Bin Laden's death prompts debate among Muslims in Kenya
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 2 -- As the call for dawn prayers resounded early Monday through the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi, news of the death of Osama bin Laden trickled through to residents. In small crowds, many held animated chats outside the mosques and many restaurants in this bustling business district.
Others sat pensively watching Al Jazeera Arabic as they sipped on the ritual morning tea. For many here, the celebration seen around the world bears little resonance.
“I think it’s absurd for any Muslim to celebrate the death of Osama,” said Osman Elmi, a pensioner who followed the proceedings from a chemist’s shop. “This man fought to liberate Afghanistan and whether we admit or not, he has fought for the collective dignity of all Muslims."
Bin Laden was said to have been responsible for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people and injured many more. He was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan on Sunday.
Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali Muslim neighborhood, has been a focus of international news stories due to the area's alleged terrorist activities and money laundering schemes. Here, the news of bin Laden's death won't likely fade away. Instead, it will remain a primary topic for discussion and debate into the near future.
Butcheries in Eastleigh that are normally filled with female customers in early morning had more shoppers than usual. No one, it seemed, wanted to be left out of the conversation.
Those who had not yet received the news hustled about, seeking information from the small crowds that had gathered in the streets. One man, called "Fundi" by those around him, boasted that he had first-hand knowledge of bin Laden's death. His claims, though apparently uncorroborated, attracted a sizeable audience.
“I hear he was very ill and he was looking for treatment,” Fundi said. “So he was taken to Pakistan and I think they tracked him after he made a call to request for an ambulance."
Farhan Ahmed, a lanky teenager tuned his radio as though listening to a soccer game, said he doesn't believe that bin Laden is dead.
“This propaganda (is) by America,” he said in Swahili.
When asked why he preferred to watch Al Jazeera over any other channel, Hirsi Adan, a taxi driver, lambasted American news channels. They're biased, he said, and seek to tarnish the image of Arabs and Muslims.
“CNN makes it a point to rub it in our faces everytime there’s news involving a prominent person who happens to be Muslim,” he said. “You remember in 2006, when they chose to kill Saddam Hussein right on the morning of Eid and CNN was there, flashing bright lights all over. They never pause to ask us what we think."
Eid is a Muslim holiday.
Other residents made more calculated statements.
“I think they just opened a can of worms,” said Bile Abdisalam, a student who sat with his friends at the Bilal Mosque. “Osama was just one man. Now we’ll see how many more Osamas America will have to kill in this so-called war on terror.”
In a vegetable stall, Mama Hawo, a thick-set, bespectacled woman made a buzz with her statements.
“This man is the one sponsoring those groups in Somalia who are terrorizing our people, why are you even supporting him?” she asked, referring to bin Laden. “If you want to support someone, go and support the Palestinians who are being massacred by the Israelis.”