As recent examples are showing, a country's government has to be chosen by its people.
By Liam Bailey
In the west there is a fear of Islamic terrorism, triggered in the most part, and rightly so, by two New York skyscrapers being brought down by hijacked civilian airliners on Sep. 11 2001, and subsequent attacks in Europe. This has led to Muslims being dehumanized. Islamaphobia as it is termed, is currently at an all time high.
Take Britain for instance, the terrorists who attacked three London underground trains simultaneously on July 7, 2005 wanted to bring down the British government and for Britain to become an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law. To the British people, who are used to having freedom of choice, the thought of Britain being ruled with the strict behavioural codes and punishments associated with Sharia law is a scary thought. I know, because it instilled fear in me, until I began talking about these matters with Muslims.
Abdallah, who commented on one of my articles on the Somali crisis at Desicritics.org (comment #7) told me:
Honestly as a Muslim and one who knows and understands the Sharia law very well there is nothing oppressive or unjust about it, however, what is oppressive and unjust is having a handful of tribal-based-military-styled-self-serving-ignorant-misdirected so called mullahs take oath to up hold the laws of Islam that they really don't practice in their own houses!
Introduction of Sharia Laws goes further than someone pushing it down people's throat, it needs preparations, and has to be on whole hearted consent. In a sense it most be voted on and everyone participate, not by some fools [Union of Islamic Courts] who thought they had the whole country under their thumb.
It suddenly occurred to me, Sharia law doesn't scare Muslims, because good Muslims live by strict behavioral and religious codes anyway, such as no alcohol or sex before marriage, and only eating a certain type of meat etc.
Somalia's Union of Islamic Courts have been branded as extremists by the west, and some hard-liners within the group deserve the title. However the courts have also been the victim of the one-size-fits-all War on Terror branding and are labeled as an Al Qaeda affiliate. Now, I don't know whether or not the group has harbored or is harboring Al Qaeda terrorists, as has been alleged by the U.S.. What I do know is that, now, while they are employing similar insurgent tactics as Al Qaeda (in Iraq) and other groups in Iraq, there is one key difference: they are not targeting civilians.
So, if they were and/or are sheltering Al Qaeda it is because they share a common enemy, the U.S., which over the years and even more currently has created the impression that it is an enemy of Islam. A view commonly held by extremists. Not because the UIC are an Al Qaeda affiliate, or because they are fighting the same war with the same tactics.
Although the UIC is not specifically targeting civilians, they are being killed in the crossfire. Like Dec. 23's audacious UIC attack on a Transitional Federal Government military base, when Ethiopian and TFG forces retaliated with heavy artillery and tanks. At least three people died and fifteen were injured as the 20 minute battle spilled into surrounding neighborhoods. Such battles and civilian deaths have again become a daily occurrence in Somalia. Under the UIC they were a rarity.
If some within the UIC were administering a misinterpretation of Sharia law from a bad interpretation of Islam, at least Somali citizens weren't being killed and injured in their droves each day. In fact they were relatively safe if they lived to the letter of the UIC's Sharia law.
Now death is much harder to avoid. In clashes Dec. 23 a woman died and six children were injured when artillery shells landed on their tin shacks, one of the children's life hung in the balance, witnesses told CNN his head was severed. Another nine people were injured and one killed when a rocket struck a house.
It was strange when the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), who made short work of overthrowing the warlords that ruled Somalia with anarchy for years, were ousted with so little resistance by the Ethiopian and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces. The two week conflict was more of a chase than a war as the Ethiopian forces followed the trail of the UIC in an almost constant retreat. Now, as the UIC launch daily attacks, growing in severity and audacity it becomes clear that they were conserving men and ammunition for a bloody guerrilla war.
They are employing much the same tactics as they did when they swept into control of most of Southern and central Somalia, lightning raids. The differences are that against the superior Ethiopian military they are striking then retreating. What the UIC lack in heavy armor they make up for in higher mobility and their ability and willingness to use it to their advantage.
So, Somalia is likely to face similar chaos as Iraq for the foreseeable future, and why, because an Islamic movement wanted to govern with Sharia (Islamic) law. Somalia is an Islamic country. Whether the UIC's interpretation of Sharia was wrong and it was being administered too strictly it was up to the Somali people to sort out. After all, they have a much better knowledge of it than the U.S. administration, or Christian Ethiopian government who were responsible for the end of UIC control and the beginning of anarchy. However strictly the UIC were ruling I bet Somalis would turn back time in a heart beat, especially those who have lost loved ones in the recent fighting.
When are the U.S., and their proxies like Ethiopia going to learn that a country's government and the way it chooses to rule is an internal affair, and should be dealt with internally. In any interpretation of the Islamic faith, Jihad is not to be shied away from. It is true, that under the Islamic faith, those dying fighting Jihad go straight to paradise. Where the extremists misinterpret, intentionally or otherwise is that suicide is forbidden under any circumstances, Jihad included. If the UIC continued on the path of governance they were on before they were ousted, and angered the Somali population. I fully believe the Somali population would eventually have risen up in Jihad to install a true and pure version of Sharia law.
Now, that may well have led to the same kind of chaos that Somalis are currently enduring, but at least it would have been their choice, and they would be dying for their freedom. Instead they are dying as part of a western war on an abstract noun.
*Liam Bailey is a U.K. freelance journalist. He writes regularly for the Palestine Chronicle, Arabic Media Internet Network and is an advanced blogger on the Washington Post's Post Global. He runs the War Pages blog and you can contact him at: [email protected]