NAIROBI (AA) – Kenya’s Muslim leaders have denounced a dawn-to-dusk curfew ordered by Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo in the troubled Lamu county, dismissing the measure as a violation of freedom of worship during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“The Inspector General should have considered the religious obligations Muslims have on the holy month of Ramadan and especially on these last ten days,” Supreme Council of Kenya Muslim Chairman Prof. Abdulghafur El-Busaidy told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.
“We call upon the government to reverse the directive,” he said.
During the last ten days of Ramadan Muslims converge on mosques to perform special night prayers.
But Kimaiyo ordered all residents of Lamu to remain indoors from 6.30pm to 6.30am for the next thirty days starting Sunday.
The curfew came two days after seven people, including four police officers, were killed when a Lamu-bound bus was attacked by militants. Somali’s Al-Shabaab militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Maintaining security in Lamu county is paramount but denying Muslim faithful their religious obligation on this holy month is unacceptable,” Majority Leader in Parliament Aden Dualle tweeted on Sunday.
He encouraged Muslims in Lamu to ignore the curfew.
“Muslims in Lamu must go to the mosques for the last 10 days of Ramadan despite the curfew,” said the top lawmaker. “Our religion supersedes curfew orders.”
On the resort Island of Lamu, which is also the headquarters of Lamu county and where attacks have not taken place, Muslim residents were confused over whether the curfew applied to them.
“Our imam has not communicated to us whether the night prayers at our local mosque are still on or not,” Hammad Baghdam, a shop owner on Lamu Island, told AA.
“The curfew should only have been imposed on Lamu mainland where there have been attacks,” he said. “And most of the business activities and shopping during the month of Ramadan is done during the night.”
Four Mombasa-based Muslim right groups have threatened to take the government to court over the curfew order.
In a joint statement availed to AA, Haki Africa, Muslim For Human Rights, Human Rights Agenda and Kenya Muslim Women Alliance dismissed the curfew as “a violation of freedom of worship.”
“The organizations have called for the immediate withdrawal of the curfew and provision of security to allow Muslims to exercise their right to worship in peace,” they said.
By Yassin Juma
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