Hand shoe thieves over to police, says CIPK secretary Sheikh Khalifa

[Photo: Courtesy]

The Mombasa man in a vest whose video of him being forced to eat raw pili pili were widely shared on social media, has been exposed a petty mosque thief.

His crime? Stealing shoes from worshippers in congregational prayers.

According to the clip in which the man is seen clutching at a handful of raw pepper is seen squirming under the heat as his interrogators determine the extent of his shoe stealing syndicate. He coughs and grimaces in agony as he chomps on another red chilli, all the while, stealing painful glances at the handful he has to feed his already flaming mouth before they allow him to go.

The man in the video was caught stealing at Masjid Sakina Mosque in Mombasa. He was forced to confess he was a thief besides naming his accomplices and where the stolen shoes are sold before being freed.

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Mombasa County has been grappling with shoe theft menace which has called for ingenuity to stem the theft. According to Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) Secretary General Sheikh Khalifa Mohammed, mosques have been forced to construct lockable pigeon hole cabinets for locking shoes when praying.

“This has been very effective but only a select number can be assigned these safe boxes leaving the general public vulnerable to thieves” he says adding that Muslim prayers, though quite short, do not allow for any distraction whatsoever. “You aren’t allowed to do or say anything outside the Swala (prayer) because it will nullify the act of worship.

Other mosques keep askaris at the gate to watch over worshipper’s shoes, with many mosques in Mombasa adopting a left luggage service like a supermarket where you are handed a chip in exchange for your shoes.

Tariq Hamza, a resident of Mombasa, told The Nairobian that “Many of us, especially worshippers with cars usually keep a pair of flip flops in the car for going to the mosque” as majority of Muslims who regularly worship at the mosque have lost shoes at some point. “I do not know of a single regular worshipper who has not had their pair of shoes stolen at some point,” he says.

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Other worshippers concur, saying that the case of someone who has failed to find his shoes after the prayer is a common one. “And that is why many of these thieves of shoes are beaten mercilessly,” says Khatib, another worshipper. 

But Sheikh Khalifa says that while catching thieves who have been terrorizing worshippers is a commendable thing, meting out punishment may not be as wise as “These people should be handed over to the police and that is only because we are not in an Islamic State where the Kadhi would have been the one to determine their punishment.”