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To My Oblivious Nomad

by Isahak M. Ahmed
Thursday, April 09, 2015

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For the millions of Somali’s born all over the world, except countries which the Somali language is a national tongue, I ask: Where do you belong? In countries that Somali is the national language, you are considered different: You have even been coined the term ‘Qurbo Joog’, ‘Daqan Celis’ and so forth. Almost initially upon arrival, one can easily sense the shift in nature of local populaces regarding their excessive subservience or blatant discontent.

So, even in a desperate attempt of assimilation into a social structure inadvertently unwinding the fabric of stored confusion surrounding our Somali elder’s outlook on life and distinct behavior in the western world, the oblivious nomad comprehends that the motherland is not as receptive as expected. Perhaps the language barrier rooted in thick accents, mispronunciations, a continual interjectory of foreign words in grammatically incorrect Somali sentences is the basis of local unwelcoming tendencies. Or, maybe it’s your walk, choice of clothing and relatively stark variances of acceptable social norms.

Genuine assimilation, in its full description, would entail an oblivious nomad’s sincere attempt at adopting social norms as a means of natural adaptation. For the sake of listing some difficult social norms to adhere to derived from personal experiences, if it’s socially acceptable for people to spew spit spontaneously at random populated areas, pick buggers at will without regard to the transference of germs or distribute nicknames in accordance to the particular trigger point responsible for diminishing self-esteem such as ‘Mohamed No-Eyes (blind man)’, ‘Sahra No-Ears (deaf lady)’, so be it. Or maybe not in this case; however, you get the point.
Adopt. Adapt. Survive.

But, wait for a second. Even if one is to accept and adhere to social norms only for the sole purpose of truly connecting with his/her identity and if such a sacrifice is worth a self-fulfilling cause on the journey of ‘belonging’ to his/her people, why is full acceptance still not granted? Some argue that it’s not the role of Somali society to accept you but, instead, it is you that must accept yourself as Somali. For many this notion may sound nice, but personally that sounds like the easiest way to cop-out. There’s a serious issue here, an underlying complex, one of sorts in which those who stayed back home find themselves more worthy of the Somali identity.

There are the full-time nomads, part-time nomads and the oblivious nomads. Our brothers and sisters, who never left the motherland, wherever the colonial powers decreed borders to be, consider themselves the full-time nomads. This group of individuals believe that they are more deserving, worthy and justified in land ownership, nationalism (yes, this is considered an inheritance due to their lackluster decision to stay in the way of straying bullets) and the Somali identity. The part-time nomads are the folks that travelled abroad, for one reason or another, and began new lives for themselves and subsequent generations which followed. This group of individuals believes that remittance, over the long duration of decades, entitles them to respect, loyalty and a social acceptance of intellectual superiority. And then, there’s them: The Oblivious Nomad. They are the offspring of the part-time nomad, somewhere stuck between two worlds propelled by conflicting cultures.

Ironically, I believe that there may very well be a fourth group. In all fairness, there must be some kind of distinction between the oblivious nomad abroad and the oblivious nomad who returned to the motherland in order to apply skills gained in the West to better the lives of fellow citizens back home. Personally, I would call the fourth group; The Semi-Coherent Nomad. In the face of social opposition and various forms of societal ridicule on such genuinely, sincere strides towards adaptation, one must be either swimming in an ocean of patience and righteousness to remain in such an environment or in many other cases simply semi-coherent to it all.

The morale of this brief escapade of identity issues for people of Somali origin born abroad is this; you belong nowhere but home and family will always be family regardless of their nature. Thus, oblivious or semi-coherent- it is up to you to change the country for the better and in this process, the social stigmas amongst these nomadic groups as well. Unfortunately, for anyone aware of the culture and characteristics of nomads and their camels in rural communities, the decision of nomads is relentless in its sheer belief of absolute correctness. Yet, there still remains a glimmer of hope, only Allah’s decree is absolute and minds do evolve and change over the course of time. Hence, become the catalyst provoking change; the movement challenging harmful thinking; but most of all, the long awaited cure to social ailments.
Be Patient. Be Mindful. Be Somali.

(This brief article was inspired by a Canadian friend who decided to move back to Canada from Somalia, only after 2 months, due to the many predicaments faced by various elements of our people back home)


Isahak Ahmed
ICO Executive Director
ICO Somalia Assistance Office (ICOSAO)
Email: [email protected]



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