19 May 2007 04:31


  • [SW Column] (Burhan alas ) The Roots of the (Somali) Crisis  :Posted on 1 Feb 2003

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of SW.

The Roots of the (Somali) Crisis

 Show all headersabdirahman alas <bnalas@yahoo.com>



Any critical barbs against the crisis in Somalia create controversy and clash of opinions (doves Vs hawks).  In essence, the controversy is reflection of the weight and gravity of the society's colossal disintegration, and not the anachronistic view around clan jingoism.  The issue per se is emphatically sensitive and complex as it embodies the myriad social problems that constitute the intricate and extensive cultural, psychological, ethical, and intellectual disintegration of our society.  Our discourses are inordinately attached to the ignoble outcome of this societal degeneration, which further augment the searing reactionary clan jingoism, rather than presenting healthy mitigating circumstances. This article is just a glimpse to the past, to plausibly present some historical relevance to the matter concisely and chronologically through different lenses.  We came to know the rise and fall of past civilizations through the lessons of history.  The historical conflicts that devastated the most pious generation of the nation of Islam (The Companions of Prophet Mohamed � pbuh) had been recorded in detailed discourse.  The intention was not to expose ignominy, blame one group while exonerating the other, but to educate the future generations, so they would become morally and psychologically well prepared to avoid similar pitfalls and attain strong leadership qualities.  My intention for presenting this discourse is in harmony with this principle.  


The ideological doctrine that shaped the cultural transformation of the pagan Somali tribes in the first place, from dispersed, hostile troglodytes to a cultured society that shared strong moral values that promote peace, unity, freedom, fraternity, and alliance was not nationalism, capitalism, socialism, and/or secularism, but Islam.  Under the guidance of Islam, people understood the essence of freedom, which is liberation of human kind from the servitude of man to the one of Allah alone.  Through this understanding, clan genealogy being part of our culture, our society had embarked upon the long arduous struggle from Ahmed Gurey to SYL that culminated in the formation of the sovereign Somali state.  The gist of this discourse is to highlight the relation between three salient factors pertinent to the demise of our nation -  Western influence, obliteration of Islamic ethics, and the social crisis developed out of the two. 


Somalia's colossal disintegration did not commence with the catastrophic civil war of 1991, but has some historical footprints that can be traced back to the era even before the independence.  We can divide the life span of this regressive process into three separate epochs, each being the breeding ground for the subsequent one. Each period had crisis relative to the degree of perversion the society had accepted to veer away from its moral and cultural integrity.  The disease that had affected the society was the moral decadency caused by the destructive culture inherited from the colonial rulers and their audacity for supremacy over all other cultures.  The Policy of Assimilation, Divide and Rule of then, now under the rubric of The New World Order were the true axis of evil that the Muslim societies in general succumbed to.  All Muslim countries have identical social problems as a result of this ignominious defeat.  Somalia is in the bottom of the pecking order, but all are en route to the same destination unless remedy is found for this plague.    


Obliteration of the Shariah (Islamic law) was the very epitome of the crisis in the Muslim world. The Islamic Shariah is divine law, which has much wider scope and purpose than the man-made legal system which derives its provisions only from human intelligence.  The aim at imposing the Shariah is rendering justice and guiding the entire human society to the path of peace, free from the evils of criminality and human exploitation.  The Ottoman Empire, the then emblematic of the Islamic Caliphate was the first to succumb to the influence of the Western supremacy (legal system) in the 19th century delivered through propaganda campaign, which depicted the Shariah as a barbaric system of law, unfit for the modern age. This false and illusive ! ! propaganda had caught the imagination of the tyrant Muslim rulers and Muslim elites brainwashed by the Western culture.  The consequence was the ubiquitous devastation (injustice, corrupt regimes, poverty, diseases, high illiteracy, misuse of resources, civil wars, mass migrations, etc) across all Muslim countries. 


In the early days of the political struggle under the banner of the SYL, the Somalis were far less educated than they are now (may be the total literate people were even less than our current so-called PhD holders), destitute, uncivilized in the Western norms, but morally sound.  All these impediments did not hinder our society from choosing the right leadership.  Islam admonishes violation of responsibilities and stipulates clear guidelines on the criteria for choosing proper leadership;  compliant with this principle,  leadership positions were refrained from in fear of the enormity of the responsibility.  This healthy! ! pragmatism had encouraged the appointment of leaders of deep insight, honest, God-fearing, forthright, sincere men of integrity.  The rapport with this tradition of high moral standard survived until early 60's. 


In 1960, Somalia was a fully independent state. The south and north joined to form the Somali Republic with the vision to a greater Somalia.  That was the beginning of the first epoch (1960 - 1969).   Without critically examining the negative consequences, the greatest mistake made was accepting canons, policies, and political system emerged from European cultures and city-states of thousand years old.  That European system was not only unrealistic for a 99% rural population of African culture to adopt but was morally wrong, as it sanctimoniously ruled out the Islamic Shariah.  This was the turning point of the downfall. Within very short period of time, civility and modernity in the Western term of the word has opened doors of crises.  Gale of mistrust and uncertainty has swept from coast to coast.  Military officers from the ex-Somaliland attempted a coup in 1991 to secede from the Republic.  The trust and believability has been replaced by greed and distrust.  Competition for power and fierce political campaigning similar to those in the West has replaced the one motivated by the ethics inherited from Islam.  Leaders whose vision was not beyond the gaieties of the world and personal greed came to power.  Practices of corruption, favoritism, and nepotism started to be visible. The assassination of Dr. Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the second and last freely elected president of Somalia shocked the nation in 1969.  It was apparent that the alien system was dysfunctional, the decline was also discernible, but the society failed to acknowledge the problem let alone to foresee solutions. 


 A coup de'tat  led by General Mohamed Siad Barre started a new epoch from 1969 to 1991.  Things changed from bad to worst.  It was an Era of dictatorship, corruption, nepotism, favoritism, fear, intimidation, terrorization, tyranny, repression, incarceration, and brain drain.  As for the repression, it was parallel to the era of Stalin in Russia as the system imposed on the people was also Communism. Ethics and Islamic theology came under perpetual attacks, the divine book (Ouran) was reprimanded as impracticable.  Debauchery and diabolical practices aimed to abate Islamic values were enforced by the communist regime. In short, the current menace is the product of this reign of terror.  The Somali society had to survive through the Scylla of Westernization and the Charybdis of Communism.  


From 1991 to the present day, is the epoch of lawlessness and anarchism.  Unprecedented social mores that thunderstruck the whole world has emerged.  Despite the shameful atrocities committed in the name of clan, the worst problem that became a chronic malady is the issue of mistrust emanating from a reservoir of hatred.  This is the effect of the moral sickness that had permeated to the social fabrics of the society. What is mystifying about this syndrome is the fact that even organized Islamic movements that had survived the vicious assaults of the communist regime were not able to resist this sickness.  The demise of Al-Itihad Al-Islami is one good example.  Many people might think that Al-Itihad is still existent, but in reality the organization has been demolished by the same myopic mentality that had destroyed our state.  Since the brutal dictator was from Darood clan, USC's rhetoric which rendered its war against the regime as legitimate raids against Darood people has caught the imagination of many influential members among Al-Itihad.  These individuals created commotion with the intention to dismantle the organization.  Al-Islah, another prominent religious group, rival of Al-Itihad due to ideological frictions, capitalized on the opportunity and waged a fervent propaganda which rebuked Al-Itihad a violent organization dominated by Darood.  At the end, crisis developed from these commotions dismantled the organization physically and spiritually.  


A recent political remark enunciated by Al-Hajj, Sheikh Sudi Yalahow, in which he claimed that his clan has indisputable legitimacy for the Somali presidency astounded many people. I did not agree with him principally, but I was delighted with his courage and sincerity  to speak of his conviction.   It was a remark that can be used as a barometer and a point of departure towards resolving our crises.  It is very clear that we would not be able to resolve our problems by pursuing the same trend that led us to the abysmal devastation in the first place.   The divine guidance that had elevated our standard was a favor from Allah.  We did not appreciate that favor, then the Almighty God has deprived us of that privilege.  A verse from the Qur`an states. If you become thankful (to my  favors) I will increase them for you, but if you deny them, indeed my punishment is severe.   Islam will prevail and the evil forces will falter, that is the promise of Allah the creator and caretaker of this universe. 



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