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Muslims in Nairobi From a feeling of marginalisation to a desire for political recognition1 Anne Cussac and Nathalie Goms Islam was introduced to Nairobi at the end of the 19th century by Swahili or Arab merchants who founded the Muslim villages of Mombasa town, Unguja, & Q‚'          marrying women of different ethnic groups from within the country2 who    " beginning of the 20th century as the British colonists founded Nairobi along the Mombasa-Kampala railway, they employed Somali, Sudanese (Nubi) and Swahili soldiers and porters who settled in town and converted men of other ethnic groups within the army.3 Several Indian labourers, some of whom were of the Muslim faith, were also working in the construction of the Uganda Railway. Many settled in Nairobi where they were joined by Indians from the Coast. Thus, before 1920, most inhabitants of the town that became the capital of Kenya in 1907 were of the Islamic faith.4 Although the number of Muslims within Kenyan society is subject to controversy, they are no longer the majority in Nairobi. According to the most reliable estimates, they represent between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the total population in the country.5      the number of people professing to be Muslims in Nairobi. Nevertheless, the religion is obviously widespread. The town has at least 84 mosques—more than 120 according to one informant.6 Additionally, in a capital city that is Z          ‘‰‰‘‘‰‰_‘‰‰ from IFRA-Nairobi. We are grateful to Michel ADAM and Hélène BIGOT for their comments and corrections. 2 These women were generally Kikuyu, Kamba, Nandi or Maasai. 3 Maingi, A.N., The Diversity Factor in the History of Islam in Nairobi, 1900–1963, Master of Arts Thesis, University of Nairobi, 1989, 259 pages. 4 Kubai, A., ‘The Early Muslim Community of Nairobi (Kenya)’, Islam et Sociétés au Sud du Sahara, N° 6, November 1992, pp. 33–44. 5 For Muslim organisations, this proportion could even go up to 30% of the total population. Bakari, M., ‘Muslims and the Politics of Change in Kenya’, in Bakari, M., Yahya S.S., (eds.), Islam in Kenya, Proceedings of the National Seminar on Contemporary Islam in Kenya, Nairobi: Mewa Publications, 1995, pp. 235–251. 6 Interview with Abdulatif Sheikh, member of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem), Nairobi, 04/08/2004. 254 NAIROBI TODAY             ˆ  Q? Q bui bui, or a long dress with a scarf for women; a wide robe called a kanzu worn by some men), which bears witness to the existence of an ‘external Muslim identity’.7 The rite of communal prayer also contributes to this desire to express one’s faith as does regular mosque attendance, which seems to be on the increase. This is one   Z\\\   Š& / 8 the main mosque in the city, which had become too small to accommodate all the faithful, especially for Friday prayers. According to some estimates almost 2000 people go there daily and about 7000 on Friday.9 Also, since 1995, Islam has attracted new believers. In Jamia Mosque alone, more than 8000 people were converted in that period.10 Relatively little information on Muslims in Kenya’s capital is available, be         political involvement. To speak of ‘Nairobi Muslims’ suggests that there could      '#   generally associated with the Swahili Coast. Today, the coastal region remains largely Islamic and the Muslim population exerts a substantial economic and    ‚  &    urban grouping, they have never occupied such an important position. One of the reasons for this could be the extreme diversity of the Islamic populationˆ#‹• Q      if Muslims increasingly seem to seek to defend their interests in the political arena (II). THE DIVERSITY OF MUSLIM COMMUNITIES IN NAIROBI With the spread of Islam, its many different branches—Sunni, Shiah and Khariji—were all introduced into Kenya and that diversity of faiths is still perceptible today. The majority of Kenyan Muslims belong to the Sunni faith,     #?‚Q      "  Shiah. Additionally, the Ahmadiyya11 sect, considered as heretic by the other faithful, exists in the country. They have had a mosque in Nairobi since 1923 in 7 Kane, O., and Triaud, J.-L. (dir.), Islam et islamismes au sud du Sahara, Paris, Karthala-IREMAM, 1998, 331 pages. 8 The expansion of the Jamia Mosque in 1999, at a cost of US$ 3.5 million, was totally funded by the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayan Foundation of the United Arab Emirates. Today, the building can accommodate up to 15,000 people and includes a library, a lecture theatre and a conference hall...


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