By Frank Kamuntu
The High Court in Kenya on Friday ruled that Rastafarianism is a religion just like any other and they should be treated as the rest.
While giving his final verdict in a suit in which a father of a girl who was sent away from Olympic High School in Nairobi soon after being admitted in Form One because of dreadlocks, Justice Enoch Chacha Mwita said that the school administration’s action denied the girl her right to religion and education.
The judge also pointed out that the Constitution does not define what religion is but the dictionary does.
“This is the first ever case in this country where a child dons Rasta braids because of her religious beliefs, Rastafarianism is a religion which should also be accorded protection,” said Justice Mwita
“The Court ruling on Rastafarinism is a huge progress towards its acceptance,” Chairman of the association Moses Mbugua has said.
With joy in his voice, Mbugua reported to the media that a person is born a Rastafarian and that you do not have to choose it.
Justice Chacha Mwita ruled that the decision by Olympic High School to exclude a student from school because of her dreadlocks is unconstitutional, saying it’s a manifestation of her religion.
“We are happy and this a huge progress. Keeping Rasta is a way of professing faith however not everyone spotting dreadlocks and chanting ‘Jah’ is a Rastafarian.,” Mbugua said.
How is Rastafarinism a religion?
Mbugua 48, said Rastafari is a religion like Christianity and Islam, with strict practices and beliefs.
As a member of Rastafarian society for close to 30 years, Mbugua said his passion in the movement started when he was born adding that it was a calling from Jah.
“You are born a Rastafarian. You do not choose it. It chooses you,” he says, explaining why he joined the movement.
Mbugua said when he decided to shift from Christianity to Rastafarianism in the 90s, his father asked the village chief to arrest him for being a follower of the Mungiki sect.
Several times, he was made to cut his dreadlocks, but he was persistent.
“I would listen to Bob Marley, and other reggae musicians singing about how black people were oppressed. I am black and oppressed,” he said.
After he was initiated into adulthood he became a true Rasta. A true rasta means that you have to change your diet and eliminate meat.
“A true Rastafarian is one who is cleansed, and does not consume animals,” he said.
Mbugua said Rastafarians should smoke weed because it is an order from Jah-Haile Selassie.
“Rastafari is about Jah-Haile Selassie I, the Ethiopian emperor who will deliver believers to the promised land,” he said.
“The marijuana plant is the tree of life mentioned in the Bible,”Mbugua said adding that several Biblical passages promote its use.
Mbugua said Rastaman condemns the use of marijuana simply to get high.
The rastafarian community use it within religious ceremonies in a highly ritualised manner -relaxation sessions.
Rastafari “relaxation sessions” are religious meetings that involve group meditation, and marijuana is used to enhance feelings of unity and help generate visions of a spiritual and soothing nature.
“I was curious to understand what the Rastafarians think of the “holy herb” being legal.”Ganja is a natural, not a man-made, substance, given by God to be used by mankind, the same way that He provides other herbs and bushes. As a natural substance, ganja does not even have to be cultivated,” Mbugua said in defence of the bill.
“It is spread by birds and other vectors and, grows. It cannot be eradicated. God created other herbs but none of these is subject to the prohibition imposed by the law.”