Dr. Abdishakur Sh. Ali Jowhar
A storm is gathering in Somaliland these days, a terrible storm of instability and disorder. The previously solid political ground has started to shake. It trembles with every sneeze of the Sheikhs down south. People move quicker as if expecting an imminent calamity. There is vigilance in the air. Mothers hold their children a bit tighter. Men are more on edge. This moment in Somaliland is pregnant with danger. I could feel the winds of change like a dull aching pain with no precise location. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks as the saying goes. It was right there, staring me in the face all along. It was too big to be contemplated, too big to be seen.
In the two years that elapsed since my last trip, Somaliland has undergone a massive cultural transformation that has irreversibly altered the political landscape. The brewing storm is but one of the manifestations of this transformation. As misfortune would have it, the highest officials of the state are pitifully oblivious, sleeping at the helm as they fight off phantom opposition in their fitful dream. But then again such poverty of leadership may have been a necessary prelude for what is to unfold.
A Culture of Death
In the streets of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, and in the alleys of the small towns and villages a new culture has taken a firm grip on the populace. In this young nation death has reached out from the grave and expanded into the realm of life. Death, its consequences and preparation for the “permanent” world in the hereafter occupy the mind of the inhabitants. People wake up with death and dying on their mind. Perfect strangers stop on the road and plan together for it. People whisper in reverence about the good death of the pious, the mujahid and the martyr. And they tremble in fear of the bad death of the infidel, the apostate, the heretic, the bad Moslem and all other enemies of God. There is a hypnotic repetition of “this life will end”. Death has taken a firm hold on the living. Death is no longer the inevitable end of life. Death is life.
Sociologists and anthropologists will study this phenomenon with fascination at some point in the future. But we know this; the culture of death did not come about by spontaneous generation. It is the manufactured product of three decades of committed revolutionary work and agitation. The infrastructure of this culture is “The Student”, “the Sheikh” and the “Islamic School”. These are the new growth industry, the dot COMs of this poor nation. The investment in the revolution pours in from the oil wealth of individuals with extremist ideological predilection and connections with extremist religious underground.
There are the full-fledged scholarly programs of the sophisticated Moslem Brotherhood whose students are expected to excel in the sciences as well as in religious studies. There are the conference-like learning centers of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) who proselytize softly with steely insistence. There are religious schools funded by Kuwaiti, Yemeni, Saudi, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Pakistani as well citizens of many other countries. None of the governments of these nationalities has any suspicion of the involvement of their citizens in the massive undertaking in this unrecognized nation.
There is a religious school in every street and in every corner. And then there are the more sinister and secretive religious schools that teach nothing but Islam with a Salafist twist. Here children are recruited from the poorest of a poor society. The parents “contribute” whatever they can afford and a secretive third party benefactor foots the rest of the bill. The children are made to rock themselves to a religious frenzy for 6 – 8 hours of each day. It is these schools that breed the new committed revolutionary; the Talib (Student) and the Sheikh (the graduate Talib). These are the factories that produce the revolutionaries that will be unleashed against the enemies of Islam with deadly effect. Taliban is not a name of an organization; it is an approach, a method of creating a professional revolutionary who specializes in the rhetoric of death.
The Revolution of the Talib and the Sheikh
The revolution aims at nothing less than a total, absolute and wholesome transformation of all Somali and Islamic societies in the horn of Africa. The revolutionary despises and hates any system of governance that does not conform to proper Islamic law. He has the divine duty of destroying any such system. Every action, every thought, every feeling will have to be brought in line with Islamic Law and through force if necessary. Let us be clear about this. The sheikh is not proposing a system that will have full control of only the actions of the citizenry. The Sheikh wants a system of governance that will allow him full control of the actions, thoughts and believes of all the citizens all the time. He has no personal purpose in asking for this absolute power (or at least so he will like us to believe). He merely wants to ensure that the action, thoughts and believes of the Moslems conform to the dictates of their faith. The Sheikh will maintain that he is not really in power; he is only interpreting scriptures. Any opposition to his rule is therefore an act of apostasy. When it comes to political control of the state, the revolutionary strongly rejects elections, any elections, as a sign of devil worship. The most learned, the most faithful (i.e. the Sheikh), or his representatives, would lead by default. The revolution is about the forceful imposition of a Totalitarian State.
The revolution sees Somaliland as a hot bed of betrayal and heresy. In the eyes of the revolution the two essentials of Somaliland society (democracy and the peaceful resolution of political problems) both represent willful rejection of Islam. The denunciation of democracy is a common principle of all armed Islamic extremists. The Ideologue of the revolution, Sheikh Dahir Aweys, has reached the conclusion that “peace is the other idol that Somalilanders worship”. This might seem strange to less sophisticated minds like you and me. The Sheikh interprets the scripture and therefore he knows. We don’t. However we at least know this: The revolution is committed to the complete and utter destruction of all idols be they physical or abstract. The Twin idols of Somaliland (peace and democracy) will be smashed and destroyed like the Twin Towers of New York and like the Bamiyan Statues of Afghanistan. The good people of Somaliland will be freed from idol worship. They will be unfettered from the chains of the devil and delivered from a certain doom.
The revolution will bring peace to South Somalia and it will bring “North Somalia” back to the fold of the nation. The forcible reunification of Somalia and the rebirth of Great Somalia with new Islamic credentials will coerce Somali “Nationalists” to the embrace of the Sheikh. The hypnotic and rhythmic applause learned from Siyad Barre will be heard again. Only this time the accompanying sound bite will be “Sheikha! Sheikha!!” instead of “Jaale, Jaale”. And why not, the spineless Somali nationalists and learned Diaspora professors have dined and sang the praises of every dictator and every warlord in the recent painful history of the Somali people. What difference will one more or one less make? And so the conquest of Somaliland will be the jewel that will transform the Colonel Sheikh to the General Sheikh. And happy days will be here again, and old words, like Macalika Umadda (the teacher of the nation), will make sense again in the Talib State.
The nationalist may not know, but he is sleeping with the enemy. The revolutionary has no use for the concept of Somali Nationalism. He sees all nationalism as another variation of idol worship. And this Idol too will be destroyed when it has served its purpose. For the revolutionary the union of the South and North Somalia is nothing more than the first step towards Islamic Caliphate that will take over the whole world. This is truly is a revolution without borders. The next logical phase will be Ogaden, Northern Kenya and Djibouti and the Islamic republic of Oromia. The war that is starting will not end until the divine laws are fully established on this earth, until all nationalism, democracy and every other infidel institution is destroyed. Wretched is the Somali nationalist for he seems destined to be used and abused by everyone and betrayed by all.
The revolutionary occupies a unique place in the life and history of Islam. He is part of a movement that will bring to realization the divine will on earth. He is the catalyst of the Islamic state, the Caliphate that will exist primarily to enforce true faith.
The revolutionary looks at you like a ghost with a frightening vacant stare. He does not see or care about your life. He sees and deeply caries about your death and his own. If you were to listen, if you were to join him, he will guarantee you as good a death as his own. The revolutionary is not a selfish man. He is willing to share the good death. On the other hand if you refuse to listen to the voice of wisdom, if you persist in your ignorance and foolishly continue on the path of the infidel, the apostate and the heretic then the revolutionary will kill you. And he will surely get his reward in heaven. And the icing on the cake, if you were to kill him before he kills you then he will become a martyr and that will be the fastest ticket for him to heaven in the next world. For the revolutionary it is all about your death and his. It is all about martyrdom.
The political ideology of the revolutionary is Islam. His methods, organizational structure and tactics are no different than those utilized by any underground violent revolutionary organization. These are men who must not be underestimated. The revolutionary stands out from the mass not only because of his uniform of baggy clothes, short pants and big beard but also by the sureness of his step and the vitality of his physique. The revolutionary is a healthy man. He keeps his body tuned up for the day he will be called to action. He is a clean man. He is a well-fed man. He is the spirit of the revolution (Kacdoonka), He is the Shabab (the youthful). He has given up this life for a better life in the hereafter. All that he is waiting for is the moment of transformation from here to there. In the mean time he keeps himself pure in body and mind and ready for martyrdom when the moment arrives.
Diversity and Unity
The sharp tilt of the public mood towards hyper-religiosity and the mass mobilization made possible by the oil wealth seeping from the north, gives the appearance of a monolithic revolutionary movement to the outsider. However the movement is far from united. There are three new Islamic forces that drive the cultural transformation of Somali society and that compete for the goodwill of the populace. All three movements belong to international Islamic organizations. They are recent imports. The head offices in Somalia are located in the city of Mogadishu. Two of three (Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) and the Moslem Brotherhood aka Al-Islah) are predominantly non-armed organizations. At least in the context of Somaliland these two organizations show no interest in waging war against the people of Somaliland or against the Somaliland State.
The third organization is a Salafist/Wahabi movement. It is a Political-Religious-Militarist-Jihadist organization headed by Sheikh Dahir Aweys. It is armed to the teeth. It is designed primarily for urban gorilla warfare. It has a cellular structure. In Somaliland it has a powerful clandestine presence that is at the brink of striking out into open warfare. This is the organization that has taken over much of South Somalia.
This Jihadist organization started life as the Al-ittihad Al-Islami (AIAI). AIAI has gone through many mutations. It was formed in Burco (Somaliland) in 1984 through the merger of Sheikh Mohammed Issa’s al-Jamma al-Islamiya and that of Sheikh Ali Warsame (Wahdat al-Shabab al-Islam). Sheikh Ali Warsame is reported to be an Islamic scholar who is known for his opposition to wars and revolutions. Sheikh Dahir Aweys took over AIAI, imbued it with the Salafi ideology and turned the organization into a fighting revolutionary force. Over time AIAI morphed into Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) with Sheikh Dahir Aweys as its dynamic ideologue. The armed wing of AIAI/UIC is headed by Somali Afghanis (Somalis who were trained and who participated in the Afghanistan wars). The moderate in the group, Sheikh Sharif Sh. Ahmed is a patsy. He is a good man with no armed force and no political organization. When his services as a moderate cover is no longer necessary, big brother Aweys will give him the choice of a junior partner or else he will have to accept the unpleasant video camera of the warrior Afghani; Ahmed Shah Masood,
Islamic Democracy Vs Totalitarian Islam
No doubt, the force and vitality of the concept of Somaliland will have to prove its mettle in the testing times ahead. The battlefields will be in the market place of ideas and in fields of violent social conflict. For sure the coming days will be full of peril, conspiracy and subterfuge. These all are given. The dice is cast. We should know what is at stake here is the survival of Somaliland. No, let me correct that last statement. What is at stake here is the very concept of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and of peaceful co-existence among nations and peoples in the Horn of Africa in our lifetime.
The question is not about religion. It was never about religion. The question is about power. Who will rule? Who will be ruled? Will it be the ballot? Will it be the bullet and the barrel of the gun? The choice is between Islam-rationality-democracy-peace on the one hand and Islam-totalitarianism-war and death on the other; perpetual war with all the neighbors in search of a Moslem Great Somalia; perpetual war until the Islamic Caliphate spreads over god’s earth and frees it from all signs of the infidel, the heretic and the apostate.
As for Somalilanders the choice has never been simpler: repeat the error of 1960 on the hope that Colonel Aweys will be better than General Siyad or this time around choose freedom and reject a holy dictatorship.
Dr. Abdishakur Sh. Ali Jowhar
E-mail: [email protected]
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