Nairobi Westgate Mall Terror Attack, And The Folly Of ‘Otherness’ – What Al-Shabaab Revealed About Us

USE -westgate-shopping-mall_kenya2_mainAROUND noon on Saturday September 21, a group of terrorists believed to number 10 to 18 stormed the Westgate Mall in western Nairobi.

By the third day, 69 had been killed during the attack, or died later in hospital. Another 175 had been injured. Today the crisis entered its fourth day. In the evening a downcast President Uhuru Kenyatta, came on TV to give heartbreaking news. The crisis had come to an end, but the three floors of the mall had collapsed from explosions, and the terrorists and an unknown number of people were trapped in the rubble.

Amidst the tragedy, we are about to forget that the first day of the crisis offered quite troubling insights about how we the media view the world.

Some Kenyan journalists, especially TV presenters, inundated their audiences with references to Westgate mall being popular with “wealthy Kenyans, expatriates and diplomats”. It was also referred to as an “upscale mall” “frequented by foreigners”.

Foreign media said the mall was a “hangout for Kenya’s middle class” was

The rescue broke down colour lines in dramatic ways.

The rescue broke down colour lines in dramatic ways.

“frequented by westerners”. On one TV morning show, a panelist who was honest enough to say he had never been to Westgate, claimed that a cup of coffee at cafes there costs Sh600 (US$7), and that the average cost of a meal at the restaurants there is Sh2,800. Not true. As of the time of the terrorist attack, the most expensive coffee at the “hip” Art Caffe was about Sh300 ($3.5) – and even that for a double Iced Cappuccino. And the average cost of a meal was Sh900 (three times less expensive than the commentator said it was).

Unsurprisingly several presenters and reporters also said the “radical Somalia group Al-Shabaab” had claimed responsibility for the attacks, and some referred to them as “Islamic terrorists”.

Men and women who are more educated and far cleverer than me about these matters, refer to this as “media framing” – how media perceive and report about an event, and the picture they try to paint in the minds of their readers and viewers about the event.

On the face of it seems there is really nothing harmful in this portrait of the crowd at Westgate. After all quite a few expatriates, diplomats, and middle class Kenyans do frequent the mall.

However late Saturday, someone posted a cheeky but telling tweet. He said something like “blessed are the poor, for they don’t go to Westgate”. The unsaid message there was that the privileged, who enjoy a good life, were the ones being hurt at Westgate, and those who are not rich should not bother sharing their pain – after all the wealthy don’t do much to relieve their suffering.

The western media were telling their audiences that, “well, it is Africa alright, and ordinarily we wouldn’t bother you with this story, except that this time you should pay attention because westerners could have been killed”. Indeed, they were, and that sent the western media to town with the Westgate story.

On Saturday evening our daughter came to me and said; “Americans are impossible, you should see what they are saying about the Westgate attack”. She showed me comments on the NBC TV website, where Americans were asking why the network was wasting their time with the Westgate story, “it is Africa after all”.

In common all these were narratives about them versus us, our “otherness” – our different cultures, possessions, religions, citizenships, languages, food,

Kenyan and non-Kenya security officers secure an area inside Westgate mall - when evil came calling, all took to arms (Reuters)

Kenyan and non-Kenya security officers secure an area inside Westgate mall – when evil came calling, all took to arms (Reuters)

aesthetics, and the colour of our skins.

Debased “otherness” enables us to ignore the pain of others and sleep soundly at night; to discriminate against people who are different without having to trouble our consciences; to persecute those who are not our relatives, fellow citizens, not of our religion, or social station without being afflicted by a sense of injustice. This type of “otherness” is anaesthesia against having to be humane.

However, by the evening of Sunday, references to “Islamic terrorists”, to a Westgate that was “popular with wealthy Kenyans, expatriates and foreigners” had died out. Why did the media suddenly drop these descriptions?

Because reality challenged the media stereotype of the Westgate attack. There were several ordinary folks who had been killed, or were bloodied and injured. It didn’t add up, they were not supposed to be in Westgate. Then, there were too many children—surely, they didn’t deserve to be killed. And, there were a little many Asians and mzungus (Caucasians) helping black Africans into ambulances, and even carrying and running with them to safety.

And everywhere you looked there were many black Africans sprinting with

The pain touched people of all religions.

The pain touched people of all religions.

Asian and mzungu children and women to safety, and nursing the wounded ones.

And then there was an awkward wrinkle – Muslims too were among the dead. That was not supposed to happen, you know, how come “Islamist terrorists” were killing other Muslims? One of the survivors said he watched in horror when two terrorists asked some women to cite verses of the Quran to prove they were Muslim. They did…then the men shot them at point blank range. Some terrified people who were lying on the ground screamed; “why did you shoot them?”

One of the gunmen replied, “because they were not wearing the hijab”. So, it seems, misogyny and patriarchy trumped religion.

And Kenyans died, in the same way Ghanaian, British, and French nationals did.

Come Sunday, unbelievably long lines had formed in places around Nairobi where the Red Cross was taking blood donations. The city had never seen anything like this. Most of the donors were the “poor”, the humble, the working class, lining up to donate blood for the supposed upper class that patronises

New bonds were forged in moments of trial.

New bonds were forged in moments of trial.


None of this fitted the script. Vulgar “otherness” had been put to shame by the people’s common humanity and decency.

So perhaps it is time to pause and reflect. The outcome of the Westgate terror attack seemed to tell that not all contests between those who have and those who don’t are a Lenist class war. Not every contest between cultures, religions, or races is a battle for conquest and domination. That they are well-meaning negotiations for space, for respect, for a little share of the pie, for some of the air, for a bit of the limelight, not a tango of death.


    Comments 117

    1. Pingback: Nairobi Westgate Mall Terror Attack, And The Folly Of ‘Otherness’ – What Al-Shabaab Revealed About Us | vicentkakooza's Blog

    2. Sabrina

      This is very true, and I could’t agree more. However, when it comes to the media, it’s biased, and all about views. I have been following up with everything that is going on at the Westgate Mall, and am extremely upset that in every single update, the media highlight that there were American, French and Brits within the dead and wounded and then gives us their names and where they were from. See, I think it is a good idea to get the news out there, and even if it is because there were “rich” and “important” people in that mall, it should not change the fact that SO MANY people were injured and lost their lives.. It’s not good to judge a whole nationality for it though, because there are MANY Americans that are sharing true information about the event, and praying for the families of the dead, and for the injured.

      This event scares me very much, because it is not something that only affected people in Nairobi, but it is something that can happen anywhere in the world. Terrorists are everywhere, and that scared me very much. Another thing is that now everyone is judging a specific group for what happened, and it’s exactly what made WWII occur. Hatred for the innocent needs to stop. It really scares me that now people will revolt against the Muslims, and they do not deserve it!!!!

      The people who are behind this whole attack should pay for it, and God will punish them, as for everyone in the world watching this attack from afar, they should take interest in it and spend time researching into it, because their nearby mall could be next.

      May those who lost their lives in this attack spend eternity in Heaven, and those wounded, I pray for their health. And to those who care about social differences, stop and look at the big picture… WE ARE ALL THE SAME. Those people who died at Westgate Mall shed the same blood when they lost their lives, and felt the same pain. ITS TIME TO WAKE UP.

    3. Buku Rabbit

      This does not apear to be the work of Al Shabab or Al Quaeda – this appears to be the work of Hamas. Do you remember the Kenyan of Indian origin who complained that the police did not listen to him when he said that one of the attackers changed clothes and was one of the ‘rescued’ people? That ‘rescued’ person, according to the Kenyan of Indian origin was Arab. Do you remember the Kamba who played being dead to save his life saying that the attackers were scarves similar to those used by Yasser Arafat? Two independent survivor witness accounts suggesting that the principal attackers were Arab. Al Shabab and Al Quaeda were probably simply mouth pieces to divert attention and create general anger through belicose statements.

    4. Jurgen

      This is the best article I have read in a very long time.
      You are insightful and brilliant as well as brutally honest.
      Continue writing, that’s your greatest gift to the society

    5. Veena Jog

      Am so glad to read this article,it makes me believe once again that like minded honest people are still around,who are not trying to utilize every situation to their benefit.The media needs to sincerely understand its powers and how essential it is to give the correct information and also when to keep shut.When Mumbai was attacked the live reporting gave the backup terrorist all clues on what was happening outside and all they did was SMS this information to the terrorist inside,and we lost a lot of lives,The media must understand all NEWS is not to sell …..they can be the best medium to fool the destroyers.People in times like this go back to their roots of only thinking from the heart,no religion comes to the mind then.I truly wish we could have a peaceful world ,its tiring to read everyday on the number of people being killed,CAN WE ALL NOT TRY AN SAVE THIS BEAUTIFUL WORLD.

    6. Ilona Eveleens

      We have seen togetherness before. 1998, the bombing of the US embassy, showed the same amount of amazing help across religious and ethnic lines.

    7. RobChapman

      The author is right about the framing, but he hasn’t bothered to explain how framing works.

      Frequented by tourists or westerners or expats gets readers’s attention. It is a verbal arrow that states this is not just another crime story.

      Al-Shabab is an Islamist group that has been involved in a ghastly multi-sided civil war in Somalia. It is an Islamist group the US has deployed forces against. Al-Shabab also claimed credit for the Westgate attack and the evidence from the site appears to support the validity of their claim.

      There is no “pirate” rule that states Islamists cannot kill Muslims. Ask anyone who served in Iraq or Afghanistan if the mujahadeen were observant of any rules exempting Muslims from their attacks.

      The comparison of Westgate in Nairobi to a segregated mall in pre-civil rights America is a projection of Mr. Onyago-Obbo’s prejudice.

      A more instructive aricle would have been to compare American coverage with European or Latin American coverage.

      1. Post

        I don’t know whether you read the article I wrote, otherwise i am a loss where you found that reference to blacks in pre-Civil Rights America, although I can appreciate why the subject might make you uncomfortable.

    8. Concern Citizen

      Very well written. Somali national in Eastleigh and Dadaab donated blood. Goes to should the power of humanity enshrined with us. A strong identity we have.

    9. Chas Reader

      A sound study in the happenings though I admit to being at a loss at the Chapman comment, unnecessary and misplaced. I concur with Warren

    10. marvin edgar ochieng (@musterthemind)

      Good article indeed, however coming from the East side of Nairobi which has witnessed far more Al Shabaab attacks with little response from authorities and even the rest of the country in terms of no blood donated, no M-pesa number to assist in humanitarian expenses, no Red Cross head in the glare of the camera helping kids into ambulances, you gotta feel that the #WeAreOne campaign is superficial and will only last past this tragedy.

      1. Jude Nnadozie

        i can relate to this. and u have a very portent argument, in that, humanity is now being demanded because the rich are involved.
        i quarrel with the media here in nigeria all the time. a remote village can become popular, but only if a celebrity goes there. otherwise, no one knows or hears of it, no matter the tragedies they face.
        but the author of this piece is right: this is what is reported, what we see, it is from it we get the indices for our current analysis.
        well done.

        1. Deb C

          I wonder if at least THIS particular discrimination inadvertently gave people in the white, ‘privileged’ world, the chance to see that there was no discrimination at the Westgate mall by rescuers and victims-turned-heroes. I, for one, was very grateful for the media coverage here in Australia.

    11. Juliana

      Your spot on! Been having a similar discussion with friends. By the way, you have a very perceptive daughter, was very impressed by her observations. A chip off the ol’ block.

    12. Aditya Singh

      Brilliantly written. People were killed by terrorists – it does not matter at all whether they were rich, poor, Africans, Asians, Europeans, Americans or Martians. They were innocent people who were killed for no reason.

    13. Gioia

      In an otherwise insightful article, the writer himself falls victim to stereotyping Americans as “impossible” people who cared nothing about this tragedy since it happened in “Africa after all.” This is grossly unfair and an inaccurate portrayal of how the situation was being reported and received in America. Idiotic exceptions will always exists, but to report them as the norm in a piece like this does a disservice to everyone.

      1. TV

        And yet I was seeing the same thing that he reported, especially on social media. We all know that America has an upstanding silent majority, but when you let others loudly speak on your behalf, who can you blame but yourselves. They give you a bad image, and you let them by not balancing it out.

        I wish you could put aside that immediate defensive reaction and really hear what the author is saying, because I’m left feeling as if you’ve missed his point…

      2. Llewellyn Alberts

        unfortunately ‘idiotic exceptions’ is a standard or norm for what one perceives of American responses to almost anything in the world these days. Americans do a startlingly good job of stereotyping themselves.

    14. tito travels

      Thank you for sharing! I, too, was shocked when walking through O’Hare airport on Monday morning I noticed that none of the major newspapers had the story on their front pages. Instead it was stories of sports or other mundane events. Living in East Africa for two years, I am deeply affected by the events of the past few days and your writing resonates thoroughly.

    15. Loubega

      Been itching to read COO’s thoughts about Westgate. Very insightful. You have stated the ‘uncomfortable truths’. Media framing is like ‘brainwashing’. As a Muslim, I often have to explain to friends that Islam is a religion of peace. Acts by extremists should not be used to make conclusions about the 1.6 bn Muslims. I hope everybody will appreciate, just like u’ve pointed out the fact that terror cuts across racial and religious boundaries. Wd be sad if Muslim Somali youth in Kenya and other countries receive undue profiling because of Al-shabaab.

    16. Pingback: West gate Mall Attack: Life is Beautiful When you Live outside Yourself | ofsol

    17. Neoma (@neababyblu)

      Your daughter says America is impossible? Just lump us all into one big pile why don’t you. Maybe she doesn’t really know America if she thinks that the media speaks for the working man and the average citizen. They are biased and they are liars and they do not speak for us……and neither do you.

      1. Alice

        His daughter was talking about the impossible Americans who were commenting on the story and saying that their news crews should not even be featuring the story as it is from Africa so they are trying to say that it doesn’t matter coz its Africa. i hope that is clear.

      2. Juliana

        There’s really no need to get emotional…its really important to read the whole article and understand the context in which certain comments where made. His daughter was reacting to comments by….ok, I shouldn’t even be responding, just read the article objectively!

    18. Pingback: Nairobi Westgate Mall Terror Attack, And The Folly Of ‘Otherness’ – What Al-Shabaab Revealed About Us | naked chiefs | From Orek_Charles_Clement

    19. Alexander

      Said Abdalla Idjihadi had said it more precisely and poignatly on FB:

      “but the central argument of the article is not being answered i.e our propensity to normalize some form of violence while we demonize others forms of violence based on class and socio-economic factors.”

      Crisp and on the point.

    20. Guillermo

      The foreign media (that that is worth listening to) was asking to the Kenyan government the questions that Kenyan media does not dare to ask, either because of naiveté or simply complicity with those in power.

      I am not Kenyan, not even African, but I was shocked that because this incident happened in Nairobi it got lines of people donating blood and really showing concern, when last year -and almost every week now- people get killed by dozens in other regions of the country and they are barely mentioned in the media.

      Ah, by the way, Kenya has five times the number of deaths than in Westgate every week because of road accidents (13,000 every year), and I do not see folks complaining and protesting for Law enforcement of road rules.

      Before speaking of ‘otherness’ looking outside, look right out your door.

      1. VolinKenya

        Then you aren’t talking to Kenyans who are driving those roads. Or what the problems are with those roads (and or enforcement of said roads)

      2. Alice

        3000 people die due to accidents every year not 13000 get your facts right pls. Its still a large sad number but don’t let ignorance get in the way of facts.

    21. juddyblaise

      What is worrying is the shooting of the women with hijabs.
      here’s the angle i’m coming from… so if, after reciting the quran as they were asked to, they would have been happy to stay alive and watch those who couldnt recite (christians) killed? but they would be dead already. Professor Wole Soyinka said it: “the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny”. its a pity.
      but then, unfortunately still, they were shot.

      this is a nice piece. times without number, lines of differences have been erased in the face of human tragedies. when they were over, we soon forgot again, the value and essence of unity. now tragedies bring out the beauty of humanity and sober reflections.

      i think that, if we ensure we never forget again, there will be no more tragedies to remind us.

      1. TV

        We don’t yet know all that happened, though there was one Muslim man teaching non-Muslims Quranic verses so they could pass the “test”.

    22. sam

      Thanks for your insightful piece Obbo, It’s a very uncomforting truth about how the media was reporting the westgage mall attack. Lets all keep vigil terrorism is a global problem that we must fight to keep our world peaceful.

    23. George Lugalambi

      I noticed in media reports that Kenyan (security) officials were repeatedly explaining that the operation against the attackers was being led by Kenyans, the apparent involvement of operatives from other countries, e.g. Israel, notwithstanding. This made me think: if you were trapped in the building hanging onto dear life and desperately waiting to be rescued, did it matter which country your rescuer came from?

      1. ordinarygal

        That stood out to me too, in the speeches from President Kenyatta and Ruto. National pride? It was a shame when in reality so many were working side by side for a common cause.

    24. Girmay

      Very thoughtful and direct to the point. The media has a long, long way to go. I always say that our media industry and Judicial systems in Africa are just mis-fit copy cats and have not yet fully started to work for our betterment and progress, even at times of crisis like this.

    25. Wipi

      Another anti US writing. Don’t forget who did this and why! Obama has pledged revenge on the the terrorist group. If I was there as an American I would have given my life defending any of the mall visitors be they from wherever including muslim women with the hijab.

    26. ordinarygal

      Yes. As an expat who has lived in Nairobi for eleven years and works with the poor, I really noticed this. It took the Western media a whole lot longer to get their act together when reporting on the post election violence of 07/08, and many many terror attacks since then have gone unreported – the “wananchi” (ordinary citizens) simply do not make a good enough story. A British BBC news anchor said on Saturday: ‘the fact that there are so many westerners and ex-pat’s that frequent the Westgate Mall makes the hostage situation even more horrific.’ I was both angry and incredulous. It doesn’t. A life is a life. They are all valid.

      I was also very disturbed by the images NYT chose to print very very quickly, before people even knew if their loved ones were alive or dead, let alone had time to check hospitals and morgues. They were hailed as great photojournalism and acts of bravery, yet these brutal shots were never published after Sandyhook or 9/11. I would not have wanted to find out my father/son/brother was shot to pieces under a large Nakumatt elephant statue by stumbling on those pictures. Why then, if we show Africans in this way is it justified as “we need these pictures to see the truth?”

    27. Minx

      Very insightful. I really take exception with the way the media stereotypes. I was a regular at Westgate yet do not fall under the categories of “elite, upper-class Kenyans, expatriates and diplomats”. I really wondered why am I, the ordinary Kenyan not represented in that description? The last week has revealed glaring inadequacies in among other institutions.. our media.

    28. ac

      I really liked the tone of this piece, except for the unprovoked jab at Americans. I don’t think it’s fair to judge us by our local comments sections (I realize the irony of me broadcasting this sentiment in a comments section).

    29. Pingback: Westgate: Recommended Reading (Tributes, Questions & Debates) |Bottom Line Kenya

    30. john

      i so tire of people trying their best to excuse the atrocities of Westgate as having nothing to do with ISLAM. The fact muslims died in the attack does not negate the fact, but simply reinforces that this ideology does not accept modernity or coexistence. The medias attempt to moderate the actions of the group as a SINGULAR ABNORMAL DISTORTED action of EXTREMIST who are ISLAMIST comically sugar coats the fact that this is religious terrorism committed by Muslims to achieve varying political ends in the name of religion. An unpalatable fact but a fact nonetheless which we must accept! al-Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram, AL Shabaab all espouse the same ideology of an islamic state as prescribed by the dogma of their faith. If we are afraid to acknowledge what the problem is because we fear to smear moderates with extremism then we will simple perpetuate the opening for these attacks because we allow the ideology of their faith to flourish within our society without the reformation to check the violent medina suras that hold precedent in Islam.

      1. Mohamed

        IRA in Nothern Ireland were terrorists but I never heard a single Muslim refer to them as Christian Terrorists. Terrorists are terrorists, and no religion propagates terror. Don’t fall into their trap. Judge Islam by the actions of 99.99% of muslims and not the 0.01%.

        1. JohnT

          The IRA were not referred to as Christian terrorists because their campaign was a largely secular struggle and it was not based on religion.They were not calling for a Catholic state but a united Ireland, whereas Al Shabaab and the like are waging a war based upon religion.
          The only similarity is that the Republicans were, indeed, judged by the actions of the violent few, just as the 99.9% of muslims will also be judged..

      2. Sam

        Hi John, thanks for the comment. I am guessing that you are American. If you are, then I suggest you should definitely not attempt to scratch too far beneath the surface of what you call ‘varying political ends’, as you might find that most of these uncomfortably lead a little too close to home. Most of these groups have either been directly set up, funded or radicalised by the actions of the US government and its’ allies. Perhaps if the US government and its’ murdering hordes and proxies went back to where they came from and left the rest of the world alone, we would see much less of these types of atrocities. Somehow though, citizens of the US and the rest of the developed world would have to be content with the fruits of their own hard labour and increasing fuel costs as their greed and love of living large beyond their means (even the government, at every level is broke) uses up their own limited supplies. If the developed world (or rather those very few who control the opinions of uneducated masses) stopped raping and pillaging anyone who is weaker, or has differing views, or who presents an opportunistic target, perhaps then we would see less radicals. If Americans and their government all stayed home, then you would have to contend with your own right wing extremists, your one gun for every single human in the country, your spiralling debt, personal and public, your failing education system, your shambolic health care system, your crumbling infrastructure and your lack of basic grammar. How about we try that for a while, instead of casting aspersions on those who we bully, when they fight back in these pathetic ways that they do. If the developed world sets the example of bombing men, women and children from drone planes, torturing people without trial, routinely ignoring the UN and international law, then how do you expect a bunch of uneducated peasants to react? Blaming these attrocities on religion is as ignorant as these fools that carry out these acts.

        1. Chatsworth

          I’m American and I agree with this statement. The Americans I know feel the same. Its unfortunate that the rest of the world generally knows more about what our government does to the world than our own citizens do. Those that speak up and challenge are written off by the public as crazy conspiracy theorists. This embarrasses and saddens me.

        2. Juliana

          Oh Sam, can I buy you a drink for that wonderful post! Sick too my tummy of America’s hypocrisy and double standards. I couldn’t have penned it any better!

      3. lilongweinmybackpack

        John, your comment suggests that you have made up your mind about all of Islam and its followers. May I challenge you to – at the very least- consider other people’s opinions bearing in mind that we don’t always share experiences with Islam and Muslims in the same way you do. You will be surprised at what you will learn, the world is a big place. Holding on to absolutist opinions is unrealistic in a world of such diversity. Your approach seems to have more in common with the Islamic extremists than you realise.

        1. ifeyinwaelueze

          The main focus of his post was enlightening people on “otherness” a concept that I find simple, but strangely complex.
          It is not a justification for the attack or whomever is responsible for it.
          Its a call to wake up and smell the coffee, everyone is affected by things that go wrong around them, you and I are not excluded. And we need to jointly help put things in other, arguing about who is in the right or wrong won’t help.

      4. Shabalala

        What truly is factual is that “al-Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram, AL Shabaab all espouse the same ideology of an islamic state as prescribed by [their interpretations of] the dogma of their faith.” Yes, that reads better.

      5. Dennis Ongata

        John, while I appreciate your views, I would like you to see the bigger picture. While the Islamic ideologies are set pretext to all these things, there is a greater war being fought on a larger scale, and its a war we all don’t see. There are many innocent Muslims who are true to their conscience and would not perpetrate such dogmas described as extremist. Someone is playing a game. All these terrorist organizations some too sophisticated even to their own, seemingly controlled by Jesuitish agenda of world dominion and a new world order, an “ordo ab cao’ or simply order out of chaos; will they not relentlessly work to destroy our society, to threaten peace among mankind and collapse the very fabric of society?

        We must wake up to the reality that we are all being overtaken by an evil wave, which when full blown is soon taking away our freedoms and enslaving us.

        1. shy

          Thank you seems like there are still some sensible people out there. Its so easy to jump to conclusions and not think. There are a lot of Muslims in the world and clearly we’re ALL not like that otherwise well the world would have ended according to some people. I am a Muslim and it just surprises me how much hate people have. I mean this is a time to think, its a time to grieve many have lost their loved ones and me being one of them and all people can do is point fingers. Islam this islam that.. muslims this muslims that… Whoever did this they use religion as an EXCUSE to do what they do. A lot of other Muslims read the Quran, follow it but you don’t see all of them holding people hostage, raping women, killing innocent people. So please think before you say things.

      6. Rabba

        .whitewashing the Islamic factor just because muslims died too (RIP) is excusing the fact that Islamic doctrine is the base of this thinking…Sure Islamic leaders will come out after such an incident and denounce it…yet the same leaders and their flock will speak negatively and hatefully about non muslims when with their own.

    31. africanstardust

      I am a South African and lived in the US from when I was 6 until I was 16, at which point we moved back to SA. While I was in high school in the US, my history teacher said one day that technically we were supposed to learn about the Rwandan genocide, “but it’s just Africa, and stuff like that happens in Africa all the time, so we’re going to skip it.” I cannot explain to you the outrage that I felt. How is it so easy to dismiss human lives that were lost? How can people just wave it off as “it’s Africa” and think that means it’s somehow less important or not worthy of discussion? Their reaction in this situation doesn’t surprise me. However, I know of many Americans who are praying and who are concerned. My heart goes out to Kenya and its people and I pray that healing and restoration will take place. Thanks for the article.

    32. Paddy Fahy

      I am one of the Mzungus who regularly frequented Westgate. I left the Westgate last friday night / early Sunday morning. It is fair to say that it is an expat, middle class hangout. However, as the article correctly points out, reports have been riddled with inaccuracies. For the record, I paid Ksh450 for chicken pitta bread and fries (yes still a lot of money for some but nothing near what is being reported). Anyone who thinks that the Westgate tragedies will not touch every section of the community is sadly mistaken. Aprart from the dead and injured and their families,there of 100’s of ordinary hard working Kenyan’s whose livelihoods depended on their employment at Westgate.

      One small comfort, I took from Saturday was observing the cross section of people who responded to KRC’s appeal for blood donations. Among them were: Kenyans, Somalis Indians and Mzungus, All wanting to do what they could.

    33. Jeremy Lansman

      I observe that religious fundamentalist/orthodox people are, like iron filings in a magnetic field, oriented in a common direction. To see some as others? Yes, that is a good point. Jew spitting on Jew due to dress (I have seen that in New York) is only different in degree from Muslim killing Muslim over dress.

    34. Ratmanduex

      What ever the the killing by the Jihadist of AL Shabaab of Muslims signifies it does not signify that their motives were not linked to the religion of Islam. The Muslims the killed breached the tenants of the the religion as they view it. It is like a catholic saying that the Inquisition had nothing to do with Catholicism or that apartheid had nothing to do with a particular dutch protestant interpretation of the Bible.

    35. Pingback: On Westgate and “my kind of people” | The Fire Pit

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    37. Brian Stewart

      The problem with all religions is that they, without exception, call on the faithful to believe ….or else! Tolerance of differences of opinion is rare and usually found in the more liberal echelons of a particular group. At the risk of generalizing, fundamentalism combined with a myopic view about “the unbelievers” often results in radicalism. Thus religion becomes the war cry of the suppressed/oppressed and is used to manipulate the masses. The long term solution to this is to educate, inform and liberate people’s minds…..unfortunately the very thing that religions tend to fight.

    38. Sarah

      Islam is a religion of peace and unity. It does not condone slaughter of mankind or hurting innocent children despite their race in any manner. John you need a reality check sorry to say. In essence, no religion justifies such atrocities.

      1. Rabba

        Well neither does Islam with all its tenants come together and excommunicate mosques that spew hatred and clean up its reality check right back at you…

      2. sefricanwriter

        Sarah you need to study the Bible and Koran more. All religions were born in bloodshed despite what they may preach. The atrocities listed in the bible like dashing babies against rocks etc are many. Many of the verses in the Qu’ran clearly call on the followers of Islam to become the conquerors of all religions, the followers of which are referred to as idolaters . Refer inter alia to Surah 61:9

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    41. momof7

      One should never judge Americans by our media. I am American, and I am perpetually disappointed in our media, in the lies they spew and the image they portray of my country. No one I know likes our media. I would like to say that I don’t know how they maintain their power, but the truth is that as long as they support the political leaders of our country, we are stuck with them.

    42. Noek vanBiljon

      I am a congenital anti-religious but not anti God agnostic skeptic. Religion has northing to do with God It is an earthly man made abstract but I can not agree more profoundly that the habitual use of the expression “muslim terrorist” by the western media is reprehensible and I suspect that there are hidden agendas operating here. On the other hand I am puzzled by the fact that no fatwas have been issued by Islam against people who claim that they are Muslims and then kill in the name of Islam. Christians and Muslims call each other black, like the pot and the kettle and innocent harmless defenseless human beings get trashed in the process.

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