Regional and Interest Articulation in Kenya:the case of Islam (1963-2008)
It has been argued by many liberal thinkers that the role .of religion in politics is counter-productive and that faith should be ideally limited to the private space. In the context of Kenya, religion far from being confined to the private realm, actively engages and shapes opinions in public discourse. The involvement of religious actors in Kenyan politics dates back to the pre-colonial era. This study examines the role of one such actor-Muslim religious organizations and their articulation of Muslim interest in Kenya. The study is based on the premise that in articulating Muslim interest in Kenya, de jure and de facto discrimination and marginalization of the Muslim minority by successive post-independence governments has informed the advocacy agenda of Muslim religious organizations. While their advocacy seeks to ameliorate the welfare of the Muslim ummah, the study shows that this is limited by a confluence of factors. These include the lack of a political will on the part of policy makers and on the part of Muslim religious organizations, the lack of requisite experience, expertise and high levels of institutionalization which are the sine quo non for effective interest articulation. In terms of methodology, the study utilised both primary and secondary data. While primary data was generated through interviews, secondary data was obtained from books, journals, magazines and official publications by government and religious organizations. The study focused on four Muslim faith-based organizations namely Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM), National Muslim Leaders Forum (NAMLEF), the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), and Muslim Human Rights Forum (MHRF). Their selection was purposive and justified by their extensive grass root presence in the two Muslim provinces of Coast and North Eastern. Furthermore, two non-faith secular organizations engaged in development issues and service provision at the district level were purposively selected with a view to providing an independent assessment of the relevance and achievements of faith-based Muslim organizations. The study utilised non-probability sampling technique in selecting suitable persons for the interviews. In terms of theory, unconventional partners and popular strain theories were utilised. While the unconventional partners theory illuminated the mutually supportive roles of religion and politics, popular strain theory emphasised the role of religious-based groups- in generating popular participation in poLitics.