Leaders condemn attack on talented Form Three girl

Asha Ahmed* (not her real name) reveals at Isiolo Police Station one of the many parts on her body that was injured by a group of fellow students from Isiolo Girls High School.  [PHOTO: ALI ABDI/ STANDARD]

Isiolo, Kenya: Religious leaders have condemned the actions of a group girls who allegedly attacked a 17-year-old Form Three girl in Isiolo County after they accused her of participating in activities forbidden by Islam.

Last weekend she was declared ‘Miss Isiolo’ at an inter-schools event. But that, as a result of cultural and religious barriers, earned her beatings from about 15 schoolmates.

The 17-year-old Form Three student at Isiolo Girls High School, one of the two National schools in Isiolo County, is now nursing serious injuries on her back, shoulder, chest, head and hands, after about 15 schoolmates’ attacked her at about 8pm on Saturday night.

Earlier that day, 49 students from the school’s Journalism Club had visited Ntulili School in neighbouring Meru County, where besides the day’s business, modeling and music were showcased. ‘‘It was a whole day’s trip for members of the club and all went well until we arrived back at school,” said the girl, who is also the club’s chair and a prefect.

As they took their supper, a student informed her that there was a sick student in the dormitory who required urgent assistance.  Being the prefect, she hurriedly abandoned her meal to render her assistance, but unbeknown to her, she was going to be beaten up.

“Between the dining hall and the dormitory, a group of about 15 students attacked me using clubs, sticks and stones until a watchman saved my life,’’ she said tearfully.

She was accused of mixing journalism with modelling and music, activities her attackers claimed were contrary to the teachings of Islam.

She was treated at Waso Nursing Home and Isiolo Level Four Hospital and later obtained a P3 form.

In shock

‘‘Apart from visible deep wounds, she now nurses a broken finger and it will take some time for her to recover fully,’’ her mother said.

A teacher in the school, who requested anonymity, said she would have been killed had a watchman not intervened.

The girl, who is still in shock, says: ‘‘I will never go back to that school.”

Her ordeal has raised many questions regarding the stand commonly taken by pastoralists and Muslim communities towards girls who participate in co-curricular activities like music and modelling.

The Chairman of the Muslim Development group in Nyeri County Sheikh Uledi Majid condemned the group’s actions, saying it was not right for a Muslim to judge a fellow Muslim.

He said it was up to God to judge and punish. “It is important that women protect their modesty and avoid showing off their bodies, or engage in any form of nudity. It is forbidden in our faith,” he explained. Majid said the girls should have counseled their colleague. “They should have reported her actions to the Imam or Islamic preacher so she could be counselled,” Majid said.

Mr Sheikh Shaffih, also based in Nyeri County, said modeling is forbidden in Islam, but the attack on the girl was also unacceptable.

“Assaulting a fellow Muslim should not be the proper way to handle the mistake of the individual, we have our laws and our ways and the rule of law should have been followed,” Sheikh Shaffih said.

He, however, condemned the girl for participating in a modeling contest. “Certain actions are forbidden in our faith and every Muslim knows and should strive to adhere to the proper code of conduct,” said Mr Shaffih.

Muslim and Christian leaders In the North Rift called for moderation of conservative doctrines that may bar the young generation from pursuing their ambitions.

Protect children

Leaders are of the opinion that the youthful generation is growing in a different era, with a lot of changes in the social, religious and economic sphere. Reverend Rirei Maritim of the Anglican Church of Kenya in Eldoret says there really needs to be tolerance on issues that logically do not contravene the religious doctrine and on the other hand help the youth advance their talents.

“Issues like modeling in schools among other sports activities need to be viewed moderately. There are a few rules that can be laid down not to demean the religious guidelines but not completely scare our children from venturing in particular activities,” he said.

He said conservatism might make the youth stray from pursuing their ambitions that could likely earn them a living and even become mentors in future. Rirei says that laws should be amended and enforced to moderate the teachers of religion so as to give everybody an opportunity to achieve their dreams.

“The State and the religious fraternity should convene, come to a consensus and address this issue to protect children from victimisation and fear of pursuing their ambitions,” he added.

Sheikh Abubakar Bin, the North Rift chairperson of Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, condemned the move by the other girls at Isiolo to attack their colleague for perceiving her actions as un-Islamic.

“Our religion does not permit anybody to take the law in their hands” he explained.

However, Sheikh Bin says religion should not be limiting too much to some activities like sports that are important to the youth’s development and health.

“The Islam religion supports sports very much and I recently saw a Muslim girl in the Tunisian volleyball team that travelled to Kenya for competition. They were well dressed and played without complaint from the religious leaders,” he said.

He said the Isiolo incident has challenged them as religious leaders to engage learning institutions, among others, in making a clear way forward on matters involving sports in relation to religion.

This comes two years after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stepped up its pandering and appeasement of Muslims by ruling that it will no longer require women’s beach volleyball teams to wear bikinis IOC did that in a bid to encourage Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia, to send female sports teams to participate in 2012 Summer London Games, to meet certain feminist-imposed standards.

Asha says she started music and modelling while in primary school. Songs she composed are played on local radio stations like Baliti FM and Isiolo FM.

‘‘My parents, especially my mother, has no problem with music and modeling. I do not know why the society is against it,’’ she said.

She is the reigning Miss Isiolo Girls and her teachers are encouraging her despite the setback. ‘‘She is very talented and I pray that she gets the necessary encouragement to go for what she wants,’’ said a teacher at the school.

Meanwhile, the school administration has sent home 15 students who attacked her. Four of them were arrested and are out on bail.