Rogue sheikhs in Kenya and Somalia are exploiting young men and women with deceit of religious intervention only to turn them into violent extremists.
The rogue sheikhs who operate businesses in the name of ‘Allah’ have put up centres posing as rehabilitation and healing institutions in legitimate properties to keep suspecting individuals at bay. The self-proclaimed sheikhs are financially exploiting desperate parents in dire need of help for their mentally ill children and even in some cases drug addicts looking to recover.
Put under very hostile conditions, the young men and women are subjected to torture and thorough beatings for differing with wrong Islam teachings by the ‘religious leaders’. Those that align their minds and deeds with the rogue leaders are said to get favours such as freedom of movement from the enclosed institutions and most coveted favours being jobs.
According to one Fatma Abubakar Mohammed a mother of five children, her eldest son who she only identifies as Kumar during a one on one interview has been missing for three years now. Fatma who speaks in between sobs says she is the cause of her son’s disappearance after she took her 19 year old school dropout who was indulging in recreational drugs to a rehab centre as recommended by a friend.
“I thought my son would be corrected by taking him to the centre only to get news that he was missing from the centre after months of not seeing him.”
Fatma says the son was recommended to board in the institution for 6 months only to get a call after six months asking her to send more money as the duration had been extended for another four months. She says the alleged Sheikh would be fast to console her and give her words of hope that Kumar would return to normalcy and would be home immediately the course was done.
The facility having cut off communication between children and guardians, Fatma would not confirm anything at the time and due to her desperation as a single mother struggling to make ends meet, she was at the mercies of this rogue and fake counsellors and healers.
Fatma says hell broke loose when she made an impromptu visit to the facility only to be locked out. After a long time of pushing and hurling the gate demanding to see her son, a rude guard at the door would let the cat out of the bag unknowingly angrily asking her “si ulikuwa unataka mtoto aende Somalia kwa hao ugus?” (Did you not request that your child be taken to Somalia to join the Al Shabaab?)
Efforts to contact the ‘sheikh’ were futile and she would henceforth receive threatening messages warning her not to say a word to authorities. “I feared for my life and my four children’s and asked Allah to bring him back home one fine day.”
Fatma says her quest to find her son was cut short when later that month she got a call from a Somalia speaking man telling her that her son was in Janna and that he had done the group members (Al Shabaab) proud partaking jihad in Somalia.
The businesswoman based in Nairobi’s Eastleigh says such institutions purporting to be religion-oriented have been the downfall of vulnerable youth in the community.