December 9, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 625

Somali Muslim Journalist on the Detrimental Effects of Wahhabism on His Country

December 9, 2003
Africa, Somalia | Special Dispatch No. 625

On November 21, 2003, Somali journalist Bashir Goth wrote an extensive article detailing how Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi Islam has corrupted the Islam of his native Somalia. The following are excerpts from Goth's article, which appeared in the Addis Tribune: [1]

The Importation of the 'Authority for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice' to Somalia

"Recently, I came across news reports on the activities of a group of clerics calling themselves 'the Authority for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice' trying to impose draconian moral codes on Somaliland citizens… I cannot sit back and watch these people humiliate our women, destroy our beautiful culture, hijack our religion, and denigrate the reputation of our country worldwide.

"I cannot find a better start than to relate an incident that occurred in my home village, Dilla… in the early 1990s… After Friday sermon, a man stood up in the mosque to address the worshippers… He was the headmaster of the school, a respected man, a dedicated teacher and a devoted Muslim… [He] said '…I am a new prophet…' The teacher said that he was told by God to reform the Islamic religion and that anyone who believed that Muhammad (PBUH) was the last prophet should read the Qur'an again.

"… The Ulema decided to have a word with the teacher… [They] asked him to promise two things, if they [were] to leave him in peace. First he should not preach his new gospel in the village's two mosques, and second that he should not try to spoil the faith of school children. If he accepted to fulfill these two conditions he was free to do whatever he wanted with his 'message.' He accepted the terms. Two years later, the teacher was spotted praying in the mosque and, when the Ulema questioned him, his answer was that he returned to his faith and had given up his infatuations."

Islam and Somali Culture 'Lived Together in Perfect Harmony'

"Imagine this taking place in Saudi Arabia or any other place where Wahhabism or religious extremism prevailed!... He would have been hanged mercilessly. However, it is amazing to see how the Ulema of the little farming village of Dilla had dealt with the issue… By simply patronizing the teacher's claim, they had proven that Islam was too strong and too entrenched in the hearts of people to be shaken by bogus prophets. They also set an excellent example for tolerance and compassion in giving the poor teacher the grace to come back without any fear of reprisal.

"The Ulema of Dilla represented a generation and a time when Islam and the Somali culture lived together in perfect harmony… when being Somali and Muslim was an indivisible whole… It was a time when the message of tolerance and peace prevailed… One could pray occasionally, or never pray at all, fast in the month of Ramadan or never fast at all, make a pilgrimage to Mecca or never do it at all; but would forever consider oneself a true follower of Islam, knowing that to be a Muslim is a bond between man and God and that one's faith is not answerable to anyone else."

'We have become a People without Fashion, without Culture and without Identity'

"Nowadays, it is sad to see… that the ideal harmony between Islam and Somali culture is swept aside by a new brand of Islam that is being pushed down the throat of our people - Wahhabism. Anywhere one looks, one finds that alien, perverted version of Islam that depends on punctilious manners more than it depends on deep-rooted faith. A strange uniformity… has crept into the social manners of our people. The unique fashion and identity of our people has changed forever. We have become a people without fashion, without culture, and without identity…

"It is a pity… to see that, at a time when Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahhabism, is reassessing the damage that Wahhabism and extremism had done to their country's name and to the reputation of Islam all over the world… that Wahhabism has to find a save-haven in our country."

Wahhabism Sows Hatred

"Wahhabism is an austere and closed school of thought promulgated by Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Najdi in the 18th century. [It discards] Islam's… four legal schools as corrupted… [whereas] traditional Somali religious scholars read all four schools of thought (madahib) with equal respect and open mind… Wahhabism, is the only school that compels its followers strictly to observe Islamic rituals, such as the five prayers, under pain of flogging, and for the enforcement of public morals to a degree unprecedented in the history of Islam… Where[as] Wahhabism sows hatred and rancor even among Moslems, Sufism preaches sulh-e kull (universal peace) and Mahabbat e-kull (universal love).

"The most conspicuous foot soldiers of Wahhabism are the moral police known as Mutawi'un, who roam in the streets like riot police and force people to perform rituals or adhere to Wahhabism's code of decency in dressing and other mannerisms. [This] religious police… forced a group of schoolgirls to their deaths by forcing them to go back to an inferno that had been their school. Their crime? Forgetting the head coverings in their haste to save themselves…

"This is the Wahhabism that the Saudi-oriented clerics want to impose on Somaliland. This is the sect that produced 15 of the 19 suicide bombers of Sept. 11... It is a closed [mindset] that turned Islam into a fragile creed that lives in constant fear of children's toys and games such as Barbie dolls and Pokemon… This is the brand of distorted Islam that the neo-Muslim clerics want to enforce on our people. They want to tell us that over the LAST 14 CENTURIES, our people have been practicing the wrong religion; that since the dawn of Islam, Somali people had lived in vain, worshipped in vain and died in vain…"

Wahhabism Seeks the Repression of Women, and of All Beauty

"These people are out to eradicate our culture, our traditions, our songs, our poetry and our folklore dances. They brand our traditional children stories of Diin iyo Dacawo (dawaco), arrawelo and dheg-dheer as bawdy literature that has no place in the puritanical society that they aspire to build…

"For these fanatics, the breast of the countryside mother who suckles her baby while selling milk in the streets of Hargeisa is a sin, not motherhood as many of our ordinary souls would see it. It is this obsession with sex, this concept of viewing women only as an object of sex, created for man's libido relief, that turned women's body into a thing of shame… If we let them have their way, these prophets of 'purity' would soon be on a mission to destroy what has remained of our culture. The melodious voices of… of our women singers we will be history. The cassettes of their songs will be burned in the streets. Just remember Taliban. They want to edit, re-write and censor the treasures of Somali oral literature. Future generations will not be able to enjoy our beautiful folk dances…

"These fanatics are on a mission to eliminate co-education schools, shroud young girls and deprive them of their healthy childhood social interaction with boys. They want to bury them alive and teach them from an early age that the female body is an eyesore to public decency…

" The question is how far can we allow these fanatics to use OUR religion for THEIR own political goals? How long can we tolerate our identity to be ripped into pieces in the name of alien ideas? How much of our culture, our heritage and the reputation of our country and our religion are we ready to sacrifice before we act?

"These people love to live in the dark. They thrive on the silence of the unwilling intellectuals and the gullibility of the ignorant majority. They hide under the cloak of religion and scare people with their indiscriminate use of terms such as blasphemous, infidels, apostates, sacrilegious, atheists, westernized minds and many others. They use the available democratic atmosphere to herd us towards the abyss.

"One pertinent question that begs for an answer all the time is why is it that it is always those who fail in school or in life who turn to such religious extremism? One may wonder if the problem is one of lost self-esteem, an internal urge for revenge and a desire for power and domination. No wonder that women bear the brunt of their onslaught for enslavement, for what better way to regain their lost self-esteem than suppressing women and denying them the success that they themselves had failed to achieve…"

Wahhabism Must be Confronted Before It's Too Late

"It is time to tell these sick men that the bare breast of the woman suckling her child is not about pornography, but about motherhood. The girls and boys sitting next to each other in class are not indulging in a sex orgy, you demented paranoiacs, but enjoying a healthy educational environment. The girl walking in the street without a headcover and wearing a big smile is not about flirting; it is about beauty of life. The woman holding a lively conversation with a male friend in a coffee house or a shopping mall is not about illicit affairs; it is about a much-needed human relationship and a healthy exchange of intellectual ideas. The woman wearing the traditional diric and hagoog and regally strolling in the street is not about indecency but about culture. The nightingale voices of our female singers are not about eroticism, you philistines, but about art, music and enjoyment of one of God's marvelous gifts… " It is time we have to speak out. If we don't do it today, we won't be able to do it tomorrow. Because there will be no tomorrow as our country descends into 7th century Arabia."

[1] Addis Tribune (Ethiopia), November 21, 2003, "Against the Saudization of Somaliland." To read the article in full, please visit .

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