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  • [SW Country](WIC - Al-Hayat ) Somalia Between the Fire of the United States, The Allegations of Bin Laden and the Obscurity Of “El Itihad El Islami” (Islamic Union) - Part V and Last  :Posted on [31 Dec 2001]

Somalia Between the Fire of the United States, The Allegations of Bin Laden and the Obscurity Of “El Itihad El Islami” (Islamic Union)   Part V and Last   

Part 1     part 2     part 3   part 4

WIC December 25, 2001

By Youssef Khazim Al-Hayat News paper
December 15, 2001  

Islamic Movements in Somalia : Their Origin, Configuration & Role in the Civil War

The December 24 episode I surveyed the development of El Itihad El Islami (Islamic Union) movement in Somalia, its activity across the borders inside Ethiopia and its relationship with the current transitional government. Quoting  Hussein Aidid, the son of the leader of the Somali National Alliance, General/Mohamed Fareh I have stated that his father coorperated with the Americans prior to their landing in Mogadishu by the end of 1992, and that he had warned them of the escalation in the activity of El Qaeda organization and the Union movement in Somalia.

He also considered the United Nation’s second operation in Somalia (UNOSOM-2) to have committed a mistake in disarming the National Alliance south of the country and withdrawing its forces therefrom, that led to the return of the forces of the Union after his father had forced them out from this area.

In this same episode I reviewed the relationship between the current transitional government and the Islamic Union which declared in 1997 its decision to abandon military actions and to seek power by supporting any Islamic leader who undertakes to declare the Somali Islamic Republic .

In the last episode today, there will be a documentary review of some of the most recognized Islamic movements and schools in Somalia; their origin and configuration.

The Islamic groups and movements were not actually active at the beginning in Somalia. They became active immediately after the eruption of the civil war following the overthrowing the regime of Mohamed Siad Berry in early 1991, where there were no Islamic groups in the country organized as in an establishment constituting trends of having supporters or a popular base in a country where 99% of its population are Muslims (around six million), all affiliated to El Shafe’i Doctrine.

This Muslim community never witnessed religious disputes or tendencies towards extremism prior to the war, where the tribal tendency which is predominant to date prevailed over the communal configuration.

Subsequent to the downfall of the regime of President Berry and the eruption of chaos in Mogadishu, the traditional Islamic movements continued their activity quietly to spread the call and to appeal to Somalis to dissociate from the militias. Then new religious groups appeared such as the Islamic Union and the Muslim Brotherhood after operating clandestinely, and the call to impose the Islamic Law (Shari’a) started after establishing their own militias. The Union group  controlled Merca port south of Mogadishu and started to buy arms. After the advent of the American troops to the capital in December 1992 the forces of the Union retreated to Wadgeer, Louk, Baldhawa, El Waq and Dalw cities in Ghadw region south of Somalia kilometers south of Mogadishu.

The lack of accord, and the failure of the political process and the traditional Islamic movements encouraged support for attempts to implement the Islamic Law (Shari’a) officially in the coming government. This came as a reaction to the 22 years of rule of Siad Berry who assumed power through military coup d’etat in 1969 and adopted scientific socialism as an ideology to rule a country with a tribal configuration. He ordered the arrest of tens of religious men and Mosques’ Imams and ordered their killing during his reign, especially at the beginning of the seventies.

But the lack of experience and the political experiment for the pioneers requesting the implementation of the Shari’a in a country where its people are originally Muslims led to a kind of confusion between tribal and clan interests, individual interests and religion. This gave rise to the advent pure religious groups calling for the ratification of the Shari’a in to the law of the country. At the same time, not all tribal political organizations rejected the implementation of the Shari’a.

All of a sudden we find these organizations practicing the most horrible acts of killing during the war; and out of them emerged armed gangs practicing burglary and looting to finance military operation actions. They also practiced tribal killings. The Somalis were as a result of all this onfused about the meaning of Shari’a given the rampant armed robbery and tribal fighting.

This confusion increased following the emergence of the Islamic Union which was led at the beginning of the war by Sheikh/Aly Warsama whose forces launched in May 1992 a military attack  north of the country and seized the port of Busasso from the forces of the Democratic Front for the solution of Somalia (Mogereteen Tribe), then also seized in September of the same year the port of Lass Kerry which is 90 kilometers away from Busasso.

Other Islamic groups attempted to seize the port of Merca (95 kilometers south of Mogadishu) in October 1992. After such incidents the Somalis started to view Islamic groups and tribal organizations as being the same, although the objectives of Islamists were completely different from those of tribesmen. The Islamic groups during the war lost the loyalty of the majority of the population whose social configuration prevailed over their tribal characteristics. Accordingly, each of the armed factions attracted the of its tribe to its side, while Islamic groups were able to create a distinct elite in the community whose number was less than the supporters of tribal organizations, but were more organized, disciplined and effective even military terms.

Following is a review of the most prominent Islamic schools, movements and organizations most of which emerged during the civil war; the majority of which do not exist anymore or have merged into other movements.

Muslim Brotherhood :

These groups are active politically and militarily under several names among which are “Haraket El Eslah” (Reform Movement) and “El Haraka El Islamia” (Islamic Movement), in addition to its original  name “Muslim Brotherhood”. It has members in the current transitional parliament and had ministers who sympathized with it in the transitional government which was dissolved last month.

This group receives huge aid from the international organization of the “Brotherhood”, most of which arrives from some Gulf states, especially Kuwait where it has collected huge amounts of money.

The group runs a private Islamic university in the Somali capital called Mogadishu University. Its curriculum includes mainly profound Islamic and social studies. It has a branch in north Somalia where the Republic of the Land of Somalia which was declared by one side since 1991 exists, and it also has a center for African studies. It launched the National Reconciliation Council during the war.

The actual leader of this group is the president of Mogadishu University Dr/Aly Sheikh Abu Bakr. It had a spiritual leader, Sheikh/Mohamed Nour Ghariry (the man with the small beard) who was the director of the Islamic affairs in the first government of Somalia after its independence in 1961 which was headed by Dr/Abdallah El Rashid Shermarky. The president of the state at that time was Abdallah Othman.

In the first days of assuming power by Colonel/Mohamed Siad Berry by a coup d’etat in 1969, Sheikh/Ghariry was dismissed from his post. He traveled to the Gulf where he worked as an expert for the Islamic call in the African Horn for several years before settling in Canada where he used to receive donations from elements of the group and their supporters in the United States to send them to Somalia. This was carried out through the humanitarian “Gameyet El Rahma” (Mercy Society) which used to publish a weekly periodical under the name “Daska” (the People).

The Islamic trend of the Muslim Brotherhood group in Somalia is considered more of traditional than a Shafe’i Doctrine which is followed by the majority of Somalis. In addition, the majority of those belonging to the Brotherhood group in Somalia were members of the Muslim clerics Scientists Congregation which was headed by late Sheikh/ Mohamed Moalem Hassan who was the spiritual leader of the group Somali style, and who was imprisoned by president Berry for 12 years along with the current president of the “Republic of the Land of Somalia” Mohamed Ibrahim Okal.

Muslim clerics Congregation :

This is a congregation that includes most prominest religious clerics and men. The majority of its members belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Congregation tries to bring all Islamic groups under one framework divorced from the directions pursued by each one of them. It does not believe in using force in any of the local disputes.

Its significance emerged as a religious popular movement. It issues religious opinions (fatwa) and manages a large number of mosques and Islamic schools for propagating Islamic teachings. Its president Sheikh/Mohamed Moalem Hassan died last year and no new president has been appointed since then. Among its most prominent members are Sheikh/Ibrahim Souly and Sheikh/Aly Hagy Youssef.

Somali Islamic Party :

The late Sheikh/Mohamed Moalem Hassan was a member of this party; and also headed the Muslim clerics Congregations. The Islamic Party is distinguished for its flexibility over its positions on political issues in the country and its disapproval of engaging in military engagements against any of the other Somali factions. It considers the adoption of the Holy Koran and the Islamic Law as the only solution to the crisis in the country.

“El Itihad El Islami” (Islamic Union) Movement :

This is an ancient struggle movement that includes among its ranks beside elements from the Brotherhood, numerous Islamic groups. It is considered as the strongest Islamic movement militarily. It is distinguished for including among its ranks elements from the tribes as well. It is widespread allover the country, especially in the southern areas, and has supporters in the Republic of the Land of Somalia and Bont Land in Ghadw region to the south. It receives its financial aid mainly from its supporters in the Gulf states.

Sheikh/Aly Warsama was its leader at the start of the war, and among its leaders at that time was Abdallah Eissio El Sheikh. Its most prominent leader currently is Sheikh/Dhaher Eweiss who headed one of the Islamic Courts in Mogadishu. He was a colonel in the Prison Guard Corps and belongs to Habergader branch from Hawia.

“El Eslah El Islami” (Islamic Reform) Movement :

This movement with its center in Magadishu is led by Sheikh/Mohamed Aly Ibrahim Dessouky. It owns a small military force and was not involved in the battles in the country.

“El Tableegh El Islami” (Islamic Conveyance) Movement :

This is an organization without a leader nor a political program. It is led by a group of young people, and it only seeks to teach people the fundamentals of Islam without dealing with discussions on the political issues of the country. It does not believe in force to solve the disputes between Muslims. It approves the field get together as a system through which, where it organizes its cadres into groups that are spread in cities and villages, visiting places where Somalis spent their leisure time chewing kat, watching movies or playing cards or backgammon. Members of the Conveyance movement incite Somalis to come to mosques instead of spending their times in non-beneficial entertainments. They urge women to wear the veil.

The programs of the Conveyance group are confined to teaching Somalis the Holy Koran and the Islamic Law (Shari’a), and to train callers to propagate Islamic teachings in all Somalia. The group’s main source of finance is the Pakistani Islamic Societies. The majority of its members are distinguished by wearing the Pakistani apparel. Observers attribute this to being influenced by their financiers among the Islamic societies in Pakistan. Members of this group are known for distancing themselves from discussing any of the local or foreign political issues, and confining all their work to religious issues.

“Ahl El Sunna Wal Gammaa” People of the Sunna and Group :

This group is considered one of the oldest Islamic groups in the country. It calls for implementing the Islamic Law and owns a small military force, but did not take direct part in the tribal and partisan battles which erupted in the country. It was led during the war by Imam/Abdel Nasser Sheikh who is a supporter of the Somali National Alliance under the leadership of Eng/Hussein Aidid.

The group held an extraordinary meeting in April 1993 in which it elected General/Aidid as its Imam. However, he declined by saying “It is a big religious responsibility, the obligations of which I cannot fulfill beside my responsibilities in the National Alliance. Among its most distinguished leaders was also Sheikh/Abdel Razek.

During the fierce battles between the forces of the United Nation’s second operation in Somalia (UNOSOM-2) in June and July 1993 the Group issued statements inviting the Somalis to fight against the forces of UNOSOM and criticized the foreign intervention.

El Kadereya :

It is considered among the oldest Sufi groups in Africa. It rejects all new Islamic schools. Among its most prominent leaders in Somalia was Hagy Abdallah Ghafo who says that the new Islamic groups teach people Arabic culture and not the Islamic faith, and accuses most leaders of Islamic movements with launching political programs for their movements that serve their interests in order to assume power. These programs include wrong teachings about Islam; and in essence consequently, they are not better than the atheist communists.

El Kadereya group has no military wing and it was not involved in the struggle for power in the country. It considers the solution for the crisis as being the ratification of the Islamic Law (Shari’a) as the governing system. It was basically spread in south of the country where its call started through Sheikh/Eweiss in Bakoul Region more than one hundred years ago. This group has followers in north of the country as well, which was led by Sheikh/Matar Ahmed.

In Somalia there are other Sufi schools which are considered the source from which the Islamic movements emerged. Among such schools are the Zeeleya school which is part of El Saleheya and El Takfeer Wal Hegra (Redemption & Emigration) groups which is considered one of the strong and formidable movements, because the majority of its members are merchants. There are also several other movements for old thinking but they are neither effective nor influential.

Somalian Hezbollah (God’s Party) :

A group of Muslim students declared the establishment of this party in Mogadishu on June 2, 1996 and they mentioned in a statement that was distributed in the capital that the party aims at fighting the elements opposing Islam in the country.

Islamic figures have mentioned to Al Hayat at that time that the attack which was launched by fighters affiliated to the leader of the Somali National Alliance General/Mohamed Fareh Aidid on the Islamic Solidarity mosque in the middle of Mogadishu on April 8 of the same year hastened the formation of this party.

General/Aidid announced publicly his opposition to the Islamic Courts which were supported by his adversary in the northern half of Mogadishu Aly Mahdy Mohamed, the leader of the Alliance for the solution Somalia, but Aidid himself invited religious men after one month from the establishment of Hezbollah to arrange for the implementation of the provisions of the Islamic Law in the country. However, he was killed in the following month during a battle that took place in Mogadishu in August 1996. During his reign no Islamic Courts were established in the southern half which he controlled.

Unity of Islamic Youth :

It is led by El Sayed Hassan Abdel Salam, and its activity is concentrated in the National Somalian University, and is active in Mogadishu in particular. It has no known military activity.

Independent Muslims :

Their most prominent leader is Mufti Sheikh/Sherif Abdel Nour who was a lecturer at the National University of Somalia, and is active in Mogadishu in particular. He has no military activity worth mentioning.

The Alliance of the Unified Islamic Tribes :

It was established in April 1999 and included four Islamic tribal congregations in the southern half of Mogadishu under the leadership of Sheikh/Hassan Mohamed Eddy who belonged to a branch of Habergader Tribe from Haeya Tribe. He declared at the start of its establishment that he seeks to put an end to the chaos that prevailed in big Bakara Market in the capital which witnessed a rise in the rate of armed burglary and theft at that time.

 

.........   Part 1     part 2    part 3   part 4


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