University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series > What Is Supreme about the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM)? Challenging the practices of representativeness amongst Muslims in Kenya

What Is Supreme about the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM)? Challenging the practices of representativeness amongst Muslims in Kenya

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Over the last two decades, representativeness – referring broadly to the legitimacy criteria of representative organizations – has become key to reform projects of global and local governance. For almost four decades the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) has been the most dominant Muslim representative group in Kenya. Despite its many challenges SUPKEM remains the only widely recognizable and legitimate amongst other groups who often emerge to claim the role and authority to speak on behalf of Muslims. How SUPKEM has managed to maintain this posture for so long has to do with its clever positioning of its claims to representativeness and the ambiguity of its meaning. While it often appears as a cure for the legitimacy deficit of local Muslim religious organizations, the usefulness of this notion in understanding Muslim politics in Kenya has hardly been assessed. This discussion provides a socio-historical account of ‘representativeness’ claims by SUPKEM , the oldest umbrella organization formed to represent Muslim interests in Kenya. It discusses SUPKE Ms evolving ‘righteous representation’; its major personalities, its various antecedent, opponents and antagonists to make three observations. First, the council remains a critical public forum for the articulation of a Muslim identity within a democratizing nation state. Second; the council emerged from a confluence of local dynamics and developments in the wider Muslim societies that shaped its distinctive organizational identity and, three; it’s a key precursor to the Muslims struggles in the face of modernity, marginalization and peripherization. These arguments rest upon a survey of an impressive range of un-accessed and under-utilized archive published by the council, interviews with former officials, their relations and a review of newspaper cuttings.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series series.

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