We had similar coalitions in the last election cycle and we all know where the charged negative campaign took us. The additional danger we have at our hands is the possible decentralization of electoral conflict to the county level.

The writer is the outgoing CEO of the Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance and Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM).

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