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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Somali Hip-Hop Diplomacy Takes New York

 - Freelance Photographer, Writer, and Consultant

"It's a dangerous time to be a Somali musician," remarked journalist and tour organizer Daniel Gerstle, in a recent article in Rolling Stone. In a country that has seen violence, extremism, a failed government, and an unsuccessful UN peacekeeping mission, hardcore hip-hop has emerged as one of the more unconventional but powerful mediums of Somali politics. Music has become the battleground for the allegiance and future of young people, and hip-hop and rap tools for spreading a range of ideologies.

At one end of the spectrum is Al-Shabaab (translated "The Youth"), an influential extremist group with links to Al Qaeda and whose aim is to install Sharia Law in the region. Over the past several years Shabaab has controlled different areas of Somalia and employed increasingly inhumane tactics of control -- chopping of limbs, blocking aid, and organizing suicide bombings. An Alabama-raised member, Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, also known as Omar Hammami, a spokesperson for Shabaab, has released numerous tracks aimed at recruiting youth for jihad. With songs like "Make Jihad With Me" and "Blow by Blow" the young rapper glamorizes violence.

Countering Shabaab's message, with their own of peace and non-violence is the hip-hop group Waayaha Cusub (translated "New Era"). Comprised of members from Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya, the band has been releasing songs that promote peace, friendship, and collaboration, and address taboo issues of politics, sex, drugs, and AIDS since 2004. Fusing traditional hip-hop with afrobeat, their lyrics are complex and thoughtful, and directed toward young adults in Somalia who have limited options. In an interview with The Guardian, Shiine, the group's leader, described their music as a tool for education,
"These youth have bad ideology. If we give them good ideology, talk to them about life, marriage, children... If we show them these things, we can stop them. You cannot fight someone who wants to die, you can only save them."

Their popularity, music, and message has put Waayaha Cusub in the direct line of fire -- several members have been beaten, mutilated, and shot at by Shabaab. In certain areas their music has been banned, and they have been ordered to stop recording and distributing songs. Despite the threat to their lives, the group continues to perform, and in August they began a three month long international tour to rally support and encourage solidarity with their movement.

This past Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to attend the New York stop on their tour. Through an unmarked door on the Brooklyn waterfront, Waayaha Cusub was joined by hip-hop and spoken word greats K'naan, Uppa Notch, Danielle Watson, and Toni Blackman. It was the first time that Somali Canadian K'naan and members of Waayaha Cusub were able to perform together, singing for a diverse mix of music lovers, humanitarian workers, and many from the Somali diaspora. The evening combined energetic rap and R&B with a sense of solemnity and purpose.

Following their stop in New York, Waayaha Cusub will conclude the tour in Somalia with a concert in the recently unified capital city of Mogadishu. It will be the first major music event in the country since 1991, a firm statement that despite everything music will continue, life should be celebrated, and that there is hope for peace in Somalia.

For video from the New York event and news on the tour visit:


Source: The Huffington

Somali capital improving

By Ginny Stein

Africa correspondent Ginny Stein reports that there is a sense of new hope for the future in Mogadishu but life remains precarious.

Ohio's Somali voters have swing-state power

By Sarah Elzas

Early voting centre in Columbus, Ohio
Sarah Elzas
 A week before election day in the United States, all eyes are on swing states and on Ohio in particular. The state is split between Democrats and Republicans but also has many undecided voters. The state capital, Columbus, is home to the country's second-largest Somali community, mostly refugees.

Sarah, a young woman wearing a black headscarf with rhinestones is one of them. Until she cast an early ballot on Monday, she was not sure whom she would vote for.

"I was undecided, between Obama, the Democrat, versus the Republicans," she explains. "I voted Republican the first time that I voted but this time I voted the Democrat."

That first time was in 2008, the first time she ever voted in the United States. She says she voted for Republican John McCain for president then because she did not agree with Obama and the Democrats' stance on gay marriage.

But this time she does not like Republican candidate Mitt Romney. She is particularly angry about his comments in a secretly recorded fundraising speech where he dismissed the 47 per cent of Americans who pay no federal income tax, saying they are dependent on the government.

That upset Sarah so much that that she has persuaded her friends and co-workers to vote against Romney. She came to the early voting centre with five other women - friends and neighbours - and vows to bring more later.

Two thousand people have been showing up at the early voting centre in Columbus each day since it opened on 2 October. People are casting absentee ballots in person.

Among the voters are many Somalis. Only Minneapolis has a larger Somali population than Columbus's 55,000.

Mussa Farah, the president of the Columbus-based Horn of Africa Rescue Committee, says most, like him, came to the US after the civil war in their country of origin.

"We came here as refugees, and a good number became US citizens," he says. He estimates between 18,000 and 20,000 Somalis have become citizens, which makes them eligible to vote.

"I don't know whether all of them vote," he adds. "But a good number of us vote."

During elections his group helps people register to vote and get to the polls. He says there is motivation in the community.

"We come from a country where democracy was not practised, so we are very excited in this process," he says. "We educate people on how one vote can make a difference."

This is particularly true in Ohio, where the election will be decided on a very slim margin.

For several weeks members of Farah's group have been spending time in Somali neighbourhoods, like the Providence Glen housing development, encouraging people to register to vote.

Now, a week before election day, they are encouraging people to go vote early to avoid lines on 6 November.

Abdul, a tall man wearing a fedora and leather gloves against the cold and wind, knocks on doors, looking for people on a list of registered voters provided by the board of elections.

People open their doors cautiously, though once they hear him speak thier language, they open them further.
Several people promise him they will go to vote later. One elderly woman is in the verge of accepting his offer to drive her to the early voting centre but her son insists it is too cold.

Another woman was convinced she had voted when she registered.

"I told her that's not a vote; you have to go in person to vote," Abdul says after a prolonged conversation in Arabic. "Now she understands and she said she'll go vote."

Back at the early voting centre, 25-year-old Amaal and her mother have just voted. Her mother smiles broadly. Speaking in a combination of English and Arabic, she says this is her first time voting.

"I'm happy because I'm American, I have choice," she says.

Amaal says she and her mother had been leaning towards voting for Obama but they had watched the debate to make sure, "to hear the other side".

And the debate divided the family.

"We are voting for Obama," says Amaal but her brothers are voting Romney.

It's this division, in the Somali community and all over Ohio, that explains why this state has become the most closely watched in this election. So far Obama has kept his narrow lead, but with a week to go before election day, anything can happen.

Source: rfi

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nashville's Somalis embrace election

New citizens recall life under anarchy

Somalis Vote: Quaali Warsame votes for the first time

Nashville’s Somalis don’t want to hear how inconvenient it is to stand in long lines at the polls.

They don’t like conversations about how watching TV is ruined by all the political attack ads, how Facebook friends turn on one another during election time, how life will be so much nicer once election season ends.

Qaali Warsame, from Somali, shows her 'I Voted' sticker after voting for the first time last week. / Sanford Myers / The Tennessean
For them, American elections are a miracle, worlds apart from Somalia’s old two-wooden-box system of voting, where the dictator in power decided the outcome. After that process ended in 1991, the country descended into anarchy, with warlords taking individual regions by murderous force.
That’s why Hyat Liban knocked on her neighbor’s door at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night — the only time she knew the woman would be home and free to talk — and coached her through filling out a voter registration form.

Was Liban getting paid for all this, the woman wanted to know.

Liban stopped. She thought about her father, arrested, shot and killed in 1977 after demanding democratically held elections in his region. She thought about the hard life that followed in a refugee camp and then Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

She remembered her thrilling move to America nearly 25 years ago, and the struggle to learn English, go to college and earn her respiratory therapy license.

And then she answered.

“I get paid when you raise up your voice,” she said.

Somalis began arriving in Tennessee in the 1990s, most of them refugees resettled by the State Department. Two decades later, they’ve hit a critical mass politically, those who study the community say. There are enough of them with U.S. citizenship plus an understanding of the process to participate in it.

So, for the first time, they held their own candidate forum at Coleman Community Center — even though only two candidates showed up — organized a voter registration drive and recruited the community’s multitude of cab drivers to offer free rides to the polls.

The Census Bureau puts the number of Somalis in Nashville and its suburbs at 1,880, but those inside the community consider that figure low. The State Department resettled 2,718 here from 1996 through September of this year.

Some the State Department initially placed in other cities moved to Nashville on their own. They were drawn by its moderate climate, lower cost of living and better job outlook, said A’isha Garba, an immigration specialist with the Nashville International Center for Empowerment, which provides English and citizenship classes, job placement and health care. They choose the same neighborhoods and apartment complexes as fellow Somalis, strengthening ties with those who share their peculiar odyssey.

About 60 percent are citizens either by birth or naturalization, Garba estimates. Refugees jump to the front of the immigration line for citizenship, because they’re required to apply for green cards — permanent legal resident status — within a year of arrival, and then it’s a five-year wait to apply for citizenship. Some immigrants must wait more than a decade to become citizens.

But Somalis earned their refugee status with the same heartbreaking story, told with few variations from family to family. Relatives killed by warlords’ gangs. Homes uprooted in an instant with the sound of approaching gunfire. Days or weeks with little or no food but what they were able to scrounge from wild-growing fruit trees.

“There are generations of Somalis who have never known anything of a stable government or stable household,” said Moses Tesi, a Middle Tennessee State University political science professor who studies the state’s African population. “The notion of actually taking part in an election that determines who governs them is something that would be considered priceless.”


The joy of voting

Tuesday was big for Qaali Warsame. She slid into her pretty, white jacket with the sequined trim, straightened the delicate gold doily on her dining room table and waited for her husband’s taxi shift to end.
She needed him to come watch the baby. Warsame, 26, was going to help choose the next president of the United States.

Her story came out in rushed but halting fragments, her English near perfect, her sentences punctuated with the uniquely American “and whatnot.”

Warsame’s family fled Somalia in 1993 for a refugee camp in Kenya. They lived in the bushes, with no real roof over their heads. The kids went to school, but there weren’t jobs for adults — only waiting for the monthly United Nations’ food deliveries that may or may not be enough to last.

When Warsame was 18, a sister helped bring her to Nashville. She took a factory job.

“People were like, now you have a job forever, building computers,” she said. “I had higher dreams, and now that I live here, I can make all my dreams come true.”

Her first year at Nashville State Community College was taken up with English as a Second Language classes. But she persevered, earned her associate’s degree, a slot at Cumberland University and, in August, a bachelor’s in nursing.

She strode into The Crossings near Hickory Hollow Mall, past the battalion of candidate signs out front, and stood in the quickly moving line. She touched the voting screen thoughtfully, deliberately, and then collected her “I Voted” sticker. When the poll worker learned she was voting for her first president, he gave her three more with the paper backing still on, “just in case you change clothes and want another one.”

All the way through, Warsame couldn’t stop smiling.

“It's amazing to be in a country where you can vote, where that one vote can make a difference, where you can do whatever you want, where your voice matters as a normal person — even as a woman,” she said. “People have a lot of chances, but they don’t really take the time to benefit from the rights that they have.”


Economy is concern

Warsame and other Somalis say jobs and the economy top their list of concerns, a view that polls show they share with most Americans.

It’s not surprising those topics would rank before immigration policy, said Vanderbilt University demographer Katharine Donato. The Somalis’ refugee status is well established.

But when they get here, they’re highly motivated to improve their quality of life, she said, and that means looking for better paying jobs and the education they need to win those.

“They’re willing to get involved because they are risk-takers and attracted to a country like the U.S. where basic forms of government work and you can rely on them,” Donato said. “Will foreign-born votes make a difference in the presidential election? I highly doubt it, because there just aren’t that many of them in any given state that have voting rights. It’s much more likely their kids will make a very big difference.”

She points to Latinos — a small segment of the voting population in 1990 that now could influence the outcomes in swing states in November’s presidential election.

It’s imperative that Somalis get involved in voting at all levels now that the state legislature has turned its attention to them, said Stephanie Teatro, policy and civic engagement coordinator for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. Her group is helping with Somali get-out-the-vote efforts and setting up displays at polling places.

In 2011, Tennessee passed something called the Absorptive Capacity Act. It encouraged local governments to put moratoriums on resettlement over concerns about providing education, law enforcement and other government services.

It also required resettlement agencies to tell local government about any coming influx, something already required by federal law, said Holly Johnson, Tennessee refugee coordinator for Catholic Charities.

State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, sponsored the act. Bedford County drew national attention over a documentary titled “Welcome to Shelbyville,” which chronicles that city’s challenges with integrating hundreds of Somali refugees who moved there to work at a Tyson chicken processing plant.

It’s unlikely the act helped Shelbyville at all because the State Department doesn’t directly settle refugees there, Johnson said. Her agency provides housing in Nashville, but once they’re settled, refugees are free to move anywhere in the U.S.

Still, Tracy insisted that the new law helped, citing the lack of complaints from local officials.

“Seems to be working fine in Bedford County,” he said.

Tracy said he’d be willing to reach out to newly registered voters in the immigrant community. “I talk to everyone who votes, wherever it is — you want as many votes as you can,” he said. “You represent everyone. You tell them what your views are for issues, give them an opportunity to know where you stand.”


Much in common

Most members of the Somali community seem to be leaning toward re-electing Barack Obama. They say they like how he has handled economic problems. It doesn’t hurt that Obama’s father was East African — a native of neighboring Kenya — and the president understands life as a black man in America, said Abdulkadir Gure, 33, a Somali who came to the U.S. on a visa in 2003.

He moved with his family seven times in Somalia, bullets whizzing behind them as they ran. By age 11, he could tell the difference in gunfire between an AK-47 and an M16 assault rifle — both used by warlords to seize land.

Before a student association election in college, he’d never seen organized, fair voting.

Today, Gure works as a court translator, driving instructor and Arabic teacher. He cast his first vote for an elected official in 2011, choosing Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who was running for re-election.

He sees lots of reasons to be happy for both his old and new countries. In August, Somalia swore in a new Parliament. They weren’t elected — clan chiefs appointed them — and that Parliament elected a new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

But even if Somalis didn’t get to choose them, the top officials are “educated people,” Gure said. Not like the warlords, and that’s cause for hope.

“There’s a lot of change going,” he said. “Although some people can’t feel it or see it, the world is changing.”

Somalis here in America won’t be discouraged from changing it, they say, even if some of their new neighbors pass unwelcoming laws or object to their unusual clothing and accented English.

Liban, 45, the woman who registered her neighbors to vote, said Somalis can’t worry themselves with what other Americans think of them.

On Tuesday, women in colorful headscarves hurried around the parking lot at her Bell Road-area apartment complex. School was letting out, children were on their way home, and there was much to do.

Liban waved over Sofia Shire, a neighbor eagerly waiting for her blue Davidson County voter card to arrive in the mail. She registered on the last possible day for the presidential election.

“I vote for president!” she said, determined to use English, waving off Liban’s attempts to translate. “This is my first time.”

Liban will keep up her efforts to engage her neighbors in America’s political process, she said. They’ve paid dearly for the right to make a difference.

“I love this country,” she said. “I know what else is out there.
“I love this country more than you do.”

Contact Heidi Hall at 615-726-5977 or or follow on Twitter @HeidiHallTN.

Source: The Tennessean

The 2012 U.S. Presidential Elections: Somali Voters in Ohio may Decide Winner

By Jibril Mohamed
The 2012 U.S. Presidential election is very close and both candidates agree that Ohio will decide who gets elected President of the United States come November 6. That is why we have a political rally by one of the candidates almost every day. The state of Ohio is a microcosm of the United States with its Republican stronghold on Southern Ohio and its Democratic northeast cities of Cleveland, Youngstown, and Akron. Central Ohio, which includes the City of Columbus, is considered as the truly swing part of Ohio and it is in choosing the next President of the United States. Columbus is home to the second largest American-Somali community in North America.

The latest Ohio polls show a very close race with a slight advantage for the President just a week to go before Election Day. The race is basically tied at 45% for each of President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney. The edge for President Obama is explained by the difference between the candidates among early voters, two thirds of who voted for President Obama. There are more than 18,000 Somalis who are U.S. citizens in Central Ohio and it is this community that will cast the decisive vote in this year’s Presidential election. Many American-Somali voters have already cast their ballots for the candidate of their choice and many more will vote on or before Election Day. So far, the two candidates and their Democratic and Republican parties have responded to this reality in different ways.
The Republican Party:
The Party of Lincoln has not done anything to reach out the Somali community at all. In fact, an elected Ohio leader who is Republican told a group of Somali leaders “I do not need your votes!” early last year. This statement was made both, may be, there was no election at the time and that the leader in discussion was not due for reelection.  Now, as the election fever heightens throughout Ohio, and as each candidate’s operatives look for ways to outmaneuver the other, the Somali community has been put on the spotlight by Sarah Marie Brenner, a Republican Councilwoman in Powell, Ohio, and the wife of first-term Ohio State Representative Andy Brenner, who wrote a column at Human Events and described a secret plot to reelect President Obama in Ohio by using “Democrat interpreters[who] show the non-English speaking Somalis how to vote the Democrat slate.” Using an anonymous source, she further states that “there are not any Republican Somali interpreters available.”
This is allegation is not only unfounded but also very dangerous as evidenced by the more than 2000 angry and negative comments that the column has triggered in two days. Accusing a whole law abiding community and portraying U.S. citizens as illegal immigrants because you suspect that they would vote against your candidate or they just look different is also utterly irresponsible. Brenner presents no proof for her allegation neither is her theory of vote rigging even possible. When a voter comes to the election station, they are required to fill out a form with their name, address, and date of birth as well as their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their social security number. They sign this form and present it to a poll worker who checks the accuracy of the information and validity of the voter’s registration. With Republicans holding majority in both chambers of the Ohio legislature, the governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general, there is no way to substantiate that they left loopholes to be manipulated by the Obama campaign. Besides, the statement that there are no Republican Somali interpreters speaks volumes about the Republican Party’s lack of grassroots outreach to this vast community. I know Somalis who would be willing to volunteer for the Republican Party including those who launched in the last election cycle.
Instead of accusing the Somali community of rigging an election to reelect President Obama, the Republican Party needs to come to terms with the new realities on the ground in Ohio and to understand the nature of the Somali community in Ohio which cannot be written off any more. I am confident that they would be amazed by the amount of support they get if they invested in a serious effort to reach out to the Somali community, should Republicans decide to engage this vital voting bloc in Central Ohio. Somalis by nature are conservative people who staunchly value the family and entrepreneurship, two important issues for the Republican Party as well. If no Republican has ever become President of the United States without winning Ohio, it may be true that no candidate will win Ohio without the Somali vote.
The Democratic Party:
The Obama campaign and the Democratic Party established a strong presence in the Somali community in Ohio. Each time a democratic candidate runs for office in Central Ohio, from City Council to President of the United States, they ensure to engage the Somali community by employing campaign staff, interpreters, drivers, call center associates, and various consultants. This is good but not enough. While there are some elected Democratic leaders in Central Ohio who are supportive of the Somali community, some of them disappear as soon as they are voted in and return once they are due for reelection. This has to cease and leaders have to stop making excuses when they are in office or else the community will take note.
The Somali Community:
There is a heightened drive to exercise the democratic right of voting among new American citizens of Somali origin. This is a very good thing and important strength for a community that came to the United States to escape anarchy in their country of origin, Somalia.  This community will continue its tradition of civic engagement by voting for candidates who listen to their voices and even by fielding candidates to vie for elective posts in the near future. As I wrote in another article in 2009, this is the community to watch as it exercises its citizen rights in Ohio, America’s most important state in this election year and always.

Somalis in Ohio: please vote one, vote all! The vote in your hands may determine the outcome.Jibril Mohamed is a Lecturer at the Ohio State University. He can be reached at
Source: Hiiraan Online

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Statement by Somali President on the Charcoal Export at Kismayo Port

The Somali government reiterates the ban on charcoal exports In line with the UN Security Council resolution where all member states were asked to take the necessary measures to prevent the export and import of charcoal from Somalia which the Government of Somalia previously originated the request for the ban on the grounds that the charcoal business is not only hazardous to the environment but also detrimental to the security efforts.

Therefore, we express our deep concerns of any possibility to violate the UN security council resolution that bans charcoal and the government is in the process of forming task force to make sure and prevent any violations of the charcoal ban” . 

The Federal Government is pleased by what has been achieved since the takeover of Kismayo by the Somali forces and AMISOM. The local leaders in Kismayo have the responsibility to put the people first, above any political differences and self interests what so ever and to ensure security, stability and restore confidence to the public.  

The clear position of the Somali Government is to maintain the seaport and the air port facility solely open for humanitarian assistance, AMISOM and Somali forces are making sure to keep this task until an interim administration is established in due course.

It is the solid belief of the Somali Government that the people of Kismayo are fed up with counter productive politics, worlordism and extresmism and they deserve security, stability, basic serivce delivery and prosperous future. Therefore, the charcoal at the port will be stored for the time being so as the government to come up with the best course of action to deal with it in time.

The Somali Government is committed to comply with the UN Security Council Resolution 2036 and calls for the uphold of the ban and stand ready to continue to assist the people of Kismayo. We are taking full responsibility to mobilize humanatarian assistance and the government is in the process of sending ship of aid from the federal government to the people of Kismayo.

Office of the Somali President
Mogadishu, Somalia

Terrorist pipeline continues to flow from Minn. to Somalia

by Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio

J. Chris Warrner, special agent in charge of the FBI's office in Minneapolis, listens to Imam Hassan Mohamud, right, during a quarterly roundtable community meeting Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 organized by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI confirmed this week that two Minneapolis men in July left for Somalia, allegedly to fight for the terror group al-Shabab. The departures were the first public signs that al-Shabab continues to recruit in the U.S. (MPR Photo/Laura Yuen)

Four years after federal authorities in the Twin Cities began investigating homegrown recruitment for the terrorist group al-Shabab, at least two additional men slipped away to Somalia as recently as July.

Federal authorities believe the Minneapolis men joined the group and are still in the East African nation.
The FBI's confirmation this week that a terrorist conduit continues to flow from Minnesota to Somalia perplexes members of Minnesota's Somali community, who have watched with dismay as young men have disappeared.


Among those missing is 19-year-old Mohamed Osman, who once called a leafy little cul-de-sac in south Minneapolis home.

Inside his family's two-story house, Osman's older cousin, Jamal Salim, recalled when the family realized that Osman, who graduated last year from Southwest High School, was missing.

"One day we're at home, like, 'Where is Mohamed?' " Salim said. "It's been two days, and we're thinking he's out with friends. The parents are going crazy. They think he's got arrested or something."

Salim said Osman's mother didn't realize her son was in Somalia until she received a visit from the FBI. Salim said his aunt was stunned.

As were earlier waves of about 20 Twin Cities men who federal authorities say enlisted with al-Shabab, the introverted Osman was especially secretive about his plans, his cousin said.

"It made me mad because he didn't speak to no relative about it," Salim said. "We're heartbroken about it because he's like our sibling. Imagine not knowing what's going on with your own brother — how he's been feeling, who he's been talking to, and what they're telling him. We lost a brother, and I don't know how to get him back."
Authorities say Osman and 20-year-old Omar Ali Farah left Minneapolis for Somalia on July 18.
Salim said Osman was religious — to the point of nagging Salim for not praying, and for not wearing the long white tunics favored by some devout Muslim men. Osman had no desire to go to college. He taught the Qur'an to kids at an Islamic school on Lake Street.
Osman's family didn't worry about him, because he appeared to be staying out of trouble.
Salim said he now regrets not intervening in his cousin's life.
"To me, it's like he made a stupid mistake," Salim said. "If he would have talked to the elders who were responsible for him, they would told him, 'What's the reason we brought you from Somalia if you're going to go back?' "
What's even more puzzling to Somali-American community members is why someone would want to join al-Shabab now. Aside from the fact that it's a ruthless militia known to behead, amputate and bomb its victims, military pressure has forced al-Shabab to withdraw from several major cities it used to control.
"It's really surprising," said Saeed Fahia, executive director of the nonprofit Confederation of the Somali Community in Minnesota. "It doesn't even seem rational."
Fahia said only someone vulnerable would be duped into fighting for a badly losing team. He said most young Somali-Americans he knows are excited to return to their homeland to help its people.
"They are going back for business, to find work, to connect with their roots, to learn about the culture," Fahia said. "Mogadishu seems to be thriving."
But al-Shabab still needs a fresh supply of fighters and is willing to recruit from around the world, said E.K. Wilson, the FBI's supervisory special agent in charge of the massive federal investigation known as "Operation Rhino."
"While it seems like it's not the most opportune time to become a member of al-Shabab or fight under those circumstances, we are aware that there are continued efforts on the part of al-Shabab to take in and receive foreign fighters to reinforce their losses," he said.
Wilson would not say how many men have left Minnesota this year to join al-Shabab. But it's clear that the group has lost one of its main rallying points — a nationalistic appeal to Somalis around the world.
The earliest recruits who left Minnesota in 2007 said they enlisted to fight Ethiopian troops who they heard were raping Somali women and killing their countrymen. But the Ethiopian military has long left Somalia.
So religion appears to be al-Shabab's predominant battle cry. Al-Shabab's end game has always been to to radicalize its troops through its extreme interpretation of Islam, Wilson said.
One local figure who has emerged as an alleged recruiter in the plan to send Minnesota men overseas to fight is Omer Abdi Mohamed. Former Twin Cities recruits have testified at trial that he used his knowledge of the Qur'an to preach jihad. Mohamed pleaded guilty last year to being a part of the conspiracy, and this week a federal judge ordered him jailed while he awaits sentencing.
A big concern, said U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, is that Mohamed may be still involved with the effort to send more men overseas to fight.
"There are indications that there are people who have traveled to Somalia, and he may have had some role in it," Jones said.
Mohamed's attorney said his client had nothing to do with it.
Federal authorities, however, note that Mohamed is in a position to influence young people through his association with an Islamic school on Lake Street in Minneapolis. It's the same school where Mohamed Osman, the 19-year-old traveler who left in July, taught the Qur'an.
Jones said the federal government, which has poured countless resources into the investigation, considers the pipeline a huge concern of national security.
"There are serious risks with this dynamic of people leaving the United States with U.S. passports, going to a foreign country, receiving training from a designated foreign terrorist organization and potentially coming back home," he said.
Jones said while the federal investigation has made important strides, including last week's conviction of its first case to go to trial, there are still some disaffected youth in the community who are vulnerable to being exploited.
He said "Operation Rhino" is anything but over.
Follow Laura Yuen on Twitter:
Source: Minnesota Public Radio (MPR)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Celebrating Islamic Holiday of Eid Al-Adha

Eid al-Adha (Arabic: عيد الأضحى‘Īd al-’Aḍḥá, "festival of sacrifice"), also called Feast of the Sacrifice, the Major Festival, the Greater Eid and Id-ul-Zuha (The word "id" derived from the Arabic "eid" means "festival" and "zuha" comes from "uzhaiyya" which translates to "sacrifice". About Eid ul-Zuha), is an important 3-day religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honor the willingness of ʾIbrāhīm (Abraham) to sacrifice his first son Ismā'īl (Ishmael) as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a ram to sacrifice instead.

 Eid al-Adha is the latter of the two Eid holidays celebrated by Sunni and Shia Muslims, the former holiday being Eid al-Fitr. The basis for the Eid al-Adha comes from the 196th verse of the 2nd sura of the Quran. The word "Eid" appears once in the 5th sura of the Quran, with the meaning "solemn festival". The 3 days and 2 nights of Eid al-Adha are celebrated annually on the 10th, 11th and 12th day Dhu al-Hijjah (ذو الحجة), the twelfth and last month of the lunar Islamic calendar. In the international Gregorian calendar, the dates vary from year to year, drifting approximately 11 days earlier each year.

Like Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha begins with a Sunnah prayer of two rakats followed by a sermon (khuṭbah). Eid al-Adha celebrations start after the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia by Muslims worldwide, descent from Mount Arafat. The date is approximately 70 days (2 Months & 10 days) after the end of the month of Ramadan, i.e. Eid al-Fitr. Ritual observance of the holiday lasts until sunset of the 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah. Eid sacrifice may take place until sunset on the 13th Day. The days of Eid have been singled out in the Hadith as "days of remembrance". The days of Tashriq are from the Fajr of the 9th of Dhul Hijjah upto the Asr of the 13th of Dhul Hijjah (5 days and 4 nights). This equals 23 prayers: 5 on the 9th-12th which equal 20 and 3 on the 13th.


According to Islamic tradition, approximately four thousand years ago, the valley of Mecca (in what is now Saudi Arabia) was a dry, rocky and uninhabited place. Abraham ('Ibraheem in Arabic) was instructed to bring his Egyptian wife Hajir (Hāǧar) and Ishmael, his only child at the time (Ismā'īl), to Arabia from the land of Canaan by God's command.

As Abraham was preparing for his return journey back to Canaan, Hajar asked him, "Did God order you to leave us here? Or are you leaving us here to die." Abraham turned around to face his wife. He was so sad that he couldn't say anything. He pointed to the sky showing that God commanded him to do so. Hajar said, "Then God will not waste us; you can go". Though Abraham had left a large quantity of food and water with Hajar and Ishmael, the supplies quickly ran out, and within a few days the two began to feel the pangs of hunger and dehydration.

Hajar ran up and down between two hills called Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times, in her desperate quest for water. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby Ishmael and prayed to God for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of baby Ishmael. Other accounts have the angel Gabriel (Jibrail) striking the earth and causing the spring to flow in abundance. With this secure water supply, known as the Zamzam Well, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies.

Years later, Abraham was instructed by God to return from Canaan to build a place of worship adjacent to Hagar's well (the Zamzam Well). Abraham and Ishmael constructed a stone and mortar structure —known as the Kaaba— which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in God. As the years passed, Ishmael was blessed with Prophethood (Nubuwwah) and gave the nomads of the desert his message of submission to God. After many centuries, Mecca became a thriving desert city and a major center for trade, thanks to its reliable water source, the well of Zamzam.

One of the main trials of Abraham's life was to face the command of God to devote his dearest possession, his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to God's will. During this preparation, Satan (Shaitan) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God's commandment, and Ibrahim drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.

When Ishmael was about 13 (Abraham being 99), God decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice – an unimaginable act – sacrificing his son, which God had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill God's command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.

Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for God's sake, he could not just go and drag his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Ishmael had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life as fulfillment to God's command. This consultation would be a major test of Ishmael's maturity in faith, love and commitment for God, willingness to obey his father and sacrifice his own life for the sake of God.

Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, "Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha'Allah (God willing), to be very patient." His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to God, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God were all unprecedented.

Abraham could not bear to watch his son die so he covered his eyes by a blindfold. When he cut Ishmael's throat and removed the blindfold, he was astonished to see that Ishmael was unharmed and instead, he found a dead ram which was slaughtered. Abraham had passed the test by his willingness to carry out God's command.

This is mentioned in the Quran as follows:

"O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!" So We gave him the good news of a boy, possessing forbearance. And when (his son) was old enough to walk and work with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah wills, you will find me one practising patience and steadfastness!" So when they both submitted and he threw him down upon his forehead, We called out to him saying: O Ibraheem! You have indeed fulfilled the vision; surely thus do We reward those who do good. Most surely this was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And We perpetuated (praise) to him among the later generations. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!" Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. Surely he was one of Our believing servants.

As a reward for this sacrifice, God then granted Abraham the good news of the birth of his second son, Is-haaq (Isaac):

And We gave him the good news of Is-haaq, a prophet from among the righteous.

Abraham had shown that his love for God superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to God's command. Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha.

Eid prayers

Who must attend

According to some fiqh (traditional Islamic law) (although there is some disagreement)
  1. Men compulsory; women optional
  2. Residents, which exclude travellers
  3. Those in good health, which excludes genuinely sick people

When is it performed

The Eid al-Adha prayer is performed anytime after the sun completely rises up to just before the entering of Zuhr time, on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah. If the event of an excuse (eg. natural disaster), the prayer maybe delayed to the 11th of Dhul Hijjah and then to the 12th of Dhul Hijjah.


The Sunnah of preparation

In keeping with the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims are encouraged to prepare themselves for the occasion of Eid. Below is a list of things Muslims are recommended to do in preparation for the Eid al-Adha festival:
  1. Make wudu (ablution) and offer Salat al-Fajr (the pre-sunrise prayer).
  2. Prepare for personal cleanliness – take care of details of clothing, etc.
  3. Dress up, putting on new or best clothes available

Rituals of the Eid prayers

The scholars differed concerning the ruling on Eid prayers. There are three scholarly points of view:

1 – That Eid prayer is Sunnah mu’akkadah (recommended). This is the view of Imam Maalik and Imam al-Shaafa’i.
2 – That it is a Fard Kifaya (communal obligation). This is the view of Imam Ahmad.
3 – That it is Wajib on all Muslim men (a duty for each Muslim and is obligatory for men); those who do not do it with no excuse are sinning thereby. This is the view of Imam Abu Haneefah, and was also narrated from Imam Ahmad. Among those who favoured this view were Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah and al-Shawkaani.

Eid prayers must be offered in congregation. It consists of two rakats (units) with seven Takbirs in the first Raka'ah and five Takbirs in the second Raka'ah. For Sunni Muslims, Salat al-Eid differs from the five daily canonical prayers in that no adhan (Call to Prayer) or iqama (call) is pronounced for the two Eid prayers. However, Shi'ite Muslims may begin Salat al-Eid with adhan (Call to Prayer)—with a third repetition of the line "Hayya ala salah" ("Come to prayer")—and iqama (call).[21] The Salaat (prayer) is then followed by the Khutbah, or sermon, by the Imam.

At the conclusion of the prayers and sermon, the Muslims embrace and exchange greetings with one other (Eid Mubarak), give gifts (Eidi) to children, and visit one another. Many Muslims also take this opportunity to invite their non-Muslims friends, neighbours, co-workers and classmates to their Eid festivities to better acquaint them about Islam and Muslim culture.


The Takbir and other rituals

The Takbir is recited from the dawn of the ninth of Dhu al-Hijjah to the thirteenth, and consists of:

Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbarالله أكبر الله أكبر الله أكبر
lā ilāha illā Allāhلا إله إلا الله
Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbarالله أكبر الله أكبر
wa li-illāhil-hamdولله الحمد

Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest,
There is no deity but Allah
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest
and to Allah goes all praise
Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbarالله أكبر الله أكبر
lā ilāha illā Allāhلا إله إلا الله
wa Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbarوالله أكبر الله أكبر
wa li-illāhil-ḥamdولله الحمد
Alḥamdulillāh `alā mā hadānā, wa lahul-shukru `ala mā awlānāالحمد لله على ما هدانا و له الشكر على ما اولانا
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest,
There is no deity but Allah
and Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest
and to Allah goes all praise, (We) sing the praises of Allah because He has shown us the Right Path. (We) gratefully thank Him because He takes care of us and looks after our interests.
Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbarالله أكبر الله أكبر الله أكبر
lā ilāha illā Allāhلا إله إلا الله
Allāhu akbar, Allāhu akbarالله أكبر الله أكبر
wa li-illāhil-ḥamdولله الحمد
Allāhu akbar kabīra, wal ḥamdu lillāhi kathīra, wa subḥāna Allāhi bukratan wa aṣīlāالله أكبر كبيرا والحمد لله كثيرا وسبحان الله بكرة وأصيلا
lā ilāha illā Allāh waḥdah(i)لا اله إلا الله وحده
Ṣadaqa wa`dah, wa naṣara abdah, wa 'a`azza jundahu wa ḥazama al-aḥzaba waḥdahصدق وعده ونصر عبده وأعز جنده وهزم الأحزاب وحده
lā ilāha illā Allāhلا إله إلا الله
walā na`budu illā iyyāhولا نعبد إلا إياه
Mukhliṣīn lahu ud-dīn wa law kariha al kāfirūnمخلصين له الدين ولو كره الكافرون
Allāhumma ṣallī `alā Sayyidinā Muḥammad, wa `alā āla Sayyidinā Muḥammad, wa `alā aṣḥabi Sayyidinā Muḥammad, wa `alā anṣāri Sayyidinā Muḥammad, wa `alā azwāji Sayyidinā Muḥammad, wa `alā ḏurriyyati Sayyidinā Muḥammadin wa sallim taslīman kathīraاللهم صل على سيدنا محمد وعلى آل سيدنا محمد وعلى أصحاب سيدنا محمد وعلى أنصار سيدنا محمد وعلى أزواج سيدنا محمد وعلى ذرية سيدنا محمد وسلم تسليما كثيرا
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest,
There is no deity but Allah
Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest
and to Allah goes all praise
Allah is the Greatest, all Praise is due to Him, And Glory to Allah, eventide and in the morning
There is no god, but Allah the Unique
He has fulfilled His Promise, and made Victorious His worshipper, and made Mighty His soldiers and defeated the confederates
There is no deity but Allah
He alone we worship
With sincere and exclusive devotion, even though the infidels hate it
O Allah, have Mercy on our Prophet Muhammad, and on the family of our Prophet Muhammad, and on the Companions of our Prophet Muhammad, and on the Helpers of our Prophet Muhammad, and on the wives of our Prophet Muhammad, and on the offspring of our Prophet Muhammad, and bestow upon them much peace.
Eid Prayer is Wajib, not a fard kafaya.

Traditions and practices

Men, women and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer (ṣalātu l-`Īdi) in a large congregation is an open waqf field called Eidgah or mosque. Those Muslims who can afford, i.e Malik-e-Nisaab; sacrifice their best halal domestic animals (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep or ram depending on the region) as a symbol of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son. The sacrificed animals, called Uḍhiyyah (Arabic: أضحية‎, also known by its Persian term, "al-Qurbāni"), have to meet certain age and quality standards or else the animal is considered an unacceptable sacrifice. This tradition accounts for more than 100 million slaughtering of animals in only 2 days of Eid. In Pakistan alone nearly 10 million animals are slaughtered on Eid days costing over US$ 3 billion.

The meat from the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors; and the other third is given to the poor and needy. The regular charitable practices of the Muslim community are demonstrated during Eid al-Adha by concerted efforts to see that no impoverished person is left without an opportunity to partake in the sacrificial meal during these days.

During Eid al-Adha, distributing meat amongst the people, chanting the Takbir out loud before the Eid prayers on the first day and after prayers throughout the three days of Eid, are considered essential parts of this important Islamic festival. In some countries, families that do not own livestock can make a contribution to a charity that will provide meat to those who are in need.

Eid al-Adha in the Gregorian calendar

While Eid al-Adha is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar. The lunar calendar is approximately eleven days shorter than the solar calendar. Each year, Eid al-Adha (like other Islamic holidays) falls on one of two different Gregorian dates in different parts of the world, because the boundary of crescent visibility is different from the International Date Line.

The following list shows the official dates of Eid al-Adha for Saudi Arabia as announced by the Supreme Judicial Council. Future dates are estimated according to the Umm al-Qura calendar of Saudi Arabia. However, it should be noted that the Umm al-Quraa is just guide for planning purposes and not the absolute determinant or fixer of dates. Confirmations of actual dates by moon sighting are applied to announce the specific dates for both Hajj rituals and the subsequent Eid festival. The three days after the listed date are also part of the festival. The time before the listed date the pilgrims visit the Mount Arafat and descend from it after sunrise of the listed day. Future dates of Eid al-Adha might face correction 10 days before the festivity, in case of deviant lunar sighting in Saudi Arabia for the start of the month Dhul Hijja.
  • 1418 (Islamic Calendar): 7 April 1998
  • 1419 (Islamic Calendar): 27 March 1999
  • 1420 (Islamic Calendar): 16 March 2000
  • 1421 (Islamic Calendar): 5 March 2001
  • 1422 (Islamic Calendar): 23 February 2002
  • 1423 (Islamic Calendar): 12 February 2003
  • 1424 (Islamic Calendar): 1 February 2004
  • 1425 (Islamic Calendar): 21 January 2005
  • 1426 (Islamic Calendar): 10 January 2006
  • 1427 (Islamic Calendar): 31 December 2006
  • 1428 (Islamic Calendar): 20 December 2007
  • 1429 (Islamic Calendar): 8 December 2008
  • 1430 (Islamic Calendar): 27 November 2009
  • 1431 (Islamic Calendar): 16 November 2010
  • 1432 (Islamic Calendar): 6 November 2011
  • 1433 (Islamic Calendar): 26 October 2012
  • 1434 (Islamic Calendar): 15 October 2013 (calculated)
  • 1435 (Islamic Calendar): 4 October 2014 (calculated)
  • 1436 (Islamic Calendar): 23 September 2015 (calculated)
  • 1437 (Islamic Calendar): 11 September 2016 (calculated)
  • 1438 (Islamic Calendar): 1 September 2017 (calculated)
  • 1439 (Islamic Calendar): 21 August 2018 (calculated)
  • 1440 (Islamic Calendar): 11 August 2019 (calculated)
  • 1441 (Islamic Calendar): 31 July 2020 (calculated)
  • 1442 (Islamic Calendar): 20 July 2021 (calculated)