It all began with a protracted legal battle between the Muslim Association and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (SDA) over ownership of a land piece. In October this year, the decades-long conflict ended after the land, and environmental court in Kisumu declared that the plot belonged to the Kenyan Muslim community. In return, the Mosque become “Mosque of Jesus Christ, the son of Mary”.
In an effort to build bridges and repair fractures, the Muslim community chose a new name for the Mosque, which attracted many and became a sensation on the Internet. The Mosque, which is located in the once disputed land of Kaloleni in Kisumu County, is called the “Mosque of Jesus Christ, the son of Mary”.
Worshipers say the name signifies the Muslim community’s decision to demonstrate to the SDA Church that it is one. “ We had a long scrum for the acquisition, and that’s one of the reasons we chose the name. We are not enemies of Christians,” says Abdul Rashid, a muezzin, in charge of the call to prayer.
The faithful say that the name’s choice signifies the Muslim community’s decision to demonstrate to the SDA church that they are one. “We had a long scrum for the acquisition, and that is one of the reasons why we chose the name. We are not enemies of the Christians,” says Abdul Rashid, a muezzin in charge of the call to prayer. (A Muezzin is a man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque.)
He notes that Muslims also believe in Jesus and that he was one of the prophets alongside four others who also included the Prophet Muhammad. “Muslims believe in Jesus Christ. The choice of name is also our recognition of Jesus Christ who we believe will return,” says Rashid.
Plans are also underway to build a permanent mosque, although Muslims praying there have already built a temporary structure for their prayers.
A senior government official who worships in the Mosque and is among those who filed a complaint against the SDA church said the name is not unique, adding that Jesus is also recognized in Islam. “Jesus received Injil (is the Arabic name for the Gospel of Jesus, editor’s note) while Mohammed received the Koran. The choice of the name is a message to them, telling them that we are together. We have always been together,” said the leader.
Several Christians in the region welcomed the decision, saying it would strengthen peaceful coexistence. “It is a good gesture. I think it is a strong indication that Muslims and Christians see each other as brothers and sisters,” said Joseph Odhiambo, a Christian.
The search for land began on 25th September 1985, when the then secretary of the association, Mohammed Abdo Saleh, wrote to the land commissioner asking for a site to build a new mosque. At the time, a 40-year lease to the Ramisi Sugar Authority had expired, but there had been controversy as the authority had used the title to secure a loan from a commercial bank and defaulted on the payment.
However, after 12 years of correspondence between the Muslim Association and the provincial commissioner, the district land manager, the association decided to approach the bank, which indicated that there had never been a fee to be paid on the land. In October, the Muslim association breathed a sigh of relief after Judge Ombwayo determined that the church was not the land’s rightful owner.