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Thread: Secular Somalia VS radical Islam trip to memory-lane1719 days old

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    Default Secular Somalia VS radical Islam trip to memory-lane

    Readers,

    Though Somalia is a predominantly Muslim nation, it had more of secular and spiritual stance on Islam. Though the communist revolutionary government of 1969 promoted secularism, the country was already a secular prior that. Even pre-Independence secularism was the norm. If we look at the old 7th century customary indigenous Somali law; Xeer in Somalia is similar to many Western secular states that separate religion and state.

    There is a Somali saying:
    “Diinta waa labaddali karaa, xeer se lama baddali karo”
    (One can change his religion; one cannot change the law)
    Which clearly shows how religion is a matter of a private, individual business, while the law is communal and public, subject to all.

    If I go back to modern history, Islamic radicalism first reached the shore of Somalia in the early 1980's but in a ideological manner and faced harsh repulsion from the government back then, such as jailing Islamic preachers and to some extreme killing them under fire-squad. But the real form of Islam-ism set its stone in Somalia during mid 1990's after the intra-clan war ended. This was the period when Somali females began to change their secular and traditional attire's for the more extreme wahabi outfits, and this was also the period when the first military Islamic movement came to existence (Al-Itihad).

    However the more extreme and deadly version of Islamic radicalism has come alive during late 2006/early 2007 when Ethiopian forces financially backed by USA toppled a moderate Islamic movement from power. These moderate Islamic movements were the same ones that destroyed the warlord era of Somalia. So in reality the invasion opened a pandora box of extremist forces (Al-Shabaab) that evolved from a off-shoot of the more moderate and traditional Somali Islamic movement (Union of Islamic Courts). Now back in 2011 was the first time Al-Shabaab lost control of the capital, essentially whoever controlled the capital controls the country, in which case dozens of Al-Shabaab controlled towns and villages have fallen to the new Somali permanent government (formed back in 2012) prior that Somalia had transitional government that barely ruled pockets of the capital let alone the country. Since the military offences, there was another dramatic war happening in Somalia and outside, this was a ideological war between fanatic Somalis and non-fanatic Somalis (Muslims, atheist, Christians). These ideological was mainly through social networks online, TV channels, books and so on. For example moderate Muslims would publish and write books that speaks against extremism, one popular book was called 'Kadka Riddada' which talks mainly about apostate-ism. Which I recently bought



    Then we have vocal ones such as Ayaan Hirsi (atheist), Amal Farah (atheist) or Mona Walter (Christian) or Muslim/Somali organisations and individuals such as ATM (anti-tribalism movement) whom organise televised conferences against extremism, an example of the latest one in pictures:







    Then we have the Somali government organising religious conferences against extremism, or broadcasting anti-extremist propaganda on the national TV or national Radio. But also offering rewards to those that ''snitch'' on extremist sympathisers.

    These are examples, as there are many anti-extremist activist in both Muslim and non-Muslim Somalis campaigners. With both ideological war and military war against Islamic radicalism, it has resulted for the extremist group to lose large sway of land approximately 70% of the country but also it has significantly diminished any radical Islamic ideologies from Somalis. Another factor that has weakened the extremist movement in Somalia is due to the newly established ISIS in Iraq/Syria prompting many foreign fighters in Somalia to relocate to Syria and Iraq leaving Al-Shabaab morally, financially and military to a blow.

    So fast-forward to 2015 it seems like radical Islam has effectively been beaten in Somalia. This can be witnessed by the relaxed atmosphere in the country, economic boom but also influx of Somali diaspora's. But the ultimatum goal is for Somalia to purely go back to it's secular ways it had in place pre-1991.

    I hope what I have written would be useful to readers. If anyone has any suggestions on ways to promote secularism or tackle extremism please share with us.

    Now for a short memory-lane to secular Somalia








































    Present day Somalia. We are not there yet, but pre-1991 secular Somalia is definitely possible.






    Samatar,
    Last edited by Samatar; 2015-01-08 at 05:28. Reason: spell check

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    Somali and Iran seem to be lessons in the fact that positive social progress is not always inevitable. Society is not something moving around on autopilot that will progress all on its own. Likewise liberal democracy is something we must actively work to preserve.

    I worked with a client from Somalia recently. She mentioned that her part of the country used to be an Italian colony and she wanted me to know that "life was really good" under Italian rule.
    "A racist is anyone winning an argument against a liberal."
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    Quote Originally Posted by XMidnightX View Post
    I worked with a client from Somalia recently. She mentioned that her part of the country used to be an Italian colony and she wanted me to know that "life was really good" under Italian rule.
    I don't know what part she's talking about (probably the South) but a good part of Somalia was not truly "colonized" tbh. Most of the occupations in Somalia were via "Protectorate" systems whereby the local polities still existed and controlled their territories but just sort of answered to colonial powers (that's how it started anyway). It was only in the south where the Ajuran Sultanate had collapsed only two centuries or so before that the Italians had a real iron grip, IIRCC. But they did rule certain areas completely for a while. Even parts of Ethiopia but some Ethiopians will never admit this () as they have never been colonized.

    But yeah, when the "Somali Republic" was around & my mama grew up in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu; shit was good. She says women often wore short skirts, didn't at all cover their hair etc. In her words "We were believers and always had our faith but not many people truly behaved as Muslims." Somalia was really well on its way to ending up like the West and if the civil war and this tragic backtracking to the 7th century hadn't gone down we'd likely be comparable to many western countries today so yeah; people are deluded if they think Humans naturally just keep going "Up, up & up". All we've done these last 24 years~ is backtracked but the country is really making a come back now as Samatar says.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Seriously, the pictures I've seen of old Mogadishu (once called "The White Pearl of the Indian Ocean") and how my mom describes life back in the city during her childhood... It's really hard to believe sometimes considering how shit is now.
    Last edited by Awale; 2015-01-08 at 20:02.

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    Thank you for sharing those lovely photos and brief history recap Samatar.
    Here's a site that's also useful for tracking historic photos. http://vintagesomalia.com/
    Afghanistan, and Iran similarly have also found radicalism escalating as times got worse. I hope these nations become as prosperous as they once were. People look to religion for they need an escape and for solace when things are desperate, and understandably so. Unfortunately, a select few intermingle religion with politics and power so it becomes a dirty game. Regardless of there being a religious majority, statehood should always remain secular as confirmed through history.

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    The romantic idea that Somalia was once a secular paradise is an inexact description of something that was vastly different, as with the pseudo-socialism of the revolutionary government, the superficial cosmopolitanism and sense of modernity were no different. The Somali intellectual class were formally educated people who would concentrate their knowledge in their particular field of study rather than take on the role of an intelligentsia who would enlighten society with their perspectives.

    Quote Originally Posted by Awale View Post
    But yeah, when the "Somali Republic" was around & my mama grew up in Somalia's capital of Mogadishu; shit was good. She says women often wore short skirts, didn't at all cover their hair etc. In her words "We were believers and always had our faith but not many people truly behaved as Muslims."
    It was always a fleeting mirage, and its ultimate evaporation is testament to that. Somalis were and still are conservatives, and in a time where some people held relatively progressive values, nobody would formally acknowledge it. Cosmopolitanism and modernity in pre-civil war Somalia was measured by a persons 'Somalinimo' and not the length of their skirt ( ) because that was determined by a cultural undercurrent. For example, singers and entertainment figures who were centerpieces in the Somali cultural landscape of the 1950-1980s were frequently ridiculed and seen as people willing to sacrifice their dignity to entertain. As testified to by the late Maryan Ali Omar, who closely followed the Somali 'fann'.

    MOA: Yes, in the early years, the reputation of a girl whose singing
    voice was broadcast and, thus, who entered Fann was the height of
    shameful social scandal. This ostracism compounded their alienation.
    Consequently, the fannaaniin became their own community so as to
    protect each other. This is a main reason behind the concoction of nicknames
    for the early female pioneers, such as Magool, Mandeq, Bahsan,
    and Gududow, to cover their family identity. Now, there were segments
    of the Somali people (mostly the rising educated) who became
    aware of the predicament and recognized the value of their artistic
    work to the evolving production of Somali culture. But these were a
    minority until the beginning of the decade of the 1970s—a time that
    ushered in more stress on secular and modernistic values
    http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu...ntext=bildhaan

    Battling on Two Fronts:
    Introducing Maryan Omar Ali, Ahmed I. Samatar, Bildhaan


    And that has been a constant despite the interpretation of Islam that is prevalent. If a secular Somalia is to ever exist, it has to be organic and founded on the acknowledged and collectively accepted rather than ahistorical narratives.
    Last edited by Barwaaqo; 2015-01-25 at 22:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barwaaqo View Post
    The romantic idea that Somalia was once a secular paradise is an inexact description of something that was vastly different, as with the pseudo-socialism of the revolutionary government, the superficial cosmopolitanism and sense of modernity were no different.
    Never genuinely thought it was but that it was well on its way to being a pretty decent country on the world map by now but then... You know what happened.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Barwaaqo View Post
    Somalis were and still are conservatives, and in a time where some people held relatively progressive values, nobody would formally acknowledge it.
    Indeed... What my mother once said with "we always had faith" (technically still believed in Islam) is a testament to this. They were getting there but had a ways to go. Also, this more "open-minded" mentality Samatar outlines and I outlined was honestly just "hip" in cities like Mogadishu. Most rural folk were while they were literate and yada yada; not very different from the rural folk and people you see all over our country now. And there were still "backward" mentalities and ideas even among the urban and educated class-> Somalia wouldn't have devolved into what it did otherwise.

    ---
    OT but I must ask-> Are you an apostate or?
    Last edited by Awale; 2015-01-25 at 22:29.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Awale View Post
    Indeed... What my mother once said with "we always had faith" (technically still believed in Islam) is a testament to this. They were getting there but had a ways to go. Also, this more "open-minded" mentality Samatar outlines and I outlined was honestly just "hip" in cities like Mogadishu. Most rural folk were while they were literate and yada yada; not very different from the rural folk and people you see all over our country now. And there were still "backward" mentalities and ideas even among the urban and educated class-> Somalia wouldn't have devolved into what it did otherwise.

    ---
    It could have culminated into something better, indeed, but it was disturbed prematurely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Awale View Post
    OT but I must ask-> Are you an apostate or?
    I was just watching 'Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses Affair' on youtube so it is funny you ask me that? No, I am not an apostate but my PM is open to receiving faux fatwas
    Last edited by Barwaaqo; 2015-01-25 at 22:55.

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    @ Barwaaqo

    Pre-civil war Somalis were predominantly Sufis, and were Muslims by faith and spirituality. They weren't really practising Muslims and I wouldn't really call them conservatives but loose conservatives. Somalis were loose conservatives not because of Islam but because of their patriarchal dominant Somali culture. Somalis back then took their nationality and ethnicity more seriously than their religion. For example we had Christian Somali politicians that were backed by majority of Somalis before independence solely because they were fighting against colonialism and people didn't care if they were Christian.

    I agree that Somalia needs grass-root movement and organic founded secularism. Do you think it is possible?

    ---SAMATAR
    Last edited by Samatar; 2015-01-25 at 22:53.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Samatar View Post
    @ Barwaaqo

    Pre-civil war Somalis were predominantly Sufis, and were Muslims by faith and spirituality. They weren't really practising Muslims and I wouldn't really call them conservatives but loose conservatives. Somalis were loose conservatives not because of Islam but because of their patriarchal dominant Somali culture. Somalis back then took their nationality and ethnicity more seriously than their religion. For example we had Christian Somali politicians that were backed by majority of Somalis before independence solely because they were fighting against colonialism and people didn't care if they were Christian.

    I agree that Somalia needs grass-root movement and organic founded secularism. Do you think it is possible?

    ---SAMATAR
    There were such people, you are right to bring that up. Something to consider.

    About secularism being possible, as Shakespeare says, "there is no darkness but ignorance", mutual respect and individual autonomy can only flourish in an educated society. So all is possible with education and a thinking people! How that can happen, I am not entirely sure.

    - - - Updated - - -

    What about you? Do you think it is possible in Somalia?

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    The future of that country falls in the hands of the younger children. We have to ask ourselves the environment in which they are being bred in? It's not conductive to free thinking, questioning, or being naturally curious; there are strong normative pressures against that, and as much as i'd love to be positive, unless these kids are transferred to an arena where they will receive higher quality education and brought back to rebuild, I don't see much for the nation.

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