Friday, September 24, 2010

History of Islamic militancy in Somalia /part # 3

PART # 3
In 1967 southern Somalia, the anti-Western reaction crystallized into the formation of a little known Islamic Radical organization called Al-Ahal  founded by a certain Abdulqadir Sheikh Mohamed. Al-Ahal broke up into two organizations, subsequently: Attakfir and Assalafiya. In northern-western Somalia, the anti-Western reaction culminated in the creation of Muslim Youth Union (Wahdada) by a group of religious leaders in Hargeisa, in late 1960s. Assalafiya and the Muslim Youth Union merged subsequently
The coup of October 21, 1969, installed a Communist regime committed to profound change. Shortly afterward, the stella d'Ottobre ( xidigta Oktobar ) the official newspaper of the Supreme Revolutionary Council SRC  published an editorial about relations between Islam and socialism and the differences between scientific and Islamic socialism. Islamic socialism was said to have become a servant of Capitalisam and Neocolonialisam  and a tool manipulated by a privileged, rich, and powerful class. In contrast, scientific socialism was based on the altruistic values that inspired genuine Islam.
Islamic Radicals and the New Scientific Socialisam Movement:
The new SRC told most of the Religious leaders should therefore leave secular affairs to the new leaders who were striving for goals that conformed with Islamic principles. Soon after, the government arrested several protesting religious leaders and accused them of counterrevolutionary propaganda and of conniving with reactionary elements in the Arabian Peninsula also know the Al-Wahhabia . The authorities also dismissed several members of religious tribunals for corruption and incompetence.
When the Three-Year Plan, 1971-1973, was launched in January 1971, SRC leaders felt compelled to win the support of religious leaders so as to transform the existing social structure. On September 4, 1971, Mr Siad Barre exhorted more than 100 religious teachers to participate in building a new socialist society. He criticized their method of teaching in Qur'anic schools and charged some with using religion for personal profit.
The campaign for scientific socialism intensified in 1972. On the occasion of Islamic Eidul Ad-ha the major Muslim festival associated with the pilgrimage, the president defined scientific socialism as half practical work and half ideological belief. He declared that work and belief were compatible with Islam because the Qur'an condemned exploitation and money lending and urged compassion, unity, and cooperation among Muslims. But he stressed the distinction between religion as an ideological instrument for the manipulation of power and as a moral force. He condemned the antireligious attitude of  Marxists Religion, Siad Barre said, was an integral part of the Somali worldview, but it belonged in the private sphere, whereas scientific socialism dealt with material concerns such as poverty. Religious leaders should exercise their moral influence but refrain from interfering in political or economic matters
After the military regime took over power in 1969, all non-state organizations were completely banned, including the burgeoning Islamic organizations. Nevertheless, Islamic activism took greater strides by 1970s in reaction to the introduction of socialist ideology by the regime. The newly founded student organization of “al-Ahli” and scholars of the banned “al-Nahda” were coordinating stiff defiance to the regime’s ideology. They have confronted socialist ideology with promoting Islamic awareness through establishing many Islamic study circles that were reproduced every corner of Somalia. This revivalism was part and parcel of the wave of Islamic radicalisation gaining impetus in the entire Muslim world after the Arab-Israel war of 1967. Initially, the majority of Islamic radicals movements in Somalia claimed affinity with moderate methodologies for propagating Islam, similar to that of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in its matured stage in the seventies. However, that situation changed after the Islamic movement was hard-hit in its infancy
In early January 1975, evoking the message of equality, justice, and social progress contained in the Qur'an, Siad Barre announced a new family law that gave women the right to inheritance on an equal basis with men. Some Somalis believe the law was proof that the SRC wanted to undermine the basic structure of Islamic society. In Mogadishu twenty-three religious leaders protested inside their mosques They were arrested and charged with acting at the instigation of a foreign power and with violating state security; ten leading scholars were executed  and hundreds of Islamic activists were prosecuted but Sheik Mohamed walaaleeye and Sheik Hassan Absiye Derie were among them.Most religious leaders, however, kept silent. The government continued to organize training courses for shaykhs in scientific socialism.
As a result of oppression and prosecution, many Islamic activists fled to Afganistan, Pakistan , Saudi Arabia Sudan, Egypt and the Persian Gulf states, getting employment there and education mainly in the Islamic universities in these countries. Conservative Arab countries in the Persian Gulf had been supporting forces opposing socialist ideology in Somalia and thus facilitated Somali Islamists to join Islamic universities. In these countries, Somalis came into contact with Muslim scholars from all over the world and with all kinds of Islamic revivalist groups having different visions and strategies. Somali Islamists became ideologically divided and brought back home these divisive ways of Islamism, introducing them to the younger generations in Somalia, from 1976 to 1980
This has coincided with the early proliferation of Islamic fundamentalism, at the height of popularity of Muslim brotherhood in Egypt  an Islamic movement that swayed immense influence among the Muslim populations of Asia and Africa.
In meeting held in Burao in 1984, and jointly gave birth to a new organization to be known as the Al-Ittihad Al-Islami (Islamic Union/Islamic Unity). Sheikh Ali Warsame  assumed the leadership of the newly founded Al-Ittihad Al-Islami
From the inception, Al-Ittihad has been created as a compound of a number of entities whose constituent units operate with relative operational freedom although still inter-dependent, financially and organizationally. The units have sufficient contacts between them and, at times, impact on each other’s decisions and actions, though each still acts self-sufficiently as a part of a whole. While an extraordinary umbrella framework has been instituted in the form of Al-Ittihad, a unified command structure has neither been visible nor identified from the start. Empirical observations suggest Al-Ittihad as a highly decentralized movement with no known or identified command and control centre. However, its broader objective of establishing an Islamic state in the Horn of Africa has been, unmistakably, clear from the onset. What has never been clear, though, is the content and substance of its political programme.
Several other radical islamic groups remained outside the newly-born Al-Ittihad organization. Groups within the Wahdada and Assalafiya declined to join due to misgivings on the likely future ideological direction of the new organization and owing to negative accounts on Assalafiya propagated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Islah , another Islamic group that branched off from the Muslim Brotherhood, with large followers in Somalia, opted to exist and operate independently even though it generally espoused similar religious ideology and pursued common objectives with Al-Ittihad. Al-Takfiir, a militant extremist group that virtually detached itself from the society, operated within the Al-Ittihad establishment in complete seclusion. Due to its subtle and discreet activities and physical detachment from the general public, it is sometimes mistakenly regarded as a separate and independent outfit or a sort of a splinter group that branched off from Al-Ittihad.
Radical Islam in Somalia 1980 -1991 :
During the period between 1984 and 1991, the radical group name Al-Ittihad registered significant organizational growth; its membership swelled through grassroots enrolment alluring the disadvantaged, particularly the downtrodden and less fortunate segments of the society. It managed to penetrate into the civil service, the military and academic institutions, as its peaceful and sophisticated methodology of getting across its Islamic awakening message won popular acceptance, and due to the fact that it, relatively, refrained from meddling into the affairs of the government. In what amounted to a major departure from the religious tradition, it started to lay the foundations for a solid economic base launching a network of interdependent small businesses in major cities and towns, introducing slowly but steadily, bits of Wahabbiya culture and philosophy on the way. All of these programs were consciously executed with subtlety and sophistication, ringing no alarm bells. The intelligence agencies  (NSS) of the then Somali government failed to detect any danger signals of this radical group .
Due to the magnetism of the oil boom in the 1970's and perhaps lured by the petrodollar, tens of thousands of Somalis flocked to Saudi Arabia for employment opportunities in the 1970s and 1980s. Thousands more were offered scholarships by the government of Saudi Arabia. The majority of the Somali students who turned up in the kingdom found their way into the Islamic University of Medina. Others studied at Um-Alqura University in Mecca and the Imam Saud University in Riyad. The Somali students in these universities were provided with lavish benefits and financial assistances, such as free accommodation and food, generous pocket money or monthly stipends, marriage allowances and yearly round-trip tickets. The large outflow of thousands of manual labourers and young educated males to the Gulf States in the 1980's gave the Arab radical religious groups an opportunity to interact with, cultivate and eventually indoctrinate the fertile minds of essentially non-radical Muslim Somalis. Hence, for the first time, a large number of Somali youth came in contact with political/radical Islam, activist Islamic groups and transnational Islamic issues. Upon their return to Somalia, newly converted Somali Islamists became instrumental in the activation of circles of Islamic study groups linked with Muslim Brotherhood in major urban centres. Closely-knit cells of Muslim Brotherhood composed of educated and professionals became active, especially in Mogadishu, Hargeisa and Burao cities, afterwards
The Saudi's Hidden Agenda :
But the hidden agenda of the Saud's was Throughout this period  the policy which they were  preventing Somalia to pursue oil explorations in their own somali territory. The Saudi government paid millions of dollar to most western petroleum companies to stop exploraint any oil and gas in somalia . But on the  other hand saudi's also been tacitly supporting Somalia’s relentless efforts to recapture somalis lost territory of Ogadne in Ethiopia , the Saudi's told the somali regime  In return, Saudi government provided free oil and substantial financial support to Somalia. With this financial incentive, Saudi government relatively influenced the internal policy of Somalia, especially in the promotion of Arabic language and Islamic culture. Competing with Saudis and certainly interested to stem the growing influence of the Saudi government in Somalia, the Al-Azhar University of Egypt offered scholarships to thousands of Somali students, in the 1980's. These were students who have completed Egyptian secondary schools in Mogadishu, namely, Jamal Abdinasir and Sheikh Suufi. Egypt also constructed and financed primary and intermediate schools in Hargeisa, Burao, Galkayo, Belet Weyne, Mogadishu and Kismayo. Students who have completed these schools were enrolled in the two Egyptian secondary schools in Mogadishu.
Hence, thousands of trained professionals who have graduated from Egyptian educational institutions eventually got their way into the rank and file of the civil service and the military.thus creating a Underground radical religious movements and organizations supported by the Arab Islamic fundamentalists started ill-timed grassroots campaigns intended to provoke public resentment against the government.
In mid 80's Many of these radical religious figures were subsequently sent to detention centres by the regime . Those who were not arrested either left the country or went underground. Those who left the country eventually settled in the Gulf Arab states. As a consequence, Islamic fundamentalism failed to regenerate itself throughout Siad Barre’s regime.
But In the closing days of Mr Siad Barre’s regime, radical religious groupslike Al ittihad and Al islah  began to unveil their camouflage cover. Taking advantage of the emerging chaos and the breakdown of law and order, radical religious groups got the courage to preach openly and call for the imposition of the Sharia Law and for the establishment of an Islamic State in Somalia.  Al-Ittihad, the most militant of the Islamic groups mushrooming in Somalia, capitalized on the power vacuum

1991 the collapse of the somali Government and the rise of the Radical Islamist :
In the aftermath of the demise of the Somali government and the ensuing disintegration, Somalia has degenerated into a state of lawlessness. The country has fragmented into a disparate fiefdoms run by a bunch of rival and unruly warlords that selfishly capitalize on the suffering of the beleaguered Somali people
This time the ground was ripe for Al-Ittihad’s takeover of Somalia in 1991. With high degree of organization and ample financial resources, it has effectively replaced the demised governmental institutions. It quickly took over the business sector, setting up booming and lucrative entrepreneurial trade network in all over Somalia. It established many profitable businesses such as banks, import-export trading companies, bakeries, shopping centers, small industries, telecommunications, credit schemes, transport networks, relief organizations and well-financed religious schools (not traditional Koranic schools), similar to the religious Madrassas in Pakistan. Al-Ittihad supplanting some of the collapsed state functions began to administer Islamic Courts and to enlist its own militia force, buying huge quantities of the weaponry left behind by the disintegrated Somali military. In the absence of a central government in Somalia, Al-Ittihad became the major employment opportunity provider to the largely impoverished ordinary Somalis. Furthermore, taking advantage of the presence of UNISOM in Somalia in early 1990's Al-Ittihad became a major contractor and supplier for the UN. It has also provided security escort services for the UN, receiving huge revenues, in return. 
Like the Taliban of Afghanistan,of the late 90's  Al-Ittihad was a mysterious organization engaged in clandestine operations. Its activities was largely undercover and beyond the legal bounds. Its operations was painstakingly deliberated with maximum care, preparation and in complete secrecy. Like the Taliban, it receives huge financial support from radical Islamic institutions, religiously radical Arab elites in the Gulf States and through the 90's all the way to early 2002 complex fund-raising schemes. Like the Taliban, Al-Ittihad had regional and international links with transnational radical religious movements and is in pursuit of expansionist strategies that could have adverse security implications for the countries of the Horn of Africa and beyond. Like the Taliban, it is hostile to fellow Muslim compatriots who do not espouse similar Islamic ideals and to non-Muslims whom it regards as infidels.
 2006 - 2009 The Rise of the New wave of Islamic Militancy : 
.As a result, Somalia has become a theatre for international and regional interventions, then caught up in a bizarre assortment of new waves of  Islamic insurgencies  and weak state institutions. It is the collapse of the state, along with successive failures of transitional governments  that has ushered in a stronger political Islam, which has become more militant since the Global War on Terrorism after 9/11,  this new rise of islamic radicals call  the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in 2006 set the stage for what we see recently in Somalia.
However,in 2007 was the start of the new wave of islamic militancy in somali the actors were the two notorious groups name  Al-Shabab and Hizb-al-Islam (formerly members of UIC and ARS) who are fighting this weak  government headed by the former chairman of UIC and ARS, and the incumbent sheak name Sheikh Sharif
In conclusion, the early militancy 1840's to 1920's in the name of Islam resembles current militancy in (1) mass radicalizaton and the exclusion of other Islamic groups, (2) monopoly of religious legitimacy by using the islamic shari'a law (3) excessive use of  violence , cruelty and injustice against somalis who don't follow their teachings .All these forms of islamic militancy have its roots in the Islamic fiqi (jurisprudence)  connections and influences of the Al- Salafia and Al -wahhabia school of Islam. The current extremism and militancy, however, is rooted to the emergence of Al-itihad al-Islami in 1980s and its militaristic adventure in 1990's which ended in the disastrous defeat in Kismayo, Puntland and Gedo in 1991, 1992 and 1996 respectively.  Moreover, although current extremism in the name of Islam is an age old  islamic phenomenon and an expression of jihadi mentality that holds an extreme anger responding to various internal and external tensions within islam it self , but these  three episodes attest the occurrences of similar phenomenon despite the fact that it happened in different context and conditions. Furthermore, all these events ended with radicals defeat and massive human suffering which most likely will be the fate of this current islamic militancy for this new decade..
May the freethought  free us all : Amen

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