Connect to share and comment

Kenya deports radical Muslim cleric

Sheikh al-Faisal convicted of inciting racial hatred and murder.

Kenya has arrested and is seeking to deport a Muslim extremist cleric as part of its effort to prevent Al Qaeda and other radical groups from operating in the East African country. Here Victor Juma, 12, whose father was killed in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy, points at a painting about the Al Qaeda attack, Aug. 7, 2008.(Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A radical Muslim cleric jailed in Britain for inciting racial hatred and soliciting murder was deported by Kenya Thursday.

The action is part of the Kenyan government's effort to prevent Al Qaeda or other extremist Muslim groups from operating in this country.

Kenya’s Anti-Terrorist Police Unit arrested Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal as he left evening prayers at a mosque close to Mombasa last Thursday. He was held by authorities and was been in legal limbo as Kenya has sought to act on its own deportation order.

“He is persona non grata here in Kenya,” said government spokesman Alfred Mutua.

Because there are no direct flights to al-Faisal’s home country of Jamaica he would have to transit through a European country, but none were willing to have him, even in transit.

The solution was found when Gambia agreed to have al-Faisal in transit enroute to Jamaica. On Thursday al-Faisal left Jomo Kenyatta International Airport outside Nairobi on a flight to Gambia.

Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal, Feb. 24, 2003.
(Ian Waldie/Reuters)

Al-Faisal entered Kenya overland from Tanzania on Dec. 24 to continue a lecture tour that had already taken him to Nigeria, Angola, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.

His firebrand speeches inciting violence against non-believers had already gotten him locked up and then deported from Britain, his adopted home. In 2003 al-Faisal was jailed by British authorities for seven years after being convicted of inciting his followers to kill Christians, Hindus, Jews and Westerners and for encouraging them to use chemical weapons against their enemies.

One of the suicide bombers who detonated devices in London in July 2007 had attended the south London mosque where al-Faisal was imam, as had Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" who botched an attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight.

Al-Faisal was released early from jail in 2007 and subsequently deported to his home country of Jamaica. The 45-year old father of four was born Trevor William Forest in St James, Jamaica. He was nicknamed "Dictionary" because of his learned vocabulary.

His parents were Salvation Army officers and he was raised as a Christian, but when he was 16 he went to Saudi Arabia where is believed to have spent eight years and became a Muslim. He took a degree in Islamic studies in Riyadh before moving to Britain in the early 1980s.

Al-Faisal's arrest in Kenya has been seen by some Islamic leaders as another example of anti-Muslim discrimination in the name of fighting terrorism. Immigration minister Gerald Kajwang denied targeting Muslims saying this was “not a religious matter” and referring to al-Faisal’s “history of criminality” and alleged terrorist links.

“We are not deporting him because he is a Muslim. We are deporting him because of his terrorist history and the fact that he is on the international watch-list,” Kajwang told the Daily Nation newspaper.

Al-Amin Kimathi, executive coordinator of Kenya’s Muslim Human Rights Forum condemned the arrest, detention and deportation of al-Faisal.

“The whole process infringes his human rights. There are charges that he has links to terrorism but no evidence. There is no proven crime committed in Kenya,” he said.