Kenyan Muslims deny Presidential candidate will implement Sharia

Muslim leaders in Kenya have denied reports that the presidential candidate for the opposition has promised to introduce Sharia law if he is elected.

The National Muslim Leaders Forum (Namlef) said that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement in order to end existing discrimination against Muslims, and not to implement Sharia law.

Odinga is currently the frontrunner in the Kenyan presidential election battle. Recent opinion polls have suggested he could receive the support of 45 per cent of voters, while the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity has 43 per cent of support.

Christian leaders called for the pact between Odinga and Namlef to be made public. The MOU was originally signed on 29 August 2007.

Namlef responded by making the MOU public in late November following concerns aroused by a document on the internet claiming that Odinga had promised to introduce Sharia law in Muslim majority areas.

Sheikh Abdullahi Abdi of Namlef said, "There was a fear that Muslims will force their faith on other people, Islam does not allow suppression of other religions and we will be the last to advocate for this," reports the BBC.

The MOU which has now been made public says that Odinga in fact promised only to defend Muslims against harassment and victimisation by the state security forces who claim they are fighting terrorism.

The public MOU claims that an Odinga presidency would see the setting up of a commission to investigate renditions of Muslims to Somalia, Ethiopia and Guantanamo Bay, reports the BBC.

In addition to this Odinga pledged to make policies to redress the marginalisation of Muslims in the Coast and North-East provinces.

A number of Christian groups have voiced concerns over the MOU and whether it implied the implementation of Sharia law, including International Christian Concern and Voice of the Martyrs.

Around one third of the population of Kenya is Muslim. The Presidential election is set to take place on 27 December 2007.