Cyprian Is Nyakundi



Kenyan Bohra community suffers under dictatorial leadership***

Almost 7 years ago, just about the time Anjlee was initially diagnosed with cancer, Mohammed who was at that point conforming to the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim tenets was residing in the Dawoodi Bohra housing complex located in Karen as were his parents. Anjlee had agreed to convert to Islam in order to wed Mohammed which is one of the preconditions of any intermarriage taking place within the Bohra structure. And they were living within thia community which boasts its own school, sports ground and now university all within the closed doors of this living complex called Saifee Park. However, Anjlee’s career in the media irked the Bohra community elders as one, she did not wear the community hijab at her work place (which is a must for Bohra women) and second, that she was a working class woman.

Now let me highlight this bit of working class woman. You see, Bohra women are NOT allowed to work outside the community circle i.e. they are NOT permitted to work or hold any career in which the woman finds herself in association with men not within her community or related to her via familial ties. Given that Anjlee was a taint on this otherwise clearly understood tenet of the Bohra community, the local Nairobi elders opted to boot Mohammed and his family out of the community complex as well as impose a social boycott upon him by all other Bohra members including his own parents.

Social boycott meaning no Bohra, including his parents, is allowed to have any contact with Mohammed and his family at all lest they also be imposed with restrictions and financial hardships by the community. Restrictions include refusal of marriage by the community when this arises, refusal to participate in any functions of the community, refusal to be buried within community cemetery, imposition of heavy fines for being a digrace among so many other “punishments” for being the black sheep. And when all this fails, you are socially boycotted i.e. not even your family is allowed to see you or speak to you lest they face the same consequences.

So back to Mohammeds unfortunate social boycott, here was a man torn between the love for his wife and the love for his parents and his other family and social acquaintances with whom he had grown up with, with a hard choice left to him on choosing one of the two. And here is the epitome of this story, this Muslim man chose his Hindu wife and held her hand till her last breath. While the Bohra community elders watched in disgust but were not able to further exacerbate his woes due to their fear that Anjlee’s media influence would tarnish their otherwise image of perfection within the Kenyan society.

So bad was their hatred towards this couple that when Anjlee raised funds for her treatment with Kenyans giving almost 6m to her, not a single Bohra was permitted to contribute even a cent lest they be giving it to an “undeserving” person. And if this wasnt enough, not a single Bohra attended (was permitted to attend) Anjlee’s farewell cremation (unless anyone can prove they saw cap wearing, burkha wearing Bohras at the ceremony).

Now at this point I would like to make a clarification. Bohras and their community leaders have always supported intermarriages and welcomed outsiders to the flock. The Bohra leaders including His Holiness has always advocated for integration within the community of non Bohras and their fair and equal treatment within its fold. Similarly His Holiness has never advocated for women not to work or be in employment at any one point. Then how come these issues have arisen with Mohammed you may ask? Well, while the leaders of the community are in India, the scattered members of the community who reside in tens of countries around the world have community elders who run the day to day afffairs of the community.

Most times His Holiness does not even know of any of the misgivings of local elders toward community members as such information never really reaches him. So, Mohammeds issues within his community were not as a result of a decree by His Holiness but it was by local elders of the Nairobi Jamaat (community) who unilaterally decides its own rules and regulations and punishments it sees fit to met out to non conforming members.

Time and again such posts have hit the news and social media about these unfortunate incidents by community elders misbehaving all eventually dies down. Many comment that if members are unhappy they should simply leave the fold. But let me point out that remaining within the fold is because of the love for His Holiness and his teachings which are always sound. But the problems are only caused by the local Nairobi Jamaat governing body and certain individuals. And while Nairobi Bohras may feel they want to leave, its not as easily said than done.

But, in the case of Anjlee and her sad experience with this sect and how her husband stood by her throughout,  I would like the media fraternity to highlight the case of one Mohammed and Anjlee that hundreds of other community members go through at the hands of exploitative elders who have clearly lost their bearings towards running the affairs of the Nairobi Jamaat. I call upon every resource out here to investigate whether what is written here is the truth or not (and trust me there is so much more) and highlight the plight of Dawoodi Bohra community members.

And while other communities continue doing business with them and associating with them on so many other levels, just know each one of those Bohras belong to an oppressive community against whom they have no say. A community that exiled one man due to the love for his non Bohra wife.

While every ounce of respect is being offered to Mohammed and his family at this time, and no intention is made in this piece to bring them any further suffering or harm, it is my belief that many more Mohammeds will continue going through such sad circumstances if we all continue keeping quiet on this subject of oppression within Nairobi Bohra jamaat

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