Google+ Followers

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Who represents American Muslims? No one

By Farhana Qazi

The Ground Zero madness is not an either-or proposition, or at least it should not be viewed as a for-or-against-the-mosque project. The larger issue, politics aside, is one of faith. Who represents the Muslim majority (or minority) in America? Therein lies the real challenge, or rather, confusion and chaos. In truth, with nearly 3 million Muslims in America, and thousands of mosques and schools being built (fundraising events are common during the month of Ramadan), the Muslim community in the United States is bound to multiply and therefore, magnify the role that Islam will (though perhaps should not) play in the American political scene.

The question of representation is rhetorical but relevant, as it is too often asked by Muslim and non-Muslims alike in this country. I make an attempt to answer the question by discussing it with my students and audiences that I am asked to speak to on the topic of Islam and Islamists (yes there is a difference; the latter represents a growing minority of Muslims who wish to govern by Islamic law in the United States and abroad). The answer is simple: no one represents Islam in America. After all, this is not Saudi Arabia where a particular view of religion dominates. Rather, there is a multitude of Islamic practices and preachers in almost every corner of America now. A new reality Americans are learning to live with (or not).

The Muslim voice in America has never been unified nor uniform. Just as people of other faiths are not monolithic, neither is Islam. While the historic battle among Muslims has been one of leadership (who should rule the Muslim masses?), there are now a wide range of issues that divide Muslims along the political, social and economic spectrum. When asked why Muslims fight, I tell U.S. military commanders, "We have always been fighting. But we also get along. The trouble is that we focus more on what separates us than what unites us as a faith-based community."

And while debate often thrives in diverse communities and should be expected (though not always encouraged) by all religions, Muslims in America continue to be in the spotlight. More stories are now focused on how to cope with a growing community. TIME magazine's lead story, "Is America Islamophobic?" is an attempt to take a deeper look at our feelings as a nation about a religion many Americans still don't understand. I can't even begin to answer how many times I've had to explain the concept of jihad in Islam, a term my editor says needs to be explained in my forthcoming book on Muslim women in conflict. A term that is common vernacular but not common knowledge.

Promoting understanding requires greater involvement. Too often, I hear Muslims advocate "We need to do something to change American foreign policy" but when not in the White House or in the halls of the Pentagon, the reality is that Muslims eager to contribute to shaping U.S. domestic and foreign policies will not be heard--unless they build a mosque at Ground Zero, which has become contentious, controversial and cause of conflict among Muslims and our political leaders on the rights of minorities in this country.

In truth, Muslims can shape the political debate by being a part of the political scene. I know I am not the only Muslim affiliated with the US Government. Currently I teach for the military and previously served in the intelligence community. Muslims need to take bolder and bigger steps for change in America. Standing on the sidelines in silent protest or gathering at Islamic conferences to discuss "community engagement"--the all too-familiar buzzword--is only one part of the solution. While Muslims participate in all sectors of American society, from philanthropists to peaceful activists, there are too few Muslims in the institutes of power, including the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. I realize that some Muslims might view the latter two organizations as symbols of the far-right or consider working as "spies" spiritually unethical. However, Muslim empowerment cannot come from constructing more mosques, alone. If, as many Muslims believe, understanding and tolerance are the key ingredients for mutual cooperation and a display of American citizenship, then it is time for Muslims to take charge and thus, shape Islam in America by joining hands with those who oppose the mosque project.

After all, it is possible to be Muslim and American. The purpose of Rauf's mosque is to propagate that message, and yet, the opponents of the project increasingly view him as a staunch Islamist whose goal is to spread Islam. If Rauf intended the Park51 mosque to increase civic engagement among Muslim Americans and bridge religious divides, then the politically active debate (and disturbing discourse) about the mosque has had the opposite effect. More Americans are now aware of Muslims in their own backyard, and are perhaps being forced to take sides on the Park54 mosque issue.

I don't know what Imam Rauf was thinking. Author of "What's Right with Islam IS What's Right with America," he is not the only credible voice in the American Muslim spectrum. Before his book, Dr. Akbar Ahmed, the Dean of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C., published Islam Under Siege (2003)--Rauf mimics Akbar's approach and offers solutions to peace-building and inter-faith engagement between religious groups (though says little about Buddhists, Hindus and aethists).

Perhaps the imam should take the higher moral and political ground and move the mosque elsewhere. Relocating the mosque ten blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks will silence the political (and religious) discourse about a mosque that may not have intended to be politicized at all.

Perhaps then we might also stop thinking that Rauf represents the vast majority of Muslims in America. After all, no one really represents Muslims in America.

Farhana Qazi is an American Muslim woman who lectures widely on Islam and conflicts in the Muslim world to the U.S. government and international audiences. She is currently a Senior Instructor for Pakistan on the AFPAK Team.

Source: The Washington Post

Hizbul-Islam tyrannize journalists in Afgoi district

The officials of Hizbul-Islam a rival Islamist faction in Somalia has cautioned the local Somali journalists operating in the lower shabelle region in Somalia, particularly those in Afgoi district which is some 30km west of the capital Mogadishu.

The officials have called the entire journalists operating in the district to report at their base in Afgoi district, and have threatened the journalists.

The journalists were informed that they cannot report anything unordinary which they see in the district to their respective media places.

“We were informed in a frown face that if we dare to report any irregular thing which we spot or sense in the district we shall be executed, and this is part of the challenges which the Somali journalists in the areas where Islamists such Al-Shabab and Hizbul-Islam control face, we have no guts to violate their instruction because some of our colleagues who have thumbed down previous instructions by the Islamist factions are now beneath the earth, we have no alternative for free speech” said a journalist who has requested his name not be used for his security.

The meeting between the local journalists and the officials of Hizbul-Islam was chaired by Ali Sheikh Omar the head of information department of Hizbul-Islam.

“We are clearly telling that any journalist working in this district who dares to reports things which he sees as irregular without informing us that journalist can face charges which can lead him his death” said Ali Sheikh Omar.

The administration of Hizbul-Islam in Afgoi district has been lately tyrannizing the journalists in the district, and this event comes at a time when a Hizbul-Islam fighter has with intent killed a trader in Afgoi district on Saturday, and the journalists in the district instantly reported the incident.

Somalia is the second place in the entire world where journalists have rough time in performing their duties of journalism in the most perfect way, this is because they are working between repelling sides.


Swift sued over treatment of Muslims at Nebraska plant

Somali Muslim workers at a meatpacking plant in Grand Island were denied prayer time and faced harassment and even termination for asking to pray, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The lawsuit filed on behalf on more than 80 Somali Muslims says JBS Swift & Co. has failed to make reasonable religious accommodations, violating the workers' civil rights, since at least December 2007.

Plant supervisors and non-Somali employees also harassed the Muslim workers, "interrupted their prayers, refused to let them pray, threw meat at them, called them names," among other things, the lawsuit says.

A message left Monday at JBS Swift's U.S. headquarters in Greeley, Colo., wasn't immediately returned.

The tensions over prayer time at the Grand Island plant have been building since 2007. That was when East Africans began filling the gaps left after a 2006 immigration raid cleared illegal Hispanic workers from the plant.

The situation came to a head in September 2008, during Ramadan, when hundreds of Muslim workers walked off the job and picketed in protest, saying they wanted time to pray at sunset and break a daylong fast. Plant management responded the next day by adjusting the work schedule to accommodate them.

Non-Muslims — including Latinos, Sudanese and whites — counterprotested such accommodations, calling it special treatment that would burden the rest of the work force. Management then ended the accommodations, which sent Muslim workers back to the picket lines.

The company fired 86 Muslim workers for walking off the job. It eventually hired back about a dozen.

JBS Swift has disputed the firings were over religion.

Dozens of Somali Muslim workers filed complaints with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the dispute.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Omaha seeks an order requiring JBS Swift to provide prayer time and to refrain from retaliating against workers who ask to pray. It also seeks payment for the fired workers.

A message left Monday with the union representing the plant's workers wasn't immediately returned.


U.S. District Court, Nebraska:

Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

JBS Swift & Co.,

Source: The Associated Press.

Somali-Canadian artist paints for social change

Amin Amir fled Somalia's civil war in the 1990s and immigrated to Canada in 2000. (CBC)
A controversial Somali-Canadian painter, cartoonist and activist unveiled his first Canadian exhibition in Edmonton on Sunday.

Known as the voice of Somalis around the world, Amin Amir launched a series of five paintings depicting key moments in his life at City Hall.

The works include an image of a young Amir in Somalia drawing with the charcoal he used to fetch for cooking.

Another depicts the 50-year-old's wife distracting a group of armed men and saving his life.

A third painting shows Amir's family embracing in a Canadian airport.

Website attracts 1M hits a month
Amir fled Somalia's civil war in the 1990s. He lived in several countries before immigrating to Canada in 2000.

He and his family moved to Edmonton in 2006. Through it all, Amir has advocated for political and social change through his paintings and drawings.

His website of political cartoons attracts more than a million hits a month.

"He's an icon of the Somali community," said fan Moyuadine Nor. "[He tries] to protect most those who need to be protected.

"[His website is] really where we seek information — exactly what is taking place back home."

Read more:

It's a political commentary that has put Amir's own life in jeopardy.

Amir spoke to CBC News through a translator about death threats he has received.

"If you are trying to save a country and a whole nation, you cannot be afraid of the consequences," he said. "Whatever the outcome is, I'm ready."

Amir has plans to start an art program to mentor young artists in Edmonton, urging them to illustrate their thoughts and feelings.

Champion for Somalis
Amir also spends his time painting scenes of a lost Somalia, the country he remembers and hopes to see again.

Ali Abdi, a professor at the University of Alberta said Amir is a champion of the Somali people.

"His focus is to make the situation of Somalia better," Abdi said. "To make Somalis, but also others, understand what Somalis are going through.

"To devote, literally, his life — sometimes at the expense of his own interests and interests of his family — to actually ameliorate and explain effectively what's happening in Somalia so people understand and maybe something good is done."

Amir's work will be on display at the University of Alberta's Extension Gallery in Enterprise Square Sept. 2-22.

With files from the CBC's Andrea Huncar

Read more:

Source: CBC

Monday, August 30, 2010

Op-Ed: Should Somaliland allow the formation of a unionist party?

Ludicrous idea, isn’t it? How can I suggest such a treacherous idea when I am known as an unflinching advocate for Somaliland’s independence and sovereignty? How could I dare even to utter the ugly U-word which I have denigrated so forcefully and irrevocably in many of my writings? I can see jaws dropping with bewilderment, devoted readers unbelievably double checking the source, and some of those already besotted with cynicism against the loyalty of clans on the fringes of Somaliland jumping to conclusion as soon as they see the title without reading any further and saying with a great sense of satisfaction: “Hey, gotcha? We knew all along that he was a unionist in disguise?” Likewise, I can see also unionist “Somalilanders” getting ecstatic about my rebellious approach.

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I would like to point out that Somaliland has chosen democracy as its system of government. And democracy entails equality and freedom for all citizens. Under the tree of freedom come its many branches such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. Under the umbrella of this system of democracy and freedom comes also one’s right for dissent among many other rights. Any tax paying citizen should have the right to challenge the political system and be able to express his/her political opinion in a peaceful way. Democracy is not only about conformity, or herd mentality, or even about seeing only different shades of the existing system; but it is also about calling for dismantling the existing system and taking the nation’s destiny to a completely different direction if need be. It is therefore the right of every citizen to demand and promote the political system he/she sees as suitable for the country.

If the Kulmiye government opens the gate for the creation of many political parties as the party’s leadership promised during the election campaign, I can envisage many parties carrying different ideologies and diverse political orientations coming to the political scene. Other than the plethora of clan-based parties that will choke the party pipeline, one can anticipate the arrival of some ideology- based parties such an Islamic party, a secular party, a liberal party, a social-democratic party and most probably a communist party. With the onset of such unfettered democracy I don’t see why it should still be a taboo to create a unionist party, demanding Somaliland’s reunification with Somalia.

In Somaliland today there is a strange and unfounded fear of anyone expressing an opinion for union. Strange because Somaliland has adopted democracy as a political system and democracy is indivisible. You cannot deny citizens to demand their democratic rights to hold and express opposing views; and unfounded because the people of Somaliland have made their choice to abandon the union and reclaim their sovereignty with their own free will. Therefore to punish and criminalize people for calling or publicly advocating for the Somali union is an insult to the intelligence of the people of Somaliland. If anything, it shows insecurity and paranoia about the sustainability of the Somaliland project.

The absurdity is that any Somali from anywhere in the world, particularly Somalis from Ethiopia, Djibitouti, Kenya and even Somalia can enter, stay and do business in Somaliland, but Somalilanders who happened to have participated in the politics of Somalia cannot attend even the burial of their own relatives in Hargeisa, Borama, Buroa or any other place in Somaliland. Somalis who hold high political posts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti are welcomed in Somaliland even though they uphold their respective governments’ official position of rejecting the recognition of Somaliland, but Somalis who hail from Somaliland by birth are treated as criminals and thrown into prison if they step on the soil of their homeland and are not even allowed to visit their ailing mothers. Their only crime is that they oppose the secession of Somaliland. This makes Somaliland democracy and freedom a cruel joke, at least to the families of the victims of such an absurd reality.

And finally, here is the beef. Yes, I am a firm believer in Somaliland’s sovereignty and independence and will remain a staunch advocate for its recognition. The people of Somaliland underwent great suffering and yet still found the courage and willpower to invest a priceless amount of energy, time and wisdom in creating a country from scratch and establishing such an admirable model of democracy in Africa. And despite its lack of recognition, I want to see Somaliland determined to uphold its constitutional democracy and hopefully one day be a guiding light for African countries as well as others professing democracy yet denying their citizens basic rights. Obviously, neither I nor any sound human being would like to see Somaliland’s achievements go up in flames for someone’s fantasyland dreams, but I also strongly believe that Somaliland has attained a high degree of political maturity to democratically and peacefully challenge and defeat anyone that confronts its legal rights at the ballot box. Hence, I resent seeing my beautiful Somaliland that stands on unshakeable democratic pillars, behaving like a banana republic by incarcerating and denying its citizens the exercise of their political rights. And that includes allowing the minority unionist individuals to raise their voice and form their own party. We all know that such dissenters do not stand a chance of winning any votes, but giving them a political platform may contribute to deflating their argument and saving their lives from dying in the hellfire of Mogadishu.

Source: SomalilandPress

Africa can't stand aside in the hour of Somali's need

By Yoweri Museveni

UGANDA'S president explains why Africa is committed to the fight in Somalia — and why the West should be, too. The article first appeared in the Foreign Policy Magazine

UGANDA welcomed the African Union's decision in late July to commit more peacekeepers to AMISOM, the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Coming barely a week after Somali insurgents murdered 76 people in Uganda, the announcement demonstrated the African continent's refusal to be intimidated by terrorists. In the wake of Tuesday's vicious attack by insurgents in Mogadishu that resulted in 33 deaths, Africa's resolve is only strengthened.

We will defeat those in Somalia who would keep a fellow African country from a future of stability and prosperity.

Somali citizens are the most committed of all to this project. For the last decade, they have been engaged in a peace process to try and reverse their country's descent into anarchy. The years of painstaking negotiation have seen a majority of the once-warring factions come together under the banner of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference, but extremists, inspired by al-Qaeda, are now trying to overthrow the institutions created under that process, including the Transitional Federal Government — the very forum that enables Somalis to decide how they want to be governed in the future, free from outside interference and coercion.

Those institutions need time to build the foundations for permanent government; unfortunately, they are under constant assault. It is inconceivable that Africans would stand aside in the hour of Somali's need.

Abandoning Somalia now would condemn Somalis to the brutal rule of militants and embolden like-minded terrorists around the world. This would be a monstrous betrayal of one of our most cherished African values and the raison d'être of the African Union: community. We know that our community is especially indebted to Somalia. After all, it was Somalia that most prominently supported anti-colonial and anti-apartheid campaigns on the continent and brokered a ceasefire between Uganda and Tanzania in 1971, at a moment when our two countries were on the brink of war.

Unfortunately, Somalia is now a central front in the fight against international terrorism. As terror networks are put under pressure in the Middle East, they are increasingly looking to exploit the opportunities presented by the instability in the Horn of Africa. Foreign extremists are already in Somalia, spreading their warped interpretation of religion. Just as the world came to regret leaving Afghanistan to its own fate in the 1990s, it would be a historic mistake to expect the war-weary Somali people to tame this global menace on their own.

The support of the international community remains critical to winning this fight. An expanded mission will require additional resources. It is our hope that our allies in this common endeavour, in the West and elsewhere in the world, will continue to hold up their end of the bargain by providing the means to train, equip, and deploy our bolstered AMISOM mission. Africans have taken the lead by putting boots on ground; the rest of the world must provide the necessary resources to achieve our objectives.

More resources are also needed to drastically improve the harsh social and economic conditions in Somalia that provide fertile breeding ground for extremism. Currently, the Somali government's total annual budget is only $250 million. In Uganda, this is roughly the amount used to pay primary school teachers each year. While the transitional government could be doing better with the little it has, adequate services will be impossible without a surge in resources.

The search for peace and stability in the Horn of Africa is not just a Somali or even an African issue; it is at the heart of the global war against extremism. African nations have sent their sons and daughters to Somalia to protect a local peace process, but also to defend the global interest. It is critical that the entire world comes together to support these efforts to restore the great Somali nation and deny terrorists a base from which to threaten the world.

Source: The New Vision

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Night of Power (Laylatul Qadr)

The Night of Power or Destiny is an extremely important night for Muslims. It is the night in which our code of guidance, the Holy Quran, was revealed from the Lord of the Universe to Prophet Muhammad. The Quran was revealed in Ramadan (2:185), and traditionally Muslims celebrated the Night of Power on the 27th night of Ramadan.

God describes this night as better than a thousand months. During that night, the angels and the Spirit descend therein, by God’s leave, to carry out every command (97:1-5).

Because the Night of Power is such a special night, those Muslims (Submitters) who want to gain extra credit of righteousness spend the night by commemorating God the Almighty either in their privacy or in a mosque with other Muslims. There are also some Muslims who retreat to a mosque in the last ten days of Ramadan to take advantage of God’s blessings further and increase their faith of submission.

Although the Night of Power falls on the 27th night of Ramadan, the followers of satanic innovations are never sure about it. They have their own books to follow beside the Quran a.k.a. hadiths (sayings attributed to the prophet). In one of them, SaHiH Bukhary, it is claimed that the prophet and his companions knew the precise night, but later God caused it to be forgotten. In still another hadith, it is reported that the "Night of Power" keeps changing from one year to another, whatever this means.

True Muslims always trust their Lord, and are confident that He will never deceive them. When God Almighty informs us in His most authentic Hadith that "We did not leave anything out of this book" (6:38), they know that all they need is found in this divine revelation. For this reason, and even before the discovery of the divine code of 19 by Dr. Rashad Khalifa, Muslim scholars researched for the exact date of the "Night of Power," or Laylat Al Qadr in the Quran.

Some saw signs in Sura 97 "Al Qadr." It is interesting to see that God mentioned "Laylat Al Qadr" (The Night of Power), a phrase that consists of 9 Arabic letters, exactly three times, in 97:1, 2, and 3. The sign was that 9x3=27, which means it is the 27th night of Ramadan.

Other Muslim researchers noticed that Sura 97 consists of exactly 30 Arabic words, as if it were referring to the days of the month. If you start counting the words, then you will find that the 27th word is "it," as if God is telling us the 27th night of Ramadan is "it."

Mathematical Confirmation

The code of 19, however, serves as an authentication for all information one extracts from the book of God. It also helps put to rest any speculations concerning the exact occurrence of that night. The divine code spells out the true date of the night of power as follows:

The gematric or numeric value of "Laylat Al Qadr" is 410. The nine Arabic letters that make up this phrase have the following values (letters shown in English equivalents):

L=30, Y=10, L=30, H=5, A=1, L=30, Q=100, D=4, R=200

If we add 410, the total of above numbers, plus the Sura number (97) and the verse numbers in which "Laylat Al Qadr" occurs (1, 2, 3), we get

410 + 97 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 513, or 19 x 27.

Praise God.

Jama’s Travels

Book Review


By Nadifa Mohamed

288 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Nadifa Mohamed’s ambitious first novel tells the story of a Somali orphan’s odyssey from Yemen to Djibouti, onward to Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Palestine, Marseille, Hamburg and Wales — and ultimately to an epiphany in London. Toward the end of this trek, the hero meets up with an old friend, with whom he competes “over who had walked the farthest, starved the longest, felt the most hopeless; they were athletes in the hard-luck Olympics.” Earlier, at a bus stop in Gaza, the hero comes across someone who is everything he doesn’t want to be: Musa the Drunk, a homeless Somali man, “the poster boy of failed migration.” Both moments reveal the weaknesses in this young novelist’s phenomenal, fast-­forward story.

Mohamed, born in 1981, moved with her family to London from Somalia in 1986. “Black Mamba Boy” is based on her father’s tales of his youthful peregrinations in East Africa and Europe during the 1930s and ’40s. From the outset, there are many elements reminiscent of “Oliver Twist”: a mother who dies young ( in this case when the protagonist is 11), a father who disappears (here on “a mapless, penniless journey to Sudan”) and a ­falling-in with thieving child scavengers (in the Ma’alla district of Aden). In an Arab neighborhood where hunger is rampant and violence too easy, young Jama clings to the idea that he will one day find his father. And, as in Dickens, the sentimental threatens to purple a grim reality better left plainly told. A knife fight with a friend renders Jama “a true loner, a boy without a father, brothers, cousins or even friends, a wolf among hyenas. Jama slunk away, intending to walk and walk until he found himself at the end of the world or could just disappear into the foaming sea.”

A female relative comes to the rescue, taking Jama to his grandfather’s compound in British-controlled Somaliland. But there’s no grandfather in evidence. Instead Jama is surrounded by semi-hostile women, among them “a neglected third wife” and her “uncircumcised” daughter. Here it’s worth pausing to note the differences between Mohamed’s first novel and that of Somalia’s internationally acclaimed master, Nuruddin Farah. That novel, “From a Crooked Rib,” written in 1968, when Farah was 23, is told from the perspective of an 18-year-old Somali girl maimed by forced infibulation. Farah’s account of his heroine’s wanderings explores the depredations she endures, and in smothering any inherent melodrama he finds his story’s raw power. But in “Black Mamba Boy,” Mohamed presses hard on the buttons that cue the violins: hunger, backbreaking slaughterhouse work, the cheerless sorcery of the household women.

As is often the case in this novel, a childish fight leads Jama to flee, this time for Djibouti. After falling asleep under a palm tree in one of the city’s shantytowns, he awakens in the care of a couple who hail from a feuding Somali clan. Still, they welcome him with kindness, perhaps because the husband, an excellent chef and “the only male wife in Djibouti,” finds in Jama the son he lost. When not cooking scrumptious meals, he’s explaining socioeconomics on walks through neighborhoods where “the poor live above open sewers while the rich frolic in those European hotel pools, gormless, mindless, empty people.” He pleads with Jama to stay, promising to teach him to read and write, but the boy says no: “He knew that he could not bear the betrayal of exchanging his real father for another.”

Jama soon arrives in a town on the border between Eritrea and Sudan. There he runs into a man on the street who claims to know his father: “Jama’s heart fluttered around his rib cage as he drank in this blissful news.” Apart from the problematic metaphor, this might seem an almost unbelievable turn of good luck. But not for Jama.

The novel takes on a Job-like tenor. Jama comes down with malaria. An Italian official imprisons him in a chicken pen. His best friend resurfaces, only to be tortured and murdered by sadistic soldiers. Jama is nearly killed in a British missile attack. When he tries to stay put, locusts destroy his crops. What to do? Jama settles on becoming a troubadour, playing an African stringed instrument called a rababa — until one evening his father appears to him in an apparition and tells him to go to Egypt. He hangs out in Alexandria, waiting for a passport that never comes. Frustrated, he and a pal head to Port Said, a harbor rumored to be filled with jobs with the British merchant marine. But the Egyptian police arrest them, steal Jama’s rababa and deport him to Sudan. The Sudanese reject him at the border and throw him into jail, where he befriends a Lebanese boxer who takes him to Palestine. It is there that Musa the Drunk makes his appearance. Jama sees the remnants of a “sharp, witty mind,” now “pickled in gin and blunted by isolation.” And only now does Jama consider that his restlessness may be problematic: “He could see his own life taking Musa’s terrible trajectory, see himself forever poised to try the next place, only to belatedly grasp that the good life was not there. Jama looked at Musa and realized that not even a madman would have left everything he had on the advice of a ghost.”

s in the passage describing the hard-luck Olympics, Jama’s encounter with Musa is an occasion when Mohamed might have listened more carefully to her own characters. She seems too often to be competing for the gold in several categories unconnected to literary merit — number of countries visited, number of injustices violently dispensed, number of scenes of starvation abjectly depicted. Much of what occurs in the novel may have happened to her father in the early chapters of his extraordinary life, but this is not sufficient reason for its inclusion. Even Jama seems to realize that his story may be unconvincing, perhaps just plain crazy.

Had she dived deeply into just one city in this atlas of misery, Mohamed might have told us more about what it is like to be a scavenger child in Africa than this novel does. Perhaps one day, with her considerable talents, she will write such a book.

Lorraine Adams’s most recent novel is “The Room and the Chair.”

A version of this review appeared in print on August 29, 2010, on page BR19 of the Sunday Book Review.

Source: The New York Times

Somali militants grow more brazen in attack

Somali militants linked to al-Qaeda briefly asserted control over Mogadishu's most strategic road Saturday, escalating their efforts to overthrow the U.S.-backed transitional government in a region where Islamic radicalism is gaining strength.

Never have the radical al-Shabab militiamen attacked so near Somalia's halls of power as they have last week, bringing them closer to their desire to create a Taliban-like Islamic emirate from which to export jihad abroad.

Saturday's attack triggered an intense gun battle on the Muka al-Mukarama, a vital artery that connects key government ministries and the presidential palace to the airport. The fighting sent hundreds fleeing their homes and trapped men like Mohammed Ali in the crosshairs of war.

The 22-year-old policeman fired a volley of bullets at al-Shabab fighters crouching in an alley connecting to the road. Bullets cracked back like thunderclaps. A mix of surprise and pain spread across Ali's boyish face, as blood oozed from his shattered foot, turning the road a dark crimson.

"We warned you not to fire your rifle," yelled a comrade, as others risked a similar fate to drag Ali to safety.

Next to them, soldiers and policemen stood against a wall of shuttered houses and stores that shielded them from the bullets whistling overhead. Scores of civilians who fled homes around the Dubka intersection huddled with them.

No one dared to go to the intersection, where al-Shabab fighters were firing on anyone attempting to cross the street.

"We are getting weaker and weaker every day," lamented Col. Ahmed Mohammed, a burly commander dressed in camouflage fatigues.

Many of the soldiers had received only one month's salary in the past eight months. For this, they would not risk their lives.

Overrunning areas

Over the past week, during Islam's holiest month of Ramadan, al-Shabab fighters have pressed on this ocean-side capital. The militia has grown increasingly ambitious since orchestrating last month's twin bombings in the Ugandan capital of Kampala that killed more than 70 World Cup fans.

The militants have overtaken neighborhoods once controlled by the government. On Monday, they vowed an all-out war to eradicate the government and drive out a contingent of 6,000 African Union peacekeepers that protects it.

The next day, two al-Shabab suicide bombers attacked the Hotel Muna near the presidential palace, killing 31 people, including members of parliament and civil servants.

The Muka al-Mukarama was a logical target. There was only one African Union outpost on the long thoroughfare between Mogadishu's commercial center and the Dubka intersection.

Lined with cafes, travel agencies and money transfer shops, the road is indispensable for Mogadishu residents. The militants have attacked the road before, but never with the intensity seen Saturday.

The assault began in the morning, as the militants took over buildings near the intersection and started to fire at passing vehicles.

By 10 a.m, they controlled the Dubka intersection, effectively dividing the capital. Most residents stayed home, but the few who ventured out were forced to take detours over tiny, mud-filled roads to cross the city.

The road was deserted, save for the lone souls fleeing from their homes or running from the bullets that punctuated the eerie silence of what was once the capital's busiest street.

More than 10 bullets pounded the pink wall of Hassan Abdulqadir Farah's house. He gathered his five small daughters and whatever belongings they could pack into a small white minibus. His neighbor Hassan Ahmed and his five children crowded into the minibus as well.

"I can't live with my children here," said Farah, a tall man who nervously glanced at the intersection. "The war has reached our front door."

Soldiers' plight

By 1 p.m., African Union peacekeepers arrived in white trucks and armored personnel carriers, affixed with large machine guns. They promptly began to pound the militants with a thunderous, jackhammer rhythm. At the end of each volley, the militants fired back with their AK-47s.

None of the civilians huddled against walls appeared to mind that Somalia's soldiers and policemen watched from the sidelines.

"When you ask the soldiers why they are not fighting, they reply, 'We have no bullets, we have no salaries,' " said Said Yusef Abdullah, 22, who fled his home and was searching for a place to sleep this night. "I don't blame them."

Col. Mohammed said the international community should do more to help the government. His soldiers, he said, lacked ammunition and weapons. Then he said the United States should not let the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers during a flawed U.N. peacekeeping mission in 1993, depicted in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down," limit its engagement with Somalia.

"They must forget this pain and realize that we share a common threat coming from international terrorism," Mohammed said.

By 2 p.m., the African Union vehicles had left. The peacekeepers had erected concrete roadblocks and positioned themselves at the Dubka intersection. The militants had been pushed back, but not far. Few on the road expressed confidence that the peacekeepers could contain them.

"They don't know the streets, and they fight from their trucks," said Farah Hussein Gimali, a civil servant, who lives near the intersection. "Al-Shabab will simply return in the night."

The gunfire did not stop. A bullet struck the hat of an old man, who was so shaken he sat down on a stoop and stared blankly at the road.

"Cross, cross," people yelled at others across the road, as bullets whistled through the air.

Police spokesman Abdullah Hassan Barrisse, who was near the intersection, attempted a positive assessment, declaring that "the situation had returned to normal."

Minutes later, an al-Shabab bullet narrowly missed a man's ear. He ran fast, clutching the right side of his head.

Then Ali, the policeman, was shot. He stared glumly at the intersection as his friends placed him on the back of a police truck.

Gimali, his face lined with anxiety, stared there, too. He worried that he would have to move his aging parents if al-Shabab attacked again. As for others on this day, the road had taken on a much greater significance for Gimali.

"The relationship between the government and this road is sacred. They need it to survive," he said. "If we lose this road, al-Shabab will push us to the ocean."

Source: The Washington Post.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Feds pay $40,000 to settle Somali woman's civil-rights claim

A Somali woman who was handcuffed for nearly five hours during a 2006 raid at her apartment while wearing only a nightdress received $40,000 to settle a claim against federal agents she says ignored pleas to allow her to cover herself in front of strangers in keeping with her Islamic faith.

By Mike Carter

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Somali woman who was handcuffed for nearly five hours during a 2006 raid at her apartment while wearing only a nightdress received $40,000 to settle a lawsuit against federal agents she says ignored pleas to allow her to cover herself in front of strangers in keeping with her Muslim faith.

The settlement was the final federal claim remaining in a civil-rights lawsuit filed last year by Habibo Jama, 32, against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Seattle and Tukwila police departments in connection with the controversial 2006 DEA investigation known as "Operation Somali Express."

The national raids — including 17 searches and 19 arrests in the Seattle area — targeted a national distribution network of a leafy herb known as "Khat," which is illegal in the U.S. but commonplace in the Horn of Africa where it has been chewed for centuries as a mildly euphoric stimulant.

In hindsight, federal law-enforcement officials have acknowledged that the raids were ill-conceived and alienated the U.S. Somali community, which has been targeted for recruiting by Islamic militants.

Jama's claims that the agents who raided her Seattle apartment entered illegally and used excessive force were dismissed by U.S. District Judge John Coughenour last month. The judge also dismissed Jama's claim that police detectives from Tukwila, who were part of the DEA-run task force, took gold jewelry from the apartment and never returned it.

Coughenour said those claims are now better addressed in state court.

It took Tukwila police nearly 10 months to return to Jama $5,700 in cash found in a suitcase in the apartment, and then only after a federal judge questioned why the city was trying to forfeit it without evidence it was linked to any drugs. No drugs were found in the apartment, and Jama, a Somali refugee and a U.S. citizen, said she had scrimped to save the money as a hotel maid, according to court documents.

In dismissing the unlawful-search allegation, Coughenour said the agents acted reasonably when they opted to break down the apartment door after seeing first Jama, and then another person, peer from the apartment's windows as the search team assembled downstairs. The lead agent said he knocked, announced himself, and waited eight- to 10 seconds before ordering the door breached.

The armed agents rounded up several people in the apartment, including Jama, and handcuffed them in the living room. Jama was clad in a nightgown without any underclothes and said she was humiliated by officers, who would not allow her to cover her head in accordance with Islamic tenets that require women to wear a scarf or "hijab" and modest clothing in the presence of men they do not know.

Later, she was led outside and left sitting handcuffed on a curb, still in the nightdress and in full view of neighbors and passers-by, for several hours, according to court documents.

Jama alleged violations of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, however Coughenour ruled that the agents were entitled to immunity because whatever right Jama enjoyed to modest clothing wasn't clearly established.

However, the judge said Jama could take a claim of "outrage" over those allegations to trial, which prompted the government to settle for cash.

"A rational jury ... could find that federal agents knew full well that Plaintiff's Muslim faith made her particularly susceptible to emotional distress under these circumstances," the judge wrote.

Modest clothing was available in the apartment the officers were searching, and Coughenour found that the circumstances could support a conclusion that the officers "unnecessarily degraded" Jama and that their behavior could be seen as "atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society."

Jama's attorney, David Whedbee, said he was glad that Jama was able to recover something from the raids. He said she intends to appeal the judge's decision to throw out the illegal-search claim.

Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, confirmed the settlement.

"We are making no admission of liability," she said. "Given the expense of continuing to defend this case, this seemed like a reasonable solution."

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or

Source: The Seattle Times

Friday, August 27, 2010

In Ramadan, where is the story of Islam and the Muslims

By Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

The noise made by the publication of photos on Facebook by Israeli soldier, Abergil Eden, showing off her being a jailer of handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian civilians, shows once again that there is a new kind of Western wars against Muslim nations. These wars started when Europe waged its wars to occupy Palestine under the slogan of 'regaining the holy land' and culminated with settler colonialism waged under the slogan of returning to the 'promised land'. In an article about the subject, Dan Murphy writes, "Israeli soldier Facebook photos: Youth culture and rules of war collide" (Christian Science Monitor, 17 August 2010). In a subtitle, the article stresses that the photos violated Israeli army and international rules concerning taking photographs of prisoners.

The soldier did not seem to know what is wrong with posting these photographs; something also done by other Israeli soldiers, while international war circles found that the 'incident' highlights the difficulties faced by western armies – always in the act of aggression – in 'controlling the flow of photos and information in the age of YouTube, Wikileaks and digital cameras. This 'incident' brings to mind the scandal of publishing photos of torturing Iraqi civilians by the soldiers of 'American democracy' in Abu Ghreib, Guantanamu and tens of other secret prisons in which the murderers of the 'free world' practice all kinds of torture against kidnapped 'suspected' innocent people.

Wikipedia recently published thousands of documents about the acts of genocide committed by NATO forces against unarmed civilians in Afghanistan and the consequences of such acts on decisions taken by the Pentagon, the White House and the Congress. The Guardian published an op-ed entitled "Wikipedia editing courses launched by Zionist groups" (18 August 2010) about Two Israeli groups which set up training courses in Wikipedia editing with aims to 'show the other side' over borders and culture. This means that Israel, as usual, wants to control the news about Israeli crimes of torture, assassination and oppression against Palestinian civilians so that the world finds it difficult to know about what Israel is doing in terms of ethnic cleansing, displacement, house demolishing, murder, torture and humiliating the native population. The reason is that the open information space, despite Zionist attempts to control it, has started to expose their crimes in Palestine and also expose the false official western position regarding them.

The Israeli daily Haaretz published on 19 August 2010 the results of an opinion poll which found that half the Americans today believe that Israeli prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is not committed to peace and that Israel's status in Germany, France and Sweden is on the decline. Results of another poll conducted by Zogby International and the University of Maryland for the Brookings Institute have raised concerns in American research institutions about the future of a region, which some people are still under the illusion that they control, and whose future they can decide. Analyzing these results, Herbert London writes in an article entitled "What we think and the Arabs believe" (18 August 2010), "despite foreign aid, diplomatic appeasement and attempts at cultural understanding a passionate hatred of Israel and the West is unflagging. Judging from the data, conditions aren't improving. There is a lack of sympathy for democracy and liberalism and growing traction for Islamism even when compared to Arab nationalism". He adds, "it is remarkable that not one moderate leader in the Arab world, alas even in the non-Arab world, makes the list of most admired figures".

What Herbert London, and others like him, do not realize is that the world has changed and that nations no longer believe that forces of occupation and settler colonialism wage wars to spread 'democracy', but to ransack our resources, oppress our people and deprive us of freedom and independence. London and his elk do not read what we read about the American mercenaries who commit murder and torture under the name of 'contractors' in Afghanistan and Iraq (The Guardian, 16 August 2010). The paper finds that there are more than 112,000 mercenaries (contractors) now working with the American army in Afghanistan, and more than 95,000 in Iraq. These are the type of notorious Blackwater murderers who uncovered the scandals of 'democratic' and 'liberal' torture in Abu Greib, Iraq.

Despite the fact that the American army has refrained, after that scandal, from naming the companies which it contracts, so that they escape any legal responsibility for the crimes they commit.

The positive side of the information and digital revolution today is that it has become extremely difficult for governments to hide the facts about their criminal wars. Leeks have started to worry the officers who control these crimes. That is why the promoters of 'democracy' and liberalism' try to stop the information flow. Otherwise, they try to 'edit' this information to give the side they 'accept' and hide the brutal side which they do not want to show. Results of the Zogby poll show that Arab and Muslim nations are no longer convinced by the promotion of western 'democracy' or believe the false slogans used by invaders in order to control our resources.

Take the speeches made by western leaders in Ramadan, for example, which aim at hiding their real racist view of the region. It is infuriating to read the statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, known for his racist extremism and his brutal measures against civilians, when he says: "We mark this important month amid attempts to achieve direct peace talks with the Palestinians and to advance peace treaties with our Arab neighbors".

President Obama – whose army and mercenaries wage wars in different parts of our region, kill civilians and support Israeli terrorism - and his Secretary of State sent a "greeting" to the Islamic world observing that Ramadan "remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings".

The White House and the State Department hold Iftar banquets, but as Jeff Halper said in Counter Punch (16 August 2010) "Ramadan Kareem From the Netanyahu and Obama Administrations: The Message of the Bulldozers," these bulldozers and other aspects of the Apartheid regime in Palestine tell a completely different story.

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She's got Ph.D. in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.


Taxi Driver Attacked After Passenger Asked If He Was Muslim

A 21-year-old man from upstate New York has been charged with attempted murder as a hate crime after allegedly asking his taxi driver if he was Muslim before slashing him in the face.

Michael Enright, of Brewster, N.Y., allegedly slashed taxi driver Ahmed Sharif, 43, around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday after Mr. Sharif had driven his passenger 16 blocks north to Midtown, police said.

According to an account of the incident by Sharif, provided through the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Enright started out asking Sharif friendly questions, including how long he had been in the country, if he was Muslim and if was observing a fast during Ramadan.

Enright became silent for a few minutes and “then suddenly started cursing and screaming,” according to the account. Enright allegedly yelled, “Assalamu Alaikum. Consider this a checkpoint,” before slashing the driver.

Police said the allegations were still under investigation. What they would confirm was that Sharif picked up Enright at 24th Street and Second Avenue and drove to 3rd Avenue between 40 and 41 streets. Once there, Sharif locked the doors, left Enright in his taxi and called 911.

Sharif was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he was treated for a facial wound and released.

Police charged Enright with attempted murder as a hate crime, assault and criminal possession of a weapon. He was awaiting arraignment.

In late July, top NYPD officials convened a pre-Ramadan conference at police headquarters to discuss security issues with Muslim clergy, concerned citizens and dozens of Muslim police officers. At that time, police said there had been nine reported instances of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the city in 2010.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Somalis Pay Price Of US Stupidity

The US decision in 2006 to send Ethiopian troops into Somalia in 2006 was one of the stupidest moves in a very stupid decade. This week, some of the chickens spawned by that decision came home to roost.

On Monday the Al-Shabaab militia launched a “massive war” against the 6,000 African Union peacekeepers, most of them Ugandan, who are protecting the so-called government of Somalia. In reality, however, all it actually governs is a few dozen blocks in Mogadishu, and its members are just a group of Somali warlords and clan leaders who proclaimed themselves to be the “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) in 2004.

Six “members of Parliament” were among the 40 people killed when an Al-Shabaab suicide squad stormed the Al-Muna hotel in Mogadishu on Tuesday, but there will be no by-elections to replace them. They were never elected in the first place. The TFG made no progress in reuniting the country, and now its surviving members sit surrounded by Al-Shabaab fighters who control most of the sprawling capital.

Southern Somalia has been trapped in an unending civil war since the last real government collapsed in 1991, but the current round of killing was triggered when the United States invited Ethiopia to invade the country in 2006. This was a bit high-handed, especially since Ethiopia was Somalia’s traditional enemy, but Washington’s aim was to destroy the “Islamic Courts “ in Somalia.

The TFG failed utterly to impose its authority and restore order in Somalia, but the Islamic Courts Union took a different approach. Its roots were in the merchant class in Mogadishu, who simply wanted a safer environment to do business in, and they understood that Islam was the only common ground on which all of the country’s fissiparous clans and militias might be brought together again.

The Islamic courts, applying Shariah law, were the instrument by which the society would gradually be brought back under the rule of law — and for about six months, it worked amazingly well. The zones of peace and order spread throughout southern Somalia, the epicenter of the fighting, and trade and employment revived. A made-in-Somalia solution had spontaneously emerged from the chaos.

Inevitably, some of the younger supporters of the Islamic Courts movement enjoyed ranting in public about the virtues of Al-Qaeda, the wickedness of Americans, and other matters of which they knew little. Almost every popular movement has a radical youth wing that specializes in saying stupid and provocative things. It is the job of the adults, inside and outside the organization, to contain their excesses and NOT TO PANIC.

Alas, the United States panicked, or at least its intelligence agencies did. The mere word “Islamic” set off alarm bells in the Bush administration, which had the lamentable habit of shooting first and thinking later.

Washington, therefore, concluded that the Islamic Courts Union, Somalia’s best hope of escaping from perpetual civil war, was an enemy that must be removed. Since the TFG was clearly not up to that task, Washington asked Ethiopia, Somalia’s old enemy, to provide the necessary troops.

Ethiopia agreed because it does NOT want stability in its old enemy, Somalia. The Ethiopians understood perfectly well (even if Washington did not) that the presence of their troops in Somalia would drive out the moderate leaders of the Islamic Courts Union and leave the country at the mercy of the crazies in the youth wing. A prostrate and divided Somalia was clearly in Ethiopia’s long-term strategic interest, so why not? Especially since the United States financed the whole operation.

The Ethiopian troops invaded in late 2006 and the Islamic Courts Union was destroyed, leaving the field clear for the movement’s radical youth wing, Al-Shabaab (The Youth). Attacks on both the TFG and the Ethiopians multiplied, and civil war and chaos returned to Mogadishu. After two years the Ethiopians, having thoroughly wrecked any prospect of peace in Somalia, pulled their troops out and went home.

Since late 2008, only the 8,000 African Union troops in the country have kept alive the fiction of a Somali government friendly to the United States, but Al-Shabaab has now gone on the offensive. The two suicide bombs that killed 74 people in Kampala last month were a warning to Ugandans to bring their troops home from Somalia, and Al-Shabaab is now trying to overrun the last small patch of Somali territory still held by the TFG.

The northern half of former Somalia, ruled by the breakaway states of Puntland and Somaliland, is already at peace and will remain so. Southern Somalia will probably have to endure more years of violence and despair because Washington never understood that the Islamic Courts Union could be its tacit ally in stabilizing Somalia.

But nothing particularly bad will happen to anybody except Somalis, so that’s all right.


Somali hijacker sentenced to 9 years

Asha Ali Abdille

The 36-year-old Somali refugee who attempted to hijack a small Air New Zealand plane near Christchurch in 2008 has just been sentenced at the High Court.

Asha Ali Abdille has been sent to prison for nine years after she attacked pilots with a knife, threatened other passengers and demanded to be flown to Australia.

She must serve at least six years of the sentence.

The court heard that passengers on board the plane thought they were going to die and one of the pilots can no longer fly.


Somalis flee fourth day of violence in Mogadishu

Hundreds of Somalis fled from Mogadishu on Thursday as fighting between hardline Islamist insurgents and government troops entered a fourth day with both sides claiming advances.

Residents fled the carnage, some with their belongings piled high in wheelbarrows, others clutching their children, as al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels fought street by street against Africa Union-backed Somali forces.

The militants said they were behind a shooting rampage in a hotel on Tuesday that killed at least 33 people including members of parliament.

"Mujahideen fighters made new bases (in) the areas they captured from Uganda, Burundi and stooges including Dabka junction, Whelie hotel and 15 May school which is very close to the palace," al Shabaab said on the al.kataib website.

More than 6,300 peacekeeping troops from Uganda and Burundi are in Mogadishu to prop up the U.N.-backed government.

A police spokesman denied al Shabaab claims that government troops were losing territory in a city where the interim administration is already hemmed into just a few blocks, with insurgents controlling the rest.

"Government forces have held their defensive positions and over the last three days al Shabaab have suffered heavy casualties. Their bodies lie in the battlefield," police spokesman Colonel Abdulahi Hassan Barise told Reuters.

As the rebels and security forces fought street battles and traded crudely directed heavy artillery, hundreds of scared residents made for the outskirts of the bullet-scarred city.

Mother of three Amina Mohamud said their home in Mogadishu's Howlwadag neighbourhood had been surrounded by gunfire on all sides for days.

"We were unable to come out the house. We couldn't get food and even the piped water was cut off," she said, carrying her daughter.

Mogadishu's largest market, Bakara, a known rebel stronghold, remained shut with access roads blocked off and traders warning of shortages and surging prices.

"All traders and dealers have stopped venturing into the bazaars and lorries from the port can't transport shipments to market as the fighting has affected the only route we could use," said Ali Mohamed Siyad, chairman of the Bakara market traders' committee.

"Likewise, merchants from the regions can't come to market while the constant shelling continues so this could prompt inflation and food shortages across parts of southern Somalia."

The Ministry of Information said about 70 civilians had been killed in the latest escalation of violence and more than 200 wounded.

"The city will remain on high alert. We know where they (al Shabaab) are targeting and we are doing everything we can ... to contain the threat," it said in a statement.

Al Shabaab controls swathes of south and central Somalia, where it metes out beheadings and amputations and has banned music and school bells as it imposes a strict version of sharia law.

Source: Reuters

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fear of Democracy

By Dr. O.A. Egal

In Somalia, there are heterogeneous political groups, some agitating for a greater autonomy and others use violence to impose their will. In some places some of these groups believe in tolerance, good neighborliness as well a greater autonomy and self governess by establishing regional autonomous states. They are striving to define their individuality and gain more control over their lives.

In some other place we see religious groups, namely Al-Shabab and Xisbul Islam who are fighting for unknown drastic change in society; they use violence and incite hated; their aim is obviously to control territory and dominate other people in the name Islam. It is these latter groups that we intend to consider in this article.

In Somalia, all parties in the political conflict are opposed to democracy, because they fear it. But it is Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam who openly state that and use violence. The reason behind their opposition to the sovereignty of the people, according to many, is their fear of democracy. Since they do not have the vision and the political agenda to lead the country they choose to rely on violence against the population. For them “it is far safer to be feared than loved”(Nicola Machiavelli, The prince).

The few who dare question the validity of certain decisions are accused of“gaalnimo” heresy. As a result they are harassed by Al-Shabaab militia and abandoned by their friends for fear reprisals. Others who were thinking of denouncing abuse think twice before doing so.In short, these groups declare the entire populations of the countries as inherently contaminated by unislamic values, and finally they turn on each other, each claiming that other group is not pure Muslim.

In fact, it was after the election of Sheikh Sharif´s government that these groups turned to violence. These groups turned to violence, because they felt power were slipping away. They seem to forget that the leadership crisis was due to lack of democracy. And it will be with us unless we accept that sovereignty is vested in the people. People should be allowed to choose their representatives.

However, the people were terrified by the violence that Al-Shabab practices. Its leaders and militia use fear as means to gain and maintain power. Some of them openly state that they owe or pledge allegiance to Osama bin Laden who hiding in mountains of Afghanistan, after declaring war on the western world.

According to reports, in the territories controlled by these violent groups, there is a semblance of peace; they cause death and destruction to lives and dreams of the population therein. There is a rule of terror and, according to these reports, the people breathe and air of anger and extreme hatred. There are also summary executions without public trial, Part of the international community very often says; let the Somalis sort out their differences”. But what does that mean? That statement conveys a wrong message. It can be interpreted to mean that groups like Al-Shabab are free to violate human rights and commit atrocities against the Somali people so long they remain within the confines of the

Somali territory. Where is the universality of the human rights?
The international community should never condone violence and human right violations. It ought to bring the parties to negotiation table. But before any talks, Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam should:

a. Renounce violence
b. Stop considering the Somali territory as res nullius
c. Accept democracy (sovereignty is vested in the people).

Dr. O. A. Egal (

Volunteer hopes McKnight award will bring attention to Somali issues

Abdi Ali launched a study to investigate the causes of homelessness for Somali youth and the cultural competency of organizations working with them. (Photo courtesy of the McKnight Foundation)

Abdi Ali said he hopes his winning a McKnight award brings attention to the struggles of Somali youth in the Twin Cities.

Ali moved to Minnesota ten years ago, after a childhood spent in Somalia and Kenya. In 2004, he launched a study to investigate the causes of homelessness among Somali youth.

The study found that many local social service agencies had made few attempts to partner with the Somali community and lacked information about the Somali refugee experience, he said.

"You have to understand that these are youth who have probably never seen Somalia ... and were born in a refugee camp," Ali, 40, said. "So the best they saw is a hardened kind of life, survival of the fittest. The prime time of their life has been lost, when they could be held, be loved, and play and eat."

In response to the study's findings, Ali founded the Center for Multicultural Mediation and Restorative Justice Program. The Minneapolis-based organization holds restorative justice sessions with Somali youth who have been arrested for shoplifting and other offenses. Each session also includes the parents and a community member.

"The (community member) will say, 'It's not good for us. You're doing harm to the Somali community, to your family, to everybody in the neighborhood,'" Ali said.

The group discusses the incident and decides how it should be resolved - usually with a written apology and community service. The program also requires that the parents participate in the resolution process.

"We are doing that to strengthen the institution of parents and family so the parents can also feel that they have a stake in their children's lives," Ali said.

Ali calls the Center an example of "a problem finding a solution," and said he hopes to expand to provide conflict mediation services to other African immigrants.

"I would like to see the Center as a place where dialogue can be promoted and as a place where communities can be united," he said.

Source: MPR

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wisdom tooth development is at issue in age hearing for accused triple killer

Mahdi Ali

Was a suspect 15 or 16 at time of crime? The difference means trial as juvenile or adult. Both sides hope his wisdom teeth will resolve the question.

The boy accused of killing three people in a Somali convenience store sat quietly in court Tuesday as an expert and lawyers discussed what can be inferred from his wisdom teeth.

Mahdi Ali's molar development was an issue in the pretrial hearing because defense attorney Frederick Goetz claims his client was only 15 when he allegedly gunned down three men Jan. 6 during a holdup at Seward Market and Halal Meats, a crime that rocked the Twin Cities Somali community.

At 16, teenagers automatically can be tried as adults for first-degree murder and, if convicted, sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. Goetz is asking for the case to be moved to juvenile court.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ordered dental exams of Ali in April. But forensic dentist Anthony Cardoza testified Tuesday that development of third molars, also known as wisdom teeth, can vary widely by gender and race.

He testified that based on his analysis, Ali was between 13.95 and 19.65 in late April. The analysis yielded a likely mean age of 16.8 years.

Goetz asked if Cardoza could say with "a reasonable degree of scientific certainty" that Ali was 16 or older on Jan. 6. Cardoza said, "No, I cannot."

Assistant County Attorneys Robert Streitz and Chuck Weber are expected to argue that the molar testimony is consistent with their claim Ali was at least 16 when he allegedly killed store employee Abdifatah Warfa, 28; his cousin, Mohamed Warfa, 30, who had stopped to visit; and Anwar Mohammed, 31, a customer, at the E. Franklin Avenue store.

Weber has said Ali used Jan. 1, 1993, as his birth date on his Minnesota driver's license and other documents, which would have made him 17 when the crimes occurred.

Cross-examining Cardoza, Weber asked, "Is it fair to say there is a better than 50 percent chance that an individual with Mahdi Ali's third molar profile was over 16 on Jan 6, 2010?" Cardoza said yes.

Cahill already has ruled that the state made a preliminary showing that Ali was 16 at the time of the killings.

But in February, Ali made the startling claim that his name is really Khalid Farah Arrasi, and Goetz has since said his client was born in Kenya on Aug. 25, 1994, in a refugee camp. He said that when the boy was 8 or 9, he was brought to the United States by the family of the real Mahdi Ali, a friend of Arrasi's who died.

The family had won an emigration lottery in the camp and needed a young boy to pose as their son, Goetz said.

In other pretrial testimony, Jamila Mohamed Sheik-Osman said through an interpreter that she met Ali's pregnant mother in a camp but then moved away in early 1995, before the woman gave birth. Under cross-examination from Streitz, Sheik-Osman acknowledged she was only 12 at the time.

Ali and his friend Ahmed Ali, now 18, were indicted on six murder counts. In April, Ahmed Ali pleaded guilty in a deal that could allow his release near his 30th birthday. He didn't have a gun and was in the back of the store attempting to rob customers when Mahdi Ali shot the others, according to documents and his own statements.

If Cahill determines Ali was 15, the case would go to juvenile court. Prosecutors could still try to move it back to adult court through a certification process -- something that seems likely given the nature of the crimes.

Ali's mother is expected to testify Wednesday that she gave birth to him on Aug. 25, 1994, Goetz said.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

Source: StarTribune

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Let us train the Somalis to be their own liberators

Somalia came under the rule of Siad Barre in 1969, in a bloodless coup. The declared goals of his regime included: To end tribalism, nepotism, corruption and misrule. However, during the course of his rule, he did the following:

He manipulated clans, civil servants attended military science classes, special courts were created outside the judicial system, he overhauled the regional local government and created smaller local government units, ostensibly, to bring governments closer to the people, the Ministry of Information and National Guidance was created to send correct messages to the people. Clanism was condemned although practiced.

Siad Barre cultivated a personality cult. However, when he invaded and overran the Ogaden Region of Ethiopia, the Soviet Union changed sides and supported and supplied arms and advisers to Ethiopia. He later became an ally of the West, especially USA.

Somali troops left Ogaden in bad shape. The local government units he created made different clans and sub-clans owe allegiance to him directly. As his regime grew more unpopular, he unleashed the Red Berets who spread terror and fear among the cowed populace.

Factionalism based on clans took root and his inner circles ossified around his brother, his son and his first wife who had built her own circle of influence through patronage. After the fall of Siad Barre, Somalia fell apart and various attempts to bring peace to the country have not worked.

The most notable one was by the UN peace keepers where USA soldiers were killed in Mogadishu thus forcing a quick withdrawal. The Somalis, like any other proud but disjointed nation, hate foreign forces.

The best example was the Tanzania Peoples’ Defence Force who, in 1979, were given a warm welcome by Ugandans during and after the overthrow of Amin. However, a few months later they were hated. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, then Tanzanian President, withdrew his forces and left Ugandans to sort out their problems.

Somalia has a land mass of 637,000 Sq Km, a population of about nine million, a coastline of more than 3,300 Kilometres, and temperatures of between 30 and 40 degrees. It has semi-arid and desert areas and is sparely populated. Where people are faced with seemingly insurmountable problems, they become easy prey for religious-manipulating persons, tribalism or clanism and fortune-seekers, promising easy way out of misery and poverty, other than through sweat and hard work.

This brings me to the question, should Ugandan troops be in Somalia? There is nothing wrong in one brother or sister assisting another in time of trouble. However, first of all, find out what caused that trouble.

Second, ensure that before you help, you won’t bring the problem to your own family.
Somalia is not the only country in Africa that is in bad shape. We have Ivory Coast, DR Congo and now Guinea after the death of Gen. Conteh.

Third, ensure that you are assisting out of your own conviction and not at someone else’s behest. Fourth, that you have support of your own people. Remember; when people come to power, objective conditions make them adjust. NRM/A was viewed as a Marxist revolutionary organisation tuned to the then East, but where is it today?

Frelimo was openly Marxist. It tried to overwhelm Renamo but they were wise enough to change course and accommodate Renamo. Now Mozambique is at peace and an investment destination. The African National Congress and Nelson Mandela were viewed as communist terrorists that would throw the last white man over the Cape into the ocean. Compare the above with the situation in Afghanistan when USSR invaded it, and now Nato, the most lethal force in all manner, weaponry and propaganda. What about Iraq, the claims of weapons of mass destruction, and the coalition of the willing?

Compare the policy on Rwanda where Rwandan forces sorted it out, with some assistance, with DR Congo where attempts to overrun Kinshasa were halted near the mineral-rich Mbuji Mai by Angola and Zimbabwe forces.

If it is an African Union (AU) force, let it be AU in outlook, composition and back-up support. There was an old saying of Rwogamungabo, meaning when you are at war to prove what a brave fighter you are, you move out of the formation and confront the enemy alone. The old wise Baganda, Luo etc sayings, never completed such sayings; leaving it to you to see the obvious. Let us concentrate on training the Somalis to be their own liberators.

Let the Somalis take charge. Let us support a government in Somalia that is on the ground and all over the country and popular, or at least, covers sufficient territory and support from which it can expand.

It may take time but it will work.
Above all, let us do all that is possible to ensure that what befell Somalia does not happen elsewhere. Prevention is better than cure.

Mr Mushega is former Secretary General of the East African Community

Source: Daily Monitor

Africa Sends More Troops To Stem Somali Militancy

Two African nations are sending fresh troops to Somalia, in an effort to turn the tide against an insurgency that poses a growing threat to the region.

The troop increases come a month after Somali militant group al Shabaab launched a bloody attack on the Ugandan capital, which the militants said was retaliation for Ugandan involvement in Mogadishu. The majority of African Union troops in Somalia—currently about 6,000—come from Uganda and Burundi.

On Monday, Wafula Wamunyinyi, deputy head of the African Union mission in Somalia, known as Amisom, said that Uganda had begun to send more troops to Mogadishu, and that the first group of new soldiers had arrived on Friday. Burundi also plans to send a battalion, he said, which is around 1,000 troops. Mr. Wamunyinyi declined to offer a total figure for the new troops, or their arrival dates, citing security reasons. But the African Union hopes to boost its forces by about 2,000 to fulfill the original mandate of 8,000 troops that was set when Amisom first deployed in 2007.

The move to bolster troop levels comes as the government appears to be under serious threat from the militants. On Monday night, al Shabaab attacked all major Amisom positions in Mogadishu—the government's main defense—in what it declared was a "final war" to overthrow the government and oust the Amisom troops, which it has branded as occupiers. The militants had pledged to step up their attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began this month. This is the first major outbreak of fighting.

The new Amisom troops are expected to bolster the mission's plan to take back Mogadishu from al Shabaab, which controls swaths of the city.

"We are going to expand and move the insurgents out of Mogadishu," said Mr. Wamunyinyi. "We will make major, major strides with the 2000" additional troops. Amisom officials have long expressed frustration that the mission has struggled to accomplish its goals without enough troops.

After the July bombing in Uganda, African Union officials hoped more nations would be encouraged to contribute. The west African nation of Guinea, and Somalia's tiny neighbor, Djibouti have both promised troops, but no date has yet been set for their deployment.

The mission has become more difficult this year because foreign fighters—about 2,000, according to Amisom—have flooded the country to aid al Shabaab. According to African Union officials, the militants have established training camps in the city for foreign fighters. Over the weekend, at least seven foreign militiamen were killed when a bomb they were building exploded prematurely in a Mogadishu house, the Somali government said. Among them were three Pakistanis, two Indians, an Afghan and an Algerian, the government statement said.

Al Shabaab's proximity to Amisom posts has also allowed the militants to draw African Union fighters into retaliatory shelling that has killed civilians. The killing of civilians, in turn, has fueled debate about whether more African troops are actually stirring public resentment toward their mission and the Somali government they have been sent to support. Al Shabaab said that it had planned the July attacks in Uganda, which killed 76 people, to avenge Somali civilian casualties.

Amisom says more troops could push al Shabaab out of the city and move the fighting away from residential areas. The additions would also allow troops to hold territory while battling for new ground—something they struggle to do now.

On Monday, Mr. Wamunyinyi said that Amisom troops were being given additional training on the rules of engagement, and ordered not to shell civilian areas in an attempt to minimize casualties.

In recent weeks, Ugandan officials arrested four men, all Ugandans, for their alleged involvement in the July attack. The men have confessed to participating in the plot and face trial. Kenyan authorities have extradited four other suspects to Uganda for their alleged involvement in the attack.


Militants 'slaughter' lawmakers at Somali hotel

Dozens die in violence as insurgents declare 'massive war' on peacekeepers

A suicide bomber and gunmen dressed in Somali military uniforms stormed a hotel in the country's capital Tuesday, killing at least 31 people including six members of parliament, the Somali government said.

Legislator Mohamed Hasan told Reuters that attackers "slaughtered" the politicians.

Somali security forces seized one gunman alive but two remained at-large, Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman said.

"Three men disguised as government (troops) attacked the hotel," he told Reuters. "Government officials were killed."

The militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on the Muna hotel. Al-Shabab has been waging a three-year insurgency against the fragile Western-backed government in the chaotic Horn of African country.

Parliamentarians often live at Mogadishu hotels while in the capital city.

'Dead bodies all over'
Another lawmaker who was at the Muna hotel told The Associated Press there were "dead bodies all over" — at least 20 lying in the corridor of the hotel — and he labeled the scene a massacre.

The parliamentarian spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear for his safety.

He said the suicide bomber blew himself up near the reception area before gunmen stormed the hotel, setting off a gunbattle that lasted about an hour.

A hotel worker who fled the building also said one of the attackers was a suicide bomber and had blown himself up. Eyewitnesses later said that police had entered the hotel.

An 11-year-old boy and a woman selling tea in front of the hotel were among the dead, an official said.

The hotel attack followed two days of fighting that killed at least 40 civilians and wounded more than 130 in Mogadishu, officials said. Somalia hasn't had a central government since 1991.

'Massive war'
The fighting began Monday, soon after the spokesman for Somalia's most dangerous militant group declared a "massive war" on what he labeled "invaders," an apparent reference to the more than 6,300 troops from the African Union that protect and prop up the weak Somali government.

The United Nations recognizes the Somali government, but it controls no more than a few city blocks. The African Union peacekeepers can do little more than guard the airport and port and shield President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

Uganda, which provides the bulk of the African Union force, said last month it was willing to send an additional 2,000 peacekeeping troops to the anarchic country after more than 70 people were killed in two coordinated blasts killed fans watching the World Cup final in Kampala .

Al-Shabab said the attacks were in retaliation for Uganda's deployment of troops with the African Union.

The group has increased the use of suicide attacks in recent years, though they are still somewhat rare in Somalia. Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are believed to be helping train al-Shabab fighters.
Insurgents, who control much of the capital and large areas in central and south Somalia, have attracted foreign fighters to the lawless country.

More than 21,000 Somalis have been killed in fighting since the start of the insurgency, 1.5 million have been uprooted from their homes and nearly half a million are sheltering in other countries in the region.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report on Monday that a quarter of Somalia's population, or 2 million people, needed humanitarian aid.

The Associated Press, Reuters and staff contributed to this report.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Obama a Muslim? Really?

In a 2006 file photo, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, is dressed as a Somali Elder by Sheikh Mahmed Hassan during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya.
by Opinion Staff

Eighteen percent of people think that President Obama is a Muslim.

That’s up from 11 percent who said he’s a Muslim in a poll in March 2009.

Thirty-four percent of people in the more recent poll say President Obama is a Christian.

That’s down from 48 percent in the 2009 poll.

The fact is, President Obama is a Christian. Maybe people were confused earlier by his name or by the fact his father was a Kenyan Muslim or by the fact he spent part of his youth in Indonesia, which is a Muslim country.

But Mr. Obama has been president since January 20, 2009. He’s been in the news, to say the least. Folks have had plenty of time to form and change opinions about Mr. Obama and his policies. That’s great. Opine away.

But the president’s religion isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of fact. It’s such a matter a fact that we wonder whether people answering the poll might have been kidding the pollsters. Yeah, (wink, wink) Obama is a Muslim.

What do you think? Do 18 percent of people really think that President Obama is a Muslim?


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let the women lead Somalia

Nuradin Farah – Interview JEUNE AFRIQUE

While his country is sinking a little more, the author of Exiles considers only its citizens can leave the chaos of Somalia. Interview.

Until July 11, 2010, the plight of Somalia attracted much media attention. And the attacks in Kampala (Uganda) – 76 dead – and claimed by the Shabab militia were again brought the country to a Western newspapers: what if the conflict in Somalia were to threaten the stability of the entire Horn of Africa?

Exiled last forty years written many novels (born of Adam’s rib, Territories, Milk sour-sweet), the writer Nuruddin Farah is in close contact with her homeland, where he was involved in possible in politics. Exiles, his latest novel is a fair and sensitive paintings of everyday Somalis, who since the fall of dictator Siad Barre have not experienced stable condition. An attentive observer of chaos as various foreign interventions – American in 1992-1993, Ethiopia between 2006 and 2009 – have failed to halt, Farah can not imagine a solution remote from the outside. Optimistic despite its lucidity, sometimes candid, it remains viscerally convinced that peace will come from Somali. This he confided to Jeune Afrique ago. Before the deadly attacks n’ensanglantent Kampala and the African Union (AU) decides, on July 26, 2000 to send men to lend a hand to 6000 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers of AMIS Somalia (AMISOM).

Jeune Afrique: Most radio stations in Somalia have continued to play music in response to an ultimatum set by Islamist militia of radical Hezb al-Islam. How do you react?

Nuruddin Farah: It’s a waste of time and a tragedy to ban music. Somalia faces significant problems, and it would be better spend their energy on solving the terrible crisis the country faces.

When did you record for the last time?

There was one and a half.

How are things going to happen when you go there?

I like it. Somalia is tragic moments. What is happening is not very pleasant. But I am always impressed by the inner strength of people. It is surprising how resistant they are considering what they endure every day for twenty years.

Is it hard for you?

Yes. And much more when I give my opinion.

Like the hero of your latest book, Exiles?

Much worse.


As you interview me in Paris, Somali journalists ask me. And whenever you give your opinion, someone get angry, and someone angry, you make an enemy, and in a location where a gun is power, an enemy is a threat to your life. But I have so far been very lucky. Even if I could not go to Mogadishu, a year ago and a half because it was now too dangerous.

What do you do when you return to Somalia?

I have no close family there. My parents, my brothers and my sisters have left the country. I have still good friends, and I got involved with very little success in politics. I try to promote a peace process. I belong to no party. I fight in my own name, even if it’s a stupid way to act. My only loyalty is to the peace. In particular, I approached, before the arrival of the Ethiopians, the Islamic Courts, which ruled Mogadishu and the government of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. Neither party will listen to me, and I told them unfortunately happened: Ethiopia has invaded Somalia. I remember being told the current president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and former President Abdullahi Yusuf of the tragic consequences of a lack of agreement. Today, the tragedy continues.

Fighting a dictator, is it easier than facing the chaos?

It’s easier. If the dictator is in agreement with you, then it is possible to go somewhere. And of course we can make him wear the hat. But it is however very difficult to assign responsibility when no one controls anything. We would like to say it was you who did this! But we can not say that Sheikh Sharif is the one who decided that there would be more music on the radio.

You seem to think that only women can save Somalia …

History has proven that my pessimism vis-à-vis men was justified. These are the ones who destroyed the country. They are those who have mismanaged the nation. Since women were the main victims of this flawed policy, there is hope – I say hope – they are the saviors of the nation. Fact: since the crisis began and Somali people have fled, first to refugee camps and in other countries, women are those who, with dignity, maintained family ties , took care of children …

The men involved in unnecessary political bickering, talking and chewing qat all day, then sending money to armed groups in Somalia to buy their weapons. Men have ceased to destroy the country, and women – inside and outside – are a peaceful alternative to self-destruction. In my book, I chose a very young girl like heroin. The current generation of men who have destroyed the country, is the bearer of no hope. Even the boys – they are those who hold the weapons now – playing cowboys.

Your voice can be heard in Somalia?

People can not necessarily read my books, since they were deprived of education. Schools are closed, the civil war continues and the only Somalis who have the ability to read are those who live outside the country. But I give interviews to radio and write articles. Whether people like it or not, many of them hear what I say. I repeat, “Peace! Peace! Let the women run the country “for twenty years. Some people think I’m crazy. But I’d rather be taken for a fool to talk peace rather than relentless weaving laurels to the government. My opinion is a minority, but hopefully a minority sensitive.

To write is to keep your country alive?

To write is to stay sane. It also means having a job! I would be unemployed if! I do not know any country as well as Somalia, even though I lived in many other countries in Africa and North America.

How do you keep informed?

This is not very difficult. I have family and friends. I do not know maybe not the details of daily life, as the price of sugar, but it hardly matters. What counts is the general mood. What you should know is that Somalis do not run Somalia. Some receive instructions – dictates – and money of non-Somali, groups allied with Al Qaeda, North America, Western Europe, and they do what is asked of them.

You mention the size of clan conflict in your novel …

I mention especially the misconception, both inside and outside Somalia, the concept of clan. The clan is 100,000 people. When it comes to clan fighting, does that mean that 100,000 people are fighting against 100,000 other people? No. What happens is that ten people may belong to the same clan fight against ten other people from another clan for control of a particular street and the money it generates in taxes. There was no conflict clan!

If a gang of Guadeloupe fights in a district of Paris against a gang of Koreans Will we say that Guadeloupe is fighting against Korea? The conflict is economic and political. A warlord belongs to a clan, but it works a bit at home, in France, what would they say a CL would-be mayor of Paris? Those who think that we are savages, baboons are naked next to the plate.

The international community can she do something for Somalia?

Tell me what it is that the international community! She did not speak with one voice. Nobody can do anything for Somalia. Only Somalis can. They are solely responsible.

Your children feel Somali?

It is very difficult. They focus more on their Playstation, their computer, Facebook, as the tortured politics of Somalia. They have a fractured life. They were born outside their country, have lived in Nigeria, in England, South Africa, the United States and they do not belong to any of these countries. They are part of a generation lost to Africa. My daughter wants to become a writer and she thinks now write books of science fiction. It’s easier, it is not necessary to have roots. Is an interesting contradiction!