As a result of the attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya by a group of takfeeri bandits, many members of the Somali community feel that they are under attack by the media. As a result, many Somali community leaders are reluctant to engage the media with regard to this attack leery of fear-mongers who could potentially capitalize upon this tragedy to promote bigotry.
In addition, many leaders in the Somali community lack the experience, skills and cultural context to explain their perspective and have therefore chosen to remain silent. This silence only leads to a distorted coverage of the issues related to the Somali community.
Although Muslims within the Somali diaspora oppose this violence they feel that their feelings and concerns are often ignored by many in the media – particularly young people. I fear that this frustration may potentially be capitalized upon by those who would like to foment violence and extremism.
It is clear from the reports issued by media outlets that similar to the attack on September 11, 2001, those who died in the Westgate mall were of multiple nationalities and faith traditions – including Somali Muslims.
For example, in a news segment on NPR, one of the perpetrators of this evil act was not concerned about the religion of a Muslim woman he killed – even after she recited from the Quran – allegedly because she was not covering her hair.
With all of the above in mind, I would suggest that we host a dialogue with Kenyans and Somalis of all faiths from the Washington DC metro area. Through this event we will have the opportunity to witness, dialogue and pray with one another with regard to our common love for God, life, freedom and faith as well as work for justice and better understanding. As in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, our collective resolve toward love and understanding sends the greatest message to those who hate – that love is the most powerful weapon on Earth and in the heavens.