by Ben Ochieng
NAIROBI, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's Nairobi suburb that hosts majority of the Somali population in Kenya is calm in the wake the terrorist attack at the Westgate shopping mall.
The Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for the massacre in which 61 civilians and six security officers were killed. The figure is expected to rise after forensic experts finish examination of the complex where bodies are buried under the rubble.
Eastleigh, a suburb to the east of Nairobi that is inhabited by Kenyans of Somali origin, some Somali immigrants and refugee communities, showed signs of tranquil contrary to fears that it would experience a backlash following the attacks that were carried out by gunmen of Somali origin.
Shopping malls and markets remained open though it was common to find people in small groups engaged in hushed discussions.
Consumers of khat, the local stimulant that is chewed from twigs commonly referred to as "miraa" went about their business undeterred as they sipped concentrated coffee to wash down the juice.
"We have in the past been wrongfully blamed for any wave of attacks that Al-Shabaab have claimed responsibility for. However, we are equally scared off and detest the activities of the militants because we cherish peace like other Kenyans," Ishmael Ahmed, 32 years old, told Xinhua on Wednesday.
Ahmed, who hails from Garissa County in north-eastern Kenya near the border with Somalia, said Somalis have been victims of Al- Shabaab's wickedness as much as other Kenyans have been.
"You cannot castigate an entire community. You can't blame all Somalis for the attack. If members of a community are responsible, they should be dealt with as individuals."
Farah Aden, a mobile phone dealer is however skeptical, saying the calm is a lull before a storm.
"Whenever such an attack takes place, the police are swift to make raids under the premise that they are looking for Al-Shabaab sympathizers. It is only a matter of time before they come knocking. Maybe they are still strategizing."
Aden absolves all Somalis of blame saying that it is difficult to tell who is an Al-Shabaab backer and who is not. "Look at me. Is there any indication on my face that can tell you where my loyalty lies?" he challenges.
"That is the predicament we find ourselves in the event of a security operation. We are equally happy that Kenya is trying to drive Al-Shabaab out of Somalia," he said.
In 2012, a government official said Al-Shabaab was "like a snake – with its tail in Somalia and its head in Eastleigh."
After two grenade attacks last year, hate messages against Somalis were posted on social media sites. The hate posts dwindled after a non-Somali Kenyan was arrested, tried and sentenced to life in prison.
Wasia Masitsa, a legal expert from rights group Kituo Cha Sheria warns against "Somali-phobia" saying it would lead to the marginalization of an innocent community. "The mounting irrational fear towards Somalis is a blanket condemnation of an entire community. Many victims of attacks have been ethnic Somalis."
A group of veiled women selling camel milk from yellow containers next to a mosque are chatting animatedly, and there is no doubt their topic is centered on the terrorist attack.
"Kenya is our country and we don't have any other home. As a peace-loving people, we condemn in the strongest terms the acts of terror that Al-Shabaab visits in the country," said Amina Maalim.
As a cursor to the fact that Al-Shabaab's acts of terror do not discriminate, Maalim points out that area Member of Parliament, Yusuf Hassan, himself an ethnic Somali, was a victim of hand grenade that also claimed five other lives.
"If our MP can be attacked, who then can you say is safe around here?" she posed. Hassan has since been confined to a wheelchair after he lost the use of his lower limbs.