Hassan ole Naado: Discontented Muslim youth is a time-bomb - The Star

Kenya has found herself in a very awkward situation after attempts by security and immigration authorities to deport the blacklisted Jamaican-born Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Faisal, were met by harsh condemnation and violent protests from Muslim human rights groups.

Sheikh AI-Faisal came to Kenya under mysterious circumstances and if his profile and the heat generated by his presence are anything to go by, then one can easily understand why many people today view Muslims with suspicion.

A frequent allegation against Islam is that it is a religion of terror; such that it is a matter of great concern that these days, many are those who, when they hear Islam mentioned, at once think: "trouble is on its way". Such is the fear of Islam that the controversy surrounding Al-Fais-al's presence in Kenya is a clear manifestation of the challenges that many Muslims, especially the youth, face today in various parts of world.

The Jamaican-born cleric has been accused of preaching violence and sectarian hatred by soliciting the murder of Jews and Hindus and other non-Muslims. But whether the allegations against Al-Faisal are true or not, the question is; does Islam really preach violence?

Islam is a religious system preached to the world by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The word Islam indicates the very essence of the religious system known by that name. Its primary significance is the 'making of peace', and the idea of peace is predominant in Islam.

But the question is, why is Islam painted as a religion dripping with blood yet it has very noble and incontrovertible teachings that denounce violence? The answer to this question sometimes lies in the status of the Muslim youth today.

It must be acknowledged that many Muslim youth are becoming easy targets of unscrupulous elements which want to use religion as a weapon to pursue other ends — and the Muslim youth in Kenya are particularly vulnerable.

The faster this problem is identified, acknowledged and addressed, the better for everyone.
Every Muslim worth that title knows that Islam denounces violence and murder. But the socio-economic and political circumstances currently prevailing in many Muslim communities have caused many of them to ignore these noble teachings.

For instance, an honest look into the lives of the hundreds of the Muslim youth who engaged police in deadly confrontations in Nairobi last Friday would reveal a very sorry state of affairs.

The Muslim youth are as enthusiastic as any other Kenyan about the day-to-day issues affecting their lives and their society. Like any other Kenyan, the Muslim youth are also concerned about national issues such as corruption, democratic governance, equitable distribution of resources and human rights that they blame for challenges facing them.

However, they are disadvantaged in many ways. First, due to the historical marginalisation of the Muslim community in Kenya, coupled with the modern stereotypes about Muslims, the youth have on average not been able to access good education that would enable them compete on equal terms with their counterparts — the non-Muslims.

Secondly, Kenya's socio-political and economic institutions are largely modelled on Judeo-Christian morality, meaning that the Muslim youth shun these institutions because they perceive them to be anti-Islamic and therefore not responsive to their needs as Muslims.

The consequence has been that Muslim youth cannot access economic or financial services that are acceptable to their faith.

As a result, the Muslim youth are an idle lot, frustrated, poor, desperate and angry.

With such anger and frustration, coupled with the fact that they are stereotyped or profiled, anything that appeals to their religious passions is enough to lead them into violent activities.

Besides, with pumped up frustrations and lack of opportunities, the youths are vulnerable to any ideology that recruits such type of people into extremist activities.

With such a sorry state of affairs among Muslim youth it was easy to find thousands of them in support of Al-Faisal — why? Because they find him a hero, and for lack of a better role model, what he says appeals to them.

In this regard, as the concerned authorities and Muslim leaders ponder over last week's violence they should be thinking of how to put in place socio-economic and political institutions that are responsive to the needs of Muslims.

Otherwise the 'business-as-usual' approach will not succeed, and the Muslim youth will always be a 'time-bomb' ready to explode at the slightest provocation.

The writer is a Chevening fellow and the CEO of the Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance.

Bookmark the permalink.