By deporting a radical Islamic cleric this weekend, Kenya seems to be taking a stand to work more closely with the United States and other Western powers in the global campaign against radical Islamic groups.
Kenya arrested Jamaican Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal after he attended evening prayers at a mosque in Mombasa last Thursday, and announced on Sunday it would deport the cleric because of his past jail time in Britain for preaching of racial hatred.
The move angered Kenyan Muslims and prompted calls for due process from human rights activists, but Kenya’s immigration minister said that the country was acting within its rights to protect national interests.
"We are not deporting him because he is a Muslim," Kenyan Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang' said on Sunday, after signing a deportation order for Sheikh el-Faisal. "We are deporting him because of his terrorist history and the fact that he is on the international watch-list."
El-Faisal took advantage of the fact that Kenya’s Lunga Lunga border crossing point on the country's border with Tanzania is not connected to Kenya’s computerized immigration system, Mr. Kajwang' said, adding that the cleric would not have been allowed into the country if he had arrived at a more up-to-date immigration posting, such as Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
El-Faisal is a Jamaican-born convert to Islam, who was jailed in Britain in 2003 for encouraging young Muslims to murder Hindus, Jews, and Westerners. In a tape recording called Jihad, distributed in specialty Islamic bookstores after 9/11 and introduced as evidence in his trial, el-Faisal preached “The way forward is the bullet. Our motto is 'might is right.' "
Kenyan Muslim groups have protested the cleric’s arrest last week, saying that he had come to Kenya to teach classes in Islamic studies.
Kenyan human rights activists have also criticized the government, saying that the hasty deportation order violated the cleric's right to due process.
“The Kenyan police indicated that he is a ‘person of interest,’ but even then he is still afforded all rights under the Kenyan constitution,” says Hassan Omar Hassan, commissioner of Kenya’s National Human Rights Commission in Nairobi. “Kenya must act in its interests, but at the same time, the national interests must be balanced by the rule of law.”
Kenya would have been within its legal rights to deny entry to el-Faisal at the border, given the broad perimeters that immigration authorities have for making such determinations, says Mr. Hassan, but once el-Faisal was in the country “then you have to follow the process on the basis that he is a person with human rights.”