[Standard Media] Nakuru, Kenya: Most parents who had enrolled their children at Al-Salaam Integrated School in Gilgil, Nakuru County were unaware of exactly what their children were being taught.
An Investigator with the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit has told The Standard that for the past eight months the Islamic curriculum at the school, that was shut down by the government on Tuesday, was based on pure Wahhabism – a radical form of Islam.
“ Wahhabism-exported from Saudi Arabia, teaches children that all those who are not Wahhabi are non-believers,” said an officer privy to the investigations and who sought anonymity.
The government ordered the school closed down on ground that it was operating illegally and that the County Director of Education Mathew Amboka had denied it a request for registration.
The source said Wednesday that the founders of the school had gone underground but said they believed that at least ten youth from the school had been recruited to the Al-Shabaab terror group and sneaked out of the country to Somalia in the past eight months.
“There are teaching materials indicating that the school followed the Saudi curriculum, which advocates and inculcates Wahhabism. This is a far more radical interpretation of Islam than the moderate Sufi school that older generation of Muslims follows,” he said.
The source said the aim of the school was to spread radicalisation of Somalia’s youth in the country by avoiding major urban centers like Nairobi, Mombasa and Nakuru, and influencing the region’s fragile security situation.
“Al-Shabaab, which means youth in Arabic, has realised the potential of Somalia’s young and are working to capitalise on it in such schools,” said the security source.
The officer feared that the teaching had taken root not only in Kenya, and it should be a wake-up call for the government to tackle the growing radicalisation. He said the unit has intensified crackdown on such institutions following the September 21 attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi by the Somali Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab that left more than 70 dead and dozens injured.
The Al-Qaeda-linked group had repeatedly vowed to target Kenya after the country’s troops crossed over the border into Somalia in 2011 and ousted its fighters from key areas in southern Somalia, including Kismayo.
Wednesday, parents who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity said they were not aware that the school was involved in radical Islamic teachings.
“I always knew that my child was attending Madrasa-(Islamic teaching classes) but it never struck me that they were teaching radical Islam. I will look for another school for him,” said a father of three who had two of his children attending the school.
Last Tuesday, when The Standard visited the school, a man who presented himself as the head teacher refused to comment on allegations that they were involved in radical Islam teaching.
He excused himself that he wanted to pick something from his office and ducked through the back door prompting the remaining pupils to run into their dorms. Most of the pupils speak Somali and broken Swahili. Some with beards looked evidently way above the school-going age. One pupil who could only identify as Mohamed said that he has been in the school for two months and he was from England.
“My family relocated from England and I joined this school two months ago,” said Mohamed concealing the class he was. He said that most of the pupils like him learn only Madrasa in the school.
The school which has about 20 pupils of purely Somali origin in enclosed with a perimeter wall. Most of the classrooms are unused with neighbours saying they have always known the school as a Muslim learning center.