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No idolatry in Kisumu, the holy city

By Mugambi Nandi | Feb 16th 2014 | 3 min read

By Mugambi Nandi
[email protected]

We shall refrain from making disparaging remarks against the pious residents of Kisumu who recently declared their town a Christian city. Last week, some of them resolved that idolatry in any form, shape or size, will under no circumstances be tolerated in their holy city.

Driven by righteous anger, they menacingly demanded the removal of a commemorative sculpture, which had just been unveiled at a public square. Their abhorrence for idolatry is all very well, except that the sanctimonious Kisumites descended upon a harmless work of art.

Going by media reports, other forms of debauchery are welcome and might be practised with reckless abandon if it were not for the hypocritical requirement for stealth. Hero worship, itself a form of idolatry, is not affected by this ban although it did face a temporary setback during the disorderly iconoclastic proceedings – as a result of which a certain prominent party leader was told to his face that the idol had to come down.

Apparently, the destruction of the sculpture erected by Sikhs was an expression of divine jealousy on God’s behalf by Christians, who themselves (selfishly) have their crosses and crucifixes.

The absurdity of the situation makes it laughable, except that it is no laughing matter when a part of the community decides that no expression of thought or religion is allowed if it is not consistent with its own views. Sikhism is based on three key principles: working hard and honestly, sharing with the needy and daily devotion to the remembrance of God. Sikhs believe in one God, who is the same for all people of all religions.

Sikhism teaches equality of all people, without regard to race, religion, or gender. It teaches religious freedom, where all people have the right to follow their own path to God without condemnation or coercion from others – a principle Christians and Muslims would greatly benefit from learning.

Sikhism emphasizes a moral and ethical life, and service to others. Idol worship is against the basic principles of Sikhism. Of course that is not to say that all Sikhs are faithful to these principles. A look at the Sikh principles shows that they are for the most part indistinguishable from Christian tenets. The bringing down of the sculpture erected by Sikhs therefore brought out the worst in religious fundamentalism and intolerance.

It demonstrated just how destructive ignorance can be. To the locals, the sculpture looked strange. It was therefore misunderstood, with the result that it was interpreted to be an idol, the very representation of evil.

Superstitions, shallow spirituality and mob psychology compounded the mystery of the sculpture, and a veritable mountain was created out of a molehill.

We can think of a number of offences, which the righteous goons of Kisumu could have been charged with. There is destruction of property, a misdemeanour, which attracts a five-year sentence. There is unlawful assembly, a favourite of Kanu’s back in the single party days. There is the one of causing a breach of the peace. There is the other one of damaging an object with the intention of insulting the religion of other people.

Of course the law is blind in this country, so impunity reigns supreme. Citizens take matters into their own hands all the time and get away with it – as they did in Kisumu, and as they do for erecting illegal, murderous speed bumps on national highways.

Before we get consumed by our moral indignation, is it any coincidence that Christians (or a section of them) were at the forefront in opposing the Constitution of Kenya 2010 on the grounds that it elevated Kadhi’s courts, besides opening a wide window through which the institution of marriage might be penetrated (and adulterated) by homosexuals?


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