Muslim leaders in Kenya concerned over students forced to attend church services

Published 30.06.2015 15:47

Muslim leaders in Kenya have voiced outrage over reports that Muslim students at a girls' high school in Mombasa County were being forced to attend Christian church services or face expulsion.

Muslim students at the Bura High School for Girls say they were forced to attend Christian church services, an infringement on their constitutional right to freedom of worship.

Abdulswamad Nassir, an MP for the constituency in which the school is located, said he had received several reports to this effect from concerned parents.

"Parents and schoolchildren have visited my office to protest," Nassir said. "They have explained to me how they were being deprived of their [religious] rights."

"They are telling me that, at the school, our Muslim girls are being forced to attend church services," the MP added.

Aden Bare Duale, majority leader in Kenya's national assembly, for his part, has promised to raise the issue with Education Minister Jacob Kaimenyi.

"I am going to tell Prof. Kaimenyi [about the allegations]," Duale said.

"We will? tell him that such teachers are the ones who are spoiling Kenya-a Kenya in which Muslims and Christians, and other tribes and religions, are united," the majority leader added.

"At the Sheikh Khalifa School, no Christian students are forced to enter the mosque," Duale added, referring to a Muslim school on the Kenyan coast attended by both Muslim and Christian students.

According to the reports, 40 Muslim students were suspended from the school last week for failing to attend Sunday church services.

Parents of the suspended students later converged on Nassir's office to complain, prompting the MP to promise to raise the issue in parliament.

"I have written a petition and I will officially be presenting it in parliament next week," Nassir said.

Disputes over religion in schools are not new to predominantly-Christian Kenya, in which Muslims are said to account for roughly 11 percent of the population.

In March, the Council of Imams and Preachers condemned a ruling by Kenya's high court banning the hijab (the headscarf worn by many Muslim women and girls) at a school in the country's northeast.

The court ruled at the time that wearing the hijab was "discriminatory" and contravened school regulations.

The Council of Imams and Preachers responded to the ruling by accusing the court of deliberately ignoring Article 32 of the constitution, which states that Kenyan citizens "shall not be compelled to act, or engage in any act, that is contrary to the person's belief or religion."

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