Healing the Psychological Wounds of the Socially Excluded Somali Minorities.
by Bazi Bussuri Sheikh
Sunday, July 15, 2012
The recent development of the politics in Somalia was described by many as the beginning of a new era or a new page in the history of Somalia. It may also have the potential to be the turning point that stops us from alienating each other and instability to togetherness and establishment of a sound nation. But to achieve this, we need to get the Alif of our new page right so that we do not struggle with Albaqarah. We really need to address the injustice against the socially excluded minorities known us (Midgaan, Madhibaan, Gabooye, Bantus, Yibir etc.) and take all the necessary steps to eradicate this ailment (Pride of jahiliyyah) within our heart. Social exclusion made these communities go through the most excruciating experience by not feeling connected to the society they live in for a prolonged period of time. The ability to feel connected, sense of worthiness and belonging is what gives purpose and meaning to every ones’ life and this is what has been taken away from our brothers and sisters. The majority of us acknowledge the problem and show sympathy (We feel for you) without any action, but empathy (We feel with you) is required of us as that leads to an action. The quality of a country depends of the moral character of its people and it is determined through the action and inaction of its citizens.
The pride based on "I am better than he" principle was the very reason that Iblis (Satan) was removed from Allah’s Mercy when he said “You did create me from fire and him (Adam) from clay” and we are heading to the same fate. As per the Quran the main reason Allah created tribes and nations is that you may know each other (not that you despise each other). The prophet SCW warned against such pride on looking down upon others by saying “Whoever has pride in his heart equal to the weight of an atom shall not enter Paradise”. Another saying of the prophet SCW includes “Let people stop boasting about their ancestors. One is only a pious believer or a miserable sinner. All men are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)”. There is no complacency for us in this matter as the actual battle lies in our hearts and souls. We need to reform our heart at individual level as Allah will not change our situation until individuals change and individuals will never change until the heart is reformed.
We need to learn from our tribulation as well as the tribulation of other countries and history clearly shows that lack of social justice led to the decline or downfall of major historical cities and countries. It also evident now that the countries that sincerely addressed social and economic exclusion flourished compared to the others who did not effectively addressed the issue. For instance, political experts argue that the Caste system In India held back the country socially and economically. Additionally, we are now approaching the first day of the Islamic Calendar Year Hijriyah which was a turning point for the Muslim Ummah. Hijrah is an important and deeper lesson for us to learn from as it was not a mere migration from place to place but a process of transfer to a better situation. It is therefore an opportune moment for us Somalis to make the beginning of this Hijriyah year the day of migration from social exclusion and injustice to togetherness and justice. It is a difficult task, but with good intention we can liberate ourselves from this socially conditioned ideology in our hearts and get our way back to each other as one nation driven by solidarity.
Finally, the solution to this problem is an on-going process and involves everyone in the society. It is also important to focus on the problem not the people to avoid Us and Them syndrome. If we summarise how the individuals within the society can contribute to this cause include:
1. Individuals from the Excluded and Stigmatised Tribes
v The attitude and the manner individuals react to stigmatisation and exclusion determines the outcome of the struggle. Therefore, one must alter his/her attitude towards stigma by not accepting, internalising and adjusting to it. The problem of accepting and internalising the stigma is that you are trying to escape the short term pain, but acknowledging the pain and addressing is the birth place of joy, belonging and happiness. It is worthwhile to face a short term pain for the greater gain in the future.
v The struggle to regain the dignity and the self-respect of the excluded minorities must be non-violent based on negotiation, dialogue and peaceful demo if need be. Your anger must be constructive not destructive. In other words,
v It should be revenge free and always remember that it is not the fault of the non-excluded members of the society. They themselves were influenced via their parents’ upbringing, peers and the environment they lived in. The objective is to collectively liberate ourselves from these spiritual diseases that polluted our minds and souls.
v Let go of the past by forgiving the offender if he/she shows remorse. Forgiveness helps you to get over emotional pain and can leave you with greater sense of optimism. The Prophet said the genuine forgiver enter paradise without trial.
v Avoid generalisation, if few people from one tribe offend does not necessarily mean all of that tribe are bad. There are people of genuine good will from the majority tribes who are against the social exclusion in Somalia and it is on the rise.
2. Individuals from the Non Excluded Tribes
This includes all individuals (Majority and Minority) who are not socially excluded, stigmatised and had felt pride and superiority over the socially excluded members:
· Sincere repentance over the past, being sorrowful and expressing remorse and guilt for our life of the past. Come with Firm Resolution for a different life for the future that leads to humbleness and humility.
· If you personally offended someone on his ethnicity, seek that person’s forgiveness. If the person has died or you cannot find him/her, pray for them to be forgiven. It is advisable not to wait long to ask forgiveness as we are breath away from death.
· Beware of maintaining neutrality when an ethnic group is made fun of and offended. Show the positive points of an ethnic group that is being antagonised. Neutrality is dangerous policy to adopt because by not speaking up about discrimination can leave others with the impression that prejudicial attitudes are acceptable, and this could leave the excluded group vulnerable to continually experiencing prejudice and discrimination.
· Do not deplore the demonstrations of the excluded minorities, think of the underlying cause. You can imagine what is it to be in their shoes and this will make you have a good sense of how they feel.
· If you have spare time, work with or donate to local organisations that help excluded minorities. This can create a sense empowerment and solidarity as this makes them not to feel alone and isolated in their grief.
3. Educating our Children
Our children are the leaders of next generation and they are born with fitrah clean heart free from prejudice. Care needs to be taken to develop in every child a tolerant, non-discriminatory attitude. We need a system that prepares them for life and not for work only. Teaching Social values known as (Mu’aasharah) dealing with other fellow beings as well as other creations is very important such as:
ü Activities that encourage role-playing and empathy help children to develop awareness and empathy as well as developing resilience and assertiveness in children who experience discrimination.
ü Beware of what of you are saying in front of your children. Prejudice is learned through living in and observing a society where prejudices exist. Children's opinions are influenced by what the people around them think, do and say.
ü Let your children know that you recognize and appreciate their individual qualities. Children who feel good about themselves are less likely to be prejudiced. Also, notice unique and special qualities in other people and discuss them with your children.
4. Government and Tribe Leaders
Apart from anti-discrimination legislations, the government must do a lot more to build a society that promotes common good and driven by solidarity. These include:
Ø Political apology to the victims of social exclusion by the government and it is the first step towards reconciliation and probably the most important.
Ø Our tripe leaders and sultans also need to publicly apologise for the past wrongs against the excluded minorities and denounce the Jaahiliyah ideology. This is moral responsibility of our leaders and there is no need for consensus.
5. Religious Scholars
§ Remind people on the dangers of negative ethnocentrism for the society consistently.
§ Create awareness of this subject during the Friday prayer sermons.
§ The scholars themselves need to look deep into their hearts. If they themselves believe in this Jaahili ideology then the sermons they read will be counterproductive. It has to come from a sound heart for the lecture to reach other hearts.
6. Media (Somali owned TV, Radio, Newspaper, Websites).
Ø Create programs that educate the public about the societal damages of stigmatisation and exclusion.
Ø Organise a debate program to positively discuss about the issue social exclusion. Invite religious scholars, tribal leaders as well as political leaders.
Ø Create a TV break advert that warns people of the consequences of this Jaahiliyah ideology.
Bazi Bussuri Sheikh