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Civil Islamism in Somalia

Civil Islamism in Somalia

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This is an interview of Mr. Harun Maruf of VOA Somali Service.
This is an interview of Mr. Harun Maruf of VOA Somali Service.

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Published by: DrAbdurahman A Baadiyow on Mar 30, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Civil Islamism in Somalia:An Interview with Dr. Abdurahman M. Abdullahi (Baadiyow)By
 Harun Maruf, VOA Somali Service
February 16, 2012There are plenty of media reports and highlights on the Islamic extremists and Jihadists inSomalia. However, the growing role of civil Islamism is less reported and known. TheVoice of America Somali Service recently posed a series of questions during an onlineinterview with Dr. Abdurahman M. Abdullahi (Baadiyow), an Islamic scholar, prominentleader of the Islah (Reform) Movement in Somalia and former presidential candidate of 2012. The interview was designed to shed light on civil Islamism, a non-violent Islamicmovement and in particular the Islah movement. Among the topics discussed are thehistorical background of civil Islamism, the role of Islamic organizations after the statecollapse, Islah’s model of civil Islamism and its major achievements, tensions betweencivil Islamism and extremist Islamism, Islah’s model of Islamic government and the roleof Islah in current government.
1. When did the rise of civil Islam start in Somalia and how?
 In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Peaceful propagation of Islamwas a general trend in the history of Somalia with the exception of a short-lived armedstruggle against colonialism. In the modern era, the first Islamic organization began itsactivities in 1950s, when Islamic awareness and consciousness had grown along with therise of Somali nationalism and struggle for independence in 1950s. However at the end of 1960s, proto-Muslim Brotherhood organizations appeared on the scene, such as al-Ahli,al-Wahdah and Al-Nahdah. These organizations confronted the ideology of socialism of the military regime through extensive Islamic propagation influencing the younggenerations who had challenged socialist indoctrination. After the execution of theIslamic scholars and incarcerating of many of them in 1975, hundreds of young Islamistsfled the country and joined Islamic universities in Arab world, in particular Saudi Arabia,1
Sudan and Egypt. At the end of 1970s, graduates from the Islamic universities in theArab world formed organizations such as Islah Al-Itihad. Other smaller organizationsalso began to emerge. All Islamic organizations began as civil Islamism; however, after the collapse of the state in 1991, some of them opted for militancy.
2. Could you talk about the role of Islamic organizations in state collapse/peacebuilding in the last 20-plus years in Somalia?
As you know, during the military regime that ruled Somalia (1969-1991), Islamicorganizations and political parties were totally outlawed. Nonetheless, oppositions of theregime were actively operating underground mobilizing people in the name of clan andIslam. In the early 1970s, the general trend of Islamism in Somalia was inspired byMuslim brotherhood ideology. However, with the increased contact with the Islamicworld, other trends came into view in Somalia. In the early 1980s, two main Islamicorganizations -Islah Movement and al-Itihad al-Islami- became highly visible. These twoorganizations took different directions and strategies after the collapse of the state in1991. For instance, Islah opted for peace promotion, reconciliation and social services, particularly in the education sector. On the other hand, Al-Itihad became militant andtried to establish “Islamic Emirates” in various regions of Somalia. The dream of Al-Itihad did not materialize and the organization had given up its militancy by 1997. Nevertheless, Islamic militancy re-emerged after 9/11 and the whole society was pushedtowards extremism, which ushered in new militant organizations including al-Shabab andHizbul-Islam. In general, the role of the Islamic organizations is visible in all sectors of life like politics, commerce, social services, education, health and reconciliation.3.
Talk about Islah’s model of civil Islamism and what has been the organization’sgreatest achievement?
Civil Islamism is one among many terminologies used to qualify modern Islamic trendsin the Western academia and media outlets. It signifies adherence to civil society2
 principles of non-violence and democratic values. It also implies a bottom-up andsociety-centered approach to religious and social issues. Accordingly, Islah as Islamicmovement inspired by Muslim Brotherhood ideology looks at Islam as a comprehensiveway of life. It was founded in 1978 in reaction to the defeat of Somalia in the Somali-Ethiopian war. It considers itself a part of Somali civil society organizations which promotes good governance, peaceful political engagement and commitment to theIslamic values. Its biggest achievement after the collapse of the state is in the field of education and national reconciliation. It had established various schools and universitiesin all regions of Somalia where hundred thousands of young Somalis were educatedduring the last 20 years. Moreover, Islah contributed immensely in the civil-society ledreconciliation conference held in Djibouti, 2000. Since then, political participation of Islah members has been growing.
4. What is Islah’s model of Islamic government?
There is no single model of state in Islam even though the ideal one is democratic modelof government provided that it complies with Islamic principles. Islam simply offers basic guidelines, principles, legislations, value system and ethics that should be promotedand used as reference. The state that complies with the general Islamic principles is called“Islamic state”. Every Muslim nation and community has the freedom and right toformulate its state and governance model that suits its environment with time and space.Somalia has no problem with the state model. It had already opted for democratic parliamentary system and current Somali Constitution abides by Islamic Shari’a. Themajor demand of all Islamic organizations has been met already in the constitutionmaking process; the remaining task is gradual implementation of constitution.5.
What do you see happening to the militancy Islam in Somalia? And is there goingto be more tension between civil Islamism and militancy Islam in Somalia?
As a general rule, Islamic militancy is the product of frustration and anger expressed inviolent ways. Militancy is not the true nature of Islam which is based on moderation and peace promotion. The use of the concept of “Jihad” as Islamic terminology in militants’3

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