Dear fellow citizens,
On Friday last, a section of you took to the streets of Nairobi to protest against the deportation of a fellow Muslim, the Jamaican born cleric Abdullah al-Faisal. The Kenyan media, which many of you have accused of fuelling Islamophobia and I am with you on that one, informs me that six police men were wounded in that protest. One of them has since succumbed to his injuries. That policeman was shot, isn’t that strange?
As I write this, Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal is being held at the Industrial Area Prison in Nairobi. The government’s plans to deport him seem to have been thwarted by fact that he is on, that bane of many other Muslims, an international no fly list. When the government attempted to send him to the Gambia, the Nigerians refused to grant him a transit visa. I mean, it is nothing personal what the Nigerians did, seeing how one of theirs- Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab- (who happens to be a Muslim and on a similar list) embarrassed them last Christmas. Just about the time Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal entered Kenya through the Lunga Lunga border with Tanzania.
But who is this sheikh really? The Brits say that he is a convicted criminal. He was arrested, charged with incitement to murder and stirring hatred, found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison. After the first half of his prison term was over, he became eligible for parole at which point the British released him, deported him to Jamaica and banned him from the UK for life.
I do believe that a conviction doesn’t always make one a criminal: bad laws do exist. On the other hand, public opinion rarely brooks reason and so the general perception remains that the sheikh is a ‘criminal’. And, in the interest of the public, foreign ‘criminals’ are arrested and, hopefully, deported.
The arrest itself is telling. Crooked as Kenyan cops are, and granted that the antiterrorism unit that apprehended him is for all intents and purposes a lackey of American imperialism, they were very decent in the process of making the arrest. They said they had nothing on him, he was not being arrested for alleged terrorism activities or connections but because there was a deportation order out on him. They didn’t waterboard him and demand Osama Bin Laden’s cell phone number, they just asked to see his travel documents.
Whatever the Kenyan government had on him, it doesn’t help his case any better that he has two passports with different names. I am made to understand that he converted to Islam when he was sixteen and studied the religion in the Middle East. The question I keep asking myself is, if the passport that says he is Trevor William Forest, is Jamaican- and it should be- was it issued before he was sixteen and a Muslim? But if so, and assuming the guy is 45, hasn’t that passport been renewed, at least once? That is to say that he has knowingly, and with an intention to conceal his identity implied, been carrying two passports with different names. I will not even talk about dishonesty here, but international law demands that this person be arrested and charged. I will not even ask what the nationality on his other passport is because I have already seen someone who needs to be denied entry into any country that considers itself a respectable citizen of the world. No law, no precept in international justice can be used in his defence.
Was he profiled because he was a Muslim? Not really, as the immigration minister, Otieno Kajwang, said: we are targeting him because he has a history of criminality and we just do not want him in this country. (What Alfred Mutua has to say, as always, doesn't count).
Was his deportation legal? No it wasn’t, because it doesn’t seem as though he was given a chance to speak to his lawyer. Or at least a chance to challenge the deportation in a court of law which is what should be allowed him now. In another world, the immigration minister should have resigned for his part in the entire debacle, but that is just too much to ask. In the meantime, before any Muslim goes running on the street yelling: Oh, Islam this, Oh, Islam that, let him first explain to those Kenyans who do not seem to get it what a guy travelling with two passports with two different names has got to do with Islam. Before we find another reason to hate each other, let it be clear that just because one guy, who happens to be a Muslim is apprehended, does not mean that Islam has been apprehended. And if Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal goes on trial, the only people who will put Islam on trial will be his supporters, not the government of Kenya.