Critical Commentary: Kenyan Riot Pivots Religious Conflict

Posted on October 23, 2013 by

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I read Heidi Vogt’s article from The Wall street Journal called Kenyan Riot Pivots Religious Conflict.  Within this article, Vogt focuses a lot on the religious upheaval behind the violent killing of a Muslim cleric. Vogt noted that the authoritative Muslim cleric was supportive to a militant group called al-Shabaab. In response to the murder of the Muslim cleric Ibrahim Amar, protesters and rioters set fire to a protestant church and Salvation Army. Previously, another Muslim cleric named Aboud Rogo was shot and killed. After this incident, people believed that the Kenyan police were responsible for Rogo’s death. Many people in Amar’s case many were quick to blame Kenyan police, who often watch the city’s Muslim community for connections to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab. Many in Mombasa’s Muslim community believe the police have been targeting Islamic clerics without cause as well. This article also takes notice to the geographical area that the conflicts are occurring. Mombasa is a Muslim port city in an area where Christianity is predominant.  Mombasa and the coastal areas around it have been areas of conflict between many religious and ethnic groups. The religious groups that are involved in this conflict include Christian, Muslim and Islamic groups. This article argues that the Kenyan security force and the militant group al-Shabaab is the main cause to all of the conflicts. This puts the Kenyan police in a position where they are supposed to be the “good guys” controlling the “bad guys” in which the Kenyan police force is failing to do. Arguably, there are no “good guys” that are handling or involved in the conflict. This coverage creates an uneasy feeling for the reader considering it urges that “The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi issued a warning Friday to Americans in the country to stay away from Mombasa because of the violence. The notice warned of clashes in five different neighborhoods.” This article leads the reader to infer that the Kenyan Government has no control over the religious turmoil going on. This idea is portrayed through the title itself and through the picture. The illustration shows three Kenyan officers holding large machine guns, simply watching the protestant church and Salvation Army burn down. The illustration also gives a negative impression on all of the religious groups involved besides Christians. This negative implication is formed because the only picture shown is one in which Christians are being targeted. The article was aimed at Americans due to the fact that the majority of Americans are Christians and Christians are being portrayed as a target. The constraints are very clearly political and religious because of the power struggle highlighted throughout the article. This article does not necessarily place broad generalizations or stereotypes on different religious groups, however there are biased views placed on each religion involved in the conflict. Along with creating an uneasy tone, the writer also creates a feeling of distaste about religion. Vogt’s distaste towards religion is shown through her emphasis on violence caused by religious affiliations. For an example, Vogt wrote “Al-Shabaab draws recruits from Kenya, and some of them move through Mombasa on their way to and from Somalia.” Vogt’s approach comes off as a warning that the Islamic group Al-shabaab is dangerous. The sources are fairly reliable because the article portrays facts as facts and opinions as opinions. When the author wrote this article, she used words like “reportedly” to confirm that some of the information was uncertain instead of portraying all of the information as factual. This leads one to believe that the article is credible. The credibility of the newspaper and the title of the article draws in a prominent mass of people.

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