Kenya: priest asks Christians to allow Islamic courts in constitution

 A Catholic priest has asked the faith-led pressure group on constitutional affairs and the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) to allow for the inclusion of Islamic (Kadhi's) Courts in the new constitution under preparation. The Courts have been in Kenya's constitution, without causing any friction, ever since the multi-religious East African nation gained independence from Britain in 1963. But there are moves from certain Christian quarters to expunge them as the constitution undergoes a review process. Fr Gabriel Dolan, Justice and Peace coordinator for the Kitale Catholic Diocese, while accepting that leaders of Ufungamano Initiative are understandably frustrated with the stalled constitutional reform, said that the group risks losing its position as the body uniting the major faiths in the country. "Kadhis Courts, according to the final document, are not a threat to other faiths, nor do they give preferential treatment to the Islamic Faith. Rather, the aim is to protect the rights of a minority- 6.5% according to the 2000 Census- and also confine their jurisdiction to matters of personal law," Fr Dolan argued in a statement sent to CISA, which is also excerpted below: "We should understand that many Muslims feel under threat from the USA backed war on terror that seems to be targeting the Islamic faith. The proposed Suppression of Terrorism Bill 2003 does little to allay their fears. We have never had Christian - Muslim strife in Kenya, so why should we allow propaganda from the West to now divide us? Muslims have never threatened either the security of the state nor the rights of non-Muslims. Why should we now feel so suspicious of them? "If Christian leaders were to endorse the entrenchment of Kadhi's Courts in the new Constitution, then we could also witness the re-emergence of Ufungamano as a united religious body. They would have both the credibility and moral force to tame the political class and to complete the constitutional review. They would also rediscover their role as mediators and not creators of a new constitution. "It is very probable that the Kadhi's Court matter was intended to divide the religious leaders and in the process scuttle the reform movement. We may have fallen for that political trick but it is not too late to undo the damage." Source: CISA

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