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View Full Version : For Somalia Chaos Breeds Religious War - ''Islamist'' vs. ''Islamist''



Intisar
05-24-2009, 03:16 PM
:sl:

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: May 23, 2009
DUSA MARREB, Somalia — From men of peace, the Sufi clerics suddenly became men of war.


Their shrines were being destroyed. Their imams were being murdered. Their tolerant beliefs were under withering attack.

So the moderate Sufi scholars recently did what so many other men have chosen to do in anarchic Somalia: they picked up guns and entered the killing business, in this case to fight back against the Shabab, one of the most fearsome extremist Muslim groups in Africa.

“Clan wars, political wars, we were always careful to stay out of those,” said Sheik Omar Mohamed Farah, a Sufi leader. “But this time, it was religious.”

In the past few months, a new axis of conflict has opened up in Somalia, an essentially governmentless nation ripped apart by rival clans since 1991. Now, in a definitive shift, fighters from different clans are forming alliances and battling one another along religious lines, with deeply devout men on both sides charging into firefights with checkered head scarves, assault rifles and dusty Korans.

It is an Islamist versus Islamist war, and the Sufi scholars are part of a broader moderate Islamist movement that Western nations are counting on to repel Somalia’s increasingly powerful extremists. Whether Somalia becomes a terrorist incubator and a genuine regional threat — which is already beginning to happen, with hundreds of heavily armed foreign jihadists flocking here to fight for the Shabab — or whether this country finally steadies itself and ends the years of hunger, misery and bloodshed may hinge on who wins these battles in the next few months.

“We’re on terra incognito,” said Rashid Abdi, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit group that tries to prevent deadly conflicts. “Before, everything was clan. Now we are beginning to see the contours of an ideological, sectarian war in Somalia for the first time, and that scares me.”

For two years, Islamist insurgents waged a fierce war against Somalia’s transitional government and the thousands of Ethiopian troops protecting it. In January, the insurgents seemed to get what they wanted: the Ethiopians pulled out; an unpopular president walked away; and moderate Islamists took the helm of the internationally recognized transitional government of Somalia, raising hopes for peace.

But since then, the verdict on the moderates has been mixed. In the past two weeks, the Shabab have routed government forces in Mogadishu, the capital. The tiny bit of the city the government controls is shrinking, block by block, and Ethiopian troops have once again crossed the border and are standing by. As many as 150 people have been killed, and the relentless mortar fire has spawned streams of shellshocked civilians trudging into the arid countryside, where they face the worst drought in a decade.

If Mogadishu falls, Somalia will be dragged deeper into the violent morass that the United Nations, the United States and other Western countries have tried hard to stanch, and the country will fragment even further into warring factions, with radical Islamists probably on top.

But out here, on the wind-whipped plains of Somalia’s central region, it is a different story. The moderates are holding their own, and the newly minted Sufi militia is about the only local group to go toe-to-toe with the Shabab and win.

The several-hundred-square-mile patch of central Somalia that the Sufis control is not nearly as strategic as Mogadishu. But the Sufis have achieved what the transitional government has not: grass-roots support, which explains how they were able to move so quickly from a bunch of men who had never squeezed a trigger before — a rarity in Somalia — into a cohesive fighting force backed by local clans.

Many Somalis say that the Sufi version of Islam, which stresses tolerance, mysticism and a personal relationship with God, is more congruent with their traditions than the ******* Islam espoused by the Shabab, which calls for strict separation of the sexes and harsh punishments like amputations and stonings.

“We see the Sufis as part of us,” said Elmi Hersi Arab, an elder in the battered central Somalia town of Dusa Marreb. “They grew up here.”

The Sufis also tapped into an anti-Shabab backlash. The Shabab, who recruit from all clans, and, according to American officials, are linked to Al Qaeda, controlled Dusa Marreb for the better part of last year. Residents described that period as a reign of terror, with the Shabab assassinating more than a dozen village elders and even beheading two women selling tea.

“We respected the Shabab for helping drive out the Ethiopians,” said one woman in Dusa Marreb who asked not to be identified for safety reasons. “But when the Ethiopians left and the Shabab kept the war going, that to us didn’t make sense.”

Page 2 of 2)

The Sufis, a loosely organized, religious brotherhood, also drawing from many different clans, had studiously avoided getting gummed up in Somalia’s back-and-forth clan battles, often no more than thin cover for power struggles between businessmen and warlords. But in November, Sheik Omar said, the Shabab shot dead several Sufi students. The next month, the Shabab tore apart Sufi shrines.

A spike of panic shot through the Sufi schools, where young men like Siyad Mohammed Ali were studying Islamic philosophy. “We had never told the Shabab how to worship,” he said. “But now we were under attack.”

Men like Mr. Siyad became the backbone of the new Sufi militia, which got a crate of AK-47s from one set of clan elders or a sputtering armored truck from another. In December, the Sufis, whose organization is called Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama, which roughly translates as the followers of the Prophet Muhammad, drove the Shabab out of Dusa Marreb. Since then, the Sufis have defended their territory several times against Shabab incursions.

Hassan Sheik Mohamud, the dean of a college in Mogadishu, said the rise of the Sufis was “absolutely, totally new historically.”

“They had a reputation for being peaceful,” he said.

The Sufis are loosely allied to the transitional government, which has promised to rule Somalia with some form of Islamic law. The president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, is a bit of an enigma, coming from a long line of Sufi clerics, yet rising to power in 2006 as part of an Islamist alliance with a decidedly ******* bent. He has said that he wants women to play an important role in government, but several prominent Somali women said that during a recent meeting, he would not look them in the eye.

Many Somalis say that Sheik Sharif is making the same mistake his predecessors made, spending more time riding around foreign capitals in a Mercedes than working Mogadishu’s streets to cultivate local allies.

Out here, the Sufis are moving ahead with their own small administration, meeting with United Nations officials and running patrols. At night, in a circle under a tree, they rest their AK-47s on their Korans, drop their foreheads to the earth and pray.

“We have jihad, too,” said Sheik Omar, a tall man with a long beard and warm eyes. “But it’s inner jihad, a struggle to be pure.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/wo...r=1&ref=africa

Video: http://video.nytimes.com/video/2009/...he-shabab.html
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Trumble
05-24-2009, 04:06 PM
Is it really that difficult for all these supposedly religious people to just put away their guns, sit down and talk? imsad
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Intisar
05-24-2009, 04:25 PM
Originally Posted by Trumble
Is it really that difficult for all these supposedly religious people to just put away their guns, sit down and talk? imsad
They don't want to, they don't care about the civilian casualties it's just a power-struggle. Although I do commend Ash-Shabab for destroying the graves that people worshipped, I don't support their so-called ''cause''.

The people are tired of this, they've taken out the Ethiopians, so why are they still fighting? All of these factions want the same thing, shar'iah law, so why can't they come to an agreement?

I just particularly disliked how the NY times were trying to divide, making the ''sufis'' look all ''moderate and good'' whilst Ash-Shabab were seen as ''extremists''. Trying to form opinions for people. :rollseyes
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Dawud_uk
05-25-2009, 07:29 AM
Originally Posted by Ameena*
They don't want to, they don't care about the civilian casualties it's just a power-struggle. Although I do commend Ash-Shabab for destroying the graves that people worshipped, I don't support their so-called ''cause''.

The people are tired of this, they've taken out the Ethiopians, so why are they still fighting? All of these factions want the same thing, shar'iah law, so why can't they come to an agreement?

I just particularly disliked how the NY times were trying to divide, making the ''sufis'' look all ''moderate and good'' whilst Ash-Shabab were seen as ''extremists''. Trying to form opinions for people. :rollseyes
:sl:

if these people will not allow the graves to be levelled and will not stop their shirk and calling others to it whilst they still claim islam, what is the answer to this in your view?

:sl:
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Thinker
05-25-2009, 08:54 AM
Come on guys there must be some way we can blame it on the west!
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Dawud_uk
05-25-2009, 08:59 AM
Originally Posted by Thinker
Come on guys there must be some way we can blame it on the west!
thinker, lets face it the west doesnt miss an opportunity to do down a rival way of life but all the problems in the muslim lands are ultimately the fault of the muslims for allowing ourselves to become so weak in our faith.

once we return to islam then we the west wont have it so easy playing the old divide and rule game with us, picking off the stragglers.
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Thinker
05-25-2009, 12:46 PM
Originally Posted by Dawud_uk
thinker, lets face it the west doesnt miss an opportunity to do down a rival way of life but all the problems in the muslim lands are ultimately the fault of the muslims for allowing ourselves to become so weak in our faith.

once we return to islam then we the west wont have it so easy playing the old divide and rule game with us, picking off the stragglers.
You are right in saying that Muslims should take responsibility for their own position, no society has ever succeeded in any form of progress by moaning about their lot and blaming someone else for their plight.

In terms of your answer – a return to Islam, the problem with that theory is that Islam is divided by many differing interpretations and it involves people and people will always find a reason to disagree with their neighbours and they will always find a reason that justifies harming their neighbour. To get everybody (or at least all Muslims) to believe in and strictly adhere exactly and in detail to the same interpretation of Islam would require the sort of controls seen in societies like that of North Korea and even then there’ll always be some free thinkers.

The answer to places like Somalia and northern Pakistan is for the Muslim world to unite in condemning all those disparate armed groups who are killing themselves (suicide bombers) and others and excommunicate them. The reasons that doesn’t and will not happen is the same reasons why you will never attain your goal described above (IMHO).
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Dahir
05-25-2009, 06:41 PM
To clarify, its a bit more complicated and strangely a bit more simple than the article.

Its Islamists (Salafis, Al-Shabaab group) vs. political opportunists (clan militias-turned-Sufis & gov't-aligned "Islamic Courts" militia).

The only genuine Islamist militia is Al-Shabaab, which has roots going back several decades and has been attempting to get a foothold in Somalia since 1992. The others are pretenders trying to take advantage of the political climate, which has become a climate of religious struggle rather than a clan struggle.
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