Salah Farah, a Muslim teacher in Kenya who defied the sectarian divisions sought by extremists, died recently in a hospital in Nairobi. Mr. Farah was shot in December when the bus he and others were riding on in northeastern Kenya was attacked by al-Shabaab terrorists.
After firing on and then boarding the bus, the terrorists demanded the passengers separate into groups – Muslims on one side, Christians on the other. Similar demands by al-Shabaab gunmen during other attacks have resulted in the deaths of scores of Christians.
But instead of obeying the terrorists, the Muslim passengers on the bus, among them Mr. Farah, refused. Instead, they tried to hide the Christians, reportedly giving them some pieces of their clothing so that they could not be easily identified. The passengers also told the terrorists to kill every one of them – or, to leave them all alone. The gunmen took off, but not before firing shots that killed two people and injured three others, including Mr. Farah.
Mr. Farah spent weeks in the hospital before succumbing to his injuries. He gave interviews calling for peace and unity. In an interview with the Voice of America, Mr. Farah said: "We are brothers. It's only the religion that is the difference, so I ask my brother Muslims to take care of the Christians, so that the Christians also take care of us... And let us help one another and let us live together peacefully."
Salah Farah is a hero. Not only did he risk his life to protect others, his actions throw into stark contrast the difference in values between a devout Muslim like Farah, and the terrorists who distort Islam, using religious differences as a weapon to gain power and control.
In his recent visit to an American mosque in Baltimore, President Barack Obama noted that the vast majority of Muslims embrace their religion as a source of peace; it is a small fraction which propagates a perverted interpretation of Islam. What must be done in the face of this perversion? President Obama asked.
His answer is one that Salah Farah would recognize, because he lived it: “When others are trying to divide us along lines of religion or sect,” said President Obama, “we have to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths – we are all God’s children. We’re all born with inherent dignity. . . Our faith summon[s] us to embrace our common humanity.”