- Muslim scholars from across the region between Sunday 23rd – Monday 24th August 2015 converged in Kenya’s Kwale County to forge a way of battling out extremism by Al Shabaab
- The religious leaders came from Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo
- They said they will henceforth join their respective governments in weeding out extremism
- The body of Imams acknowledged that religious radicalism threatens the existence of sovereign nations and their economies.
- This is the first ever regional force by councils of Imams to come together on a course of rooting out extremists in the name of Islam.
Summary and Background
The clerics, who belong to the moderate Sufi order of Sunni Islam, said Salafist groups, to which they said Al Shabaab belongs, are motivated by Wahhabi doctrines and have hijacked Islam.
Sunni Islam is the traditional form of Islam. It constitutes up to 90% of the total Muslims in the world.
Sunni Muslims are different from the minority Shia, who rejected Abu Bakr’s authority in favor of Ali, whom Sunnis accepted as the fourth Caliph rather than the first after the death of Prophet Muhammad.
Wahhabi adherents are a branch of the majority Sunnis. They have a stern way of life that especially degrades the women. They are also radical and irrational and have in the past carried out brutalities against non-Muslim believers and continue to carry out massacres against including fellow Muslims.
The Wahhabi is part of Salafist groups within Sunni Islam. Salafist groups support the implementation of sharia law. They partly constitute jihadists such as the Harakat Al Shabaab Al Mujahideen (Al Shabaab) who use radical approaches to force people into Islam.
On the other hand, moderate Sufi support tolerance and coexistence of Muslims and Christians. In a meeting in Kenya, the Imams said they will implement their strategies to fight especially Al Shabaab that has targeted the East African region.
They promised to work especially against radicalization among Muslim youth that have become an easy target to terrorist recruiters. The clerics said they would seek the unity of all Sufi organizations in the region and visit countries to combat the spread of radical ideologies.
The clerics said traditional Islam does not support violence, murder and destruction or expulsion of Muslims and non-Muslims even when there is a difference of religious interpretation.
The move to fight Al Shabaab through a regional group of Imams is a brilliant idea to governments in question. If given the tactical and intelligence support they need, coupled with top security, their efforts to support governments to root out Al Shabaab movement will bear fruit.