The Shia Muslim community in Kenya has appealed to the government to incorporate them in key national decision making, including the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
They spoke on Wednesday in Mombasa while commemorating Ashura, which marks the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein, the third Shia Imam.
A similar event took place in Lamu, where dozens of Shia faithful, led by Swafaa mosque imam and Islamic college principle Sheikh Idarus Mzee Mwenye, jammed the narrow streets of the archipelago to commemorate the event.
The community also urged the government to make the event an official public holiday to allow Muslims to preach peace and non-violence among Kenyans as a best approach in resolving conflicts.
“Like other Islamic sects, the Shia sect preaches peace and non-violence. We advocate for peaceful co-existence between people irrespective of their faiths and that is the message of Imam Hussein to mankind.
“He advocated for non-violence where he said peace is a better option than using a sword,” said former Lamu county council chairman Hassan Al-Beity.
Mr Al-Beity said the community has immense manpower and financial resources at its disposal that could be used in national building.
“We want the government to recognize the presence of our community in this country. We urge the President to be aware that just like Christianity which has Catholic, Anglican and protestants, Muslims too have Sunni and Shia communities who deserve representations in the government,” said Mr Al-Beity.
“We are ready to work with the government in poverty eradication, and fighting terrorism and tribalism. Here in Mombasa we offer free water distribution to Muslims and non-Muslim institutions,” added Mr Al-Beity.
Nishaf Hussein Karim urged Kenyans to emulate Imam Hussein’s good leadership qualities which inspired iconic South African Leader Nelson Mandela and Indian Mahatma Gandhi in their non-violent resistance against injustice, inequality and oppression.
"This episode happened almost 1400 years ago but the message still remains today. The death of Imam Hussein doesn't mean he lost the battle, he might have lost the physical battle, but the battle for freedom still remains. Don't allow to leave the life of humiliation," Mr Karim said.
Members of the community of all ages converged at Masjid Ali in Mbaraki before embarking on a two-kilometre procession that ended at the community’s cemetery.
Mohamed Jaffer, the chief executive officer of Grain Bulk Handlers Limited, and tycoon Rashid Sajjad were among notable members of the community who took part in the event.
The event falls on the 10th day of the first month (Muharram) of the Islamic calendar.