Leilah Fariha Abdikarim Mohammed disembarked the UAE Airliner at Moi International Airport, Mombasa straight from Kismayo and breathed in the smell of the ocean. Ever since Somalia stabilized thirty years ago travelling had become much easier. Flights were no longer being diverted to Wajir International Airport for clearance.
It had been one hell of a journey. A near soul annihilating delay at Kismayo International Airport had gotten the better of her, but thank goodness she had now reached her destination.
Despite the coastal weather, she was in a burqa, her eyes scanning the international arrivals behind the slit opening of the pall black dress. It was much easier to dress this way in Kenya without raising suspicion than in the ever-so-paranoid America.
However, she had been warned that all airports in Kenya swarmed with armed security guards, customs, anti-terror police, security agents and a whole horde of behavioural detection officers ever since spates of terror attacks hit the country thirty years before.
Hyperventilating could get you picked for questioning. So was rapid eye movement. Or sweaty palms. But she knew that MIA was the easiest to slip through.
Everything was going like a dream – passport control, luggage screening – albeit in a crawl. Then, she was out. She had made it.
Leilah took the way to her next destination imprinted on her mind. Photographic memory. That’s why The Council liked her, and picked her always. She never needed a map, or notes.
Through grimy streets and dark alleys she had used only once, and at night, almost thirty years ago, she wove her way through makuti thatched houses and coconut plantations until she saw the ghoulish silhouette of the mosque. The slain Sheikh who was her mentor and teacher had given her a copy of the key to the secret door. Just in case, he had said.
The Masjid Musa Mosque was closed by the Kenya government in 2014 after series of Islamic extremism instigated violence hit the country. Muslims were just fighting for their freedom, demonstrating against government killings targeting them. The government spewed radicalization propaganda.
The mosque was always being watched, but what the security devils did not know was that there was a secret access to it.
Leilah went round the darkened mosque and found the well concealed entrance. She fumbled for the key in her purse, extracted it and inserted it into the keyhole. When she turned it nothing happened. But she expected it. Her identity was being verified electronically by a super-fast computer in the basement.
After what seemed like eternity, about twelve-and-half nanoseconds later, a voice asked her to say in whose arms Prophet Mohammed died in.
Leilah smiled as she mouthed the secret code that The Council had given her to gain access to join her brothers and sisters.
Leilah entered the darkened mosque and was received by a portly woman in her prime.
“Welcome home, White Sister,” the woman said in Arabic. “Auntie Sherafiyah awaits you.”
Leilah could hear Qiyaam al-Layl prayer coming through the walls. The woman stopped at a tall carved door and let her inside. She didn’t follow.
Auntie Sherafiyah hadn’t changed a bit since she last saw her. If anything she had become glued to the wheelchair.
“Mama,” Leilah said as she rushed to where Auntie Sherafiyah was anchored.
“Samantha!” Auntie Sherafiyah said.
“I’ve missed you so.”
Leilah hugged her mother amid tears. “I’m sorry I didn’t call…”
Auntie Sherafiyah waved her off. “You were right not to call,” she said. “This place is crawling with the infidel devils thirsting for our blood. They listen to everything. Now you are home. Sit, don’t be sorry.”
She was, but Leilah listened to her mother whom everybody called Auntie Sherafiyah.
“I came without any incidence,” Leilah told her mother. “Thanks to you, mama.”
“Now you are home, Samantha. Get rid of that burqa and let me see my lovely daughter.”
Leilah did as she was told. She tore off the stuffy dressing and stood before her mother in her European clothes, clothes from home. Her mother looked at her and grinned.
There stood the girl who, at five years old, said without faltering that she would be Mujahedeen when she grew up.