Friday, December 31, 2004

Celebrating Christmas in the UAE: Haven for Cultural Harmony and Religious Tolerance
By Bashir Goth

On the occasion of Christmas, while sending e-mail greetings cards to my Christian friends around the world, I faced a dilemma. Should I use the traditional Merry Christmas or opt for the rather trendy and politically correct Season’s Greetings.

However, being a Muslim, I had the advantage of claiming ignorance and using either one with the expectation that my friends at the receiving end will understand it and appreciate such initiative coming from a Muslim. Either way it was a win-win situation for me. Read more on Addis Tribune, 31 Dec. 2004.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Thwarting the menace of Islamism in the Horn of Africa

By Bashir Goth

It is attributed to Jomo Kenyatta*, one of Africa’s finest sons, that the white man came to Africa with a gospel in hand to show the black people the God that dwelled in the heavens; and while the Africans were searching for God in the sky, the white man robbed their land.

Today in Somaliland and in Somalia, there are people who claim to have found a new God and a new religion other than the God and the religion that the Somalis have been worshipping and bowing to for centuries. Their aim is to make the unassuming populace busy looking for God in the sky, before they rob them of their rights and their freedoms.

The analogy may seem odd, but looking at it more carefully one can discern the truth of it is not far fetched. The white colonizers of Africa first sent the priest, a man of God who preached brotherhood, love and peace on earth. Once the nerves were numbed and fears mitigated, came the gun and brutality of human avarice – the covert agenda behind all ideological prologues of justice, equality and brotherhood.

The real irony, however, is that the victims of such stealthy onslaughts always emerge as the staunchest defenders of their victimizers because the propellers of such crusades are cleaver enough to always go for the hearts and minds of the poor, the naïve and the faithful.

It is along these lines that both Somaliland and Somalia are today under the grip of a horde of Wahhabi/Salafi Islamists who are on the march to re-convert Somalis to their newly-found Islam. The tragedy is that these neo-Muslims have not only made inroads into the fabric of the society but have exposed their menacing claws astonishingly to the inexplicable absence of any media focus with the exception of few unintended stories sometimes slipping through the gridlock, making their way to newswires and inside pages of newspapers but never to the banner headlines.

It was in one of these rare instances that Al Jamhuuriya, Somaliland’s oldest paper, reported on 20th October 2004 about a group of 65 Islamists who submitted an appeal to the Vice President’s office, asking him for the suspension of the reconstruction of the national theatre. According to the paper they described the theatre as a home of vice and obscenity, claiming that it was because of the vices and blasphemy that were taking place in the national theatre that brought God’s wrath on the people, referring to the destruction, genocides and suffering Somalilanders met in the hands of  the military dictatorship.

This is a shameful and a criminal attempt to absolve the former regime of committing any crimes and to discredit people’s struggle by trying to convince them that their suffering and plight were self-inflicted injuries that befell on them due to their deviation from God’s way. These Wahhabist/ Salafist prophets want to portray God as so petty, so philistine, so banal and stoic who is enraged and punishes people for going to concerts, enjoying music and whiling away their toil by dancing. This is their god and definitely not ours in whose Compassionate and Merciful attributes we invoke Him every day.

In another story, the Somalilander website Awdalnews Network reported on 16th Sept. 2004 about a group of Islamists calling themselves the Committee for the Promotion of virtue and Prevention of vice, a replica of Saudi Arabia’s moral police, asking the Mayor of Borama, capital of the Awdal region, Somaliland, permission to open a representative office in the town. They already have established their offices in most of the major towns of the country.

The same story of Awdalnews also reported about the convening of a three-day congregation of the Islamist Tabligh movement in Hargeisa on 15th September 2004 with delegations coming from all parts of Somaliland, Ethiopia and overseas. This was the third to be held in Hargeisa since 2002.

And if the recent arrest of the ring leaders of the terrorist Al Ittihad cells in Somaliland who killed foreign humanitarian workers in the country, could be taken as a sign, one can see how entrenched these people are into the fabric of the society. As it is now known the two terrorists had real professions, one working as a pharmacist and the other as the manager of a telecommunications company in Buroa.

This speaks volumes of the grip the Islamists have on the economy of the country. Thanks to foreign financing from Islamic brotherhoods around the world they own the bulk of the country’s business, they run Madrasas where they teach their venom in every town and village of the country, they control our telecommunications, their long-robed, long-bearded moral brigands patrol the streets and denude our unsuspecting mothers, sisters and daughters with their prurient looks and tyrannize them under the guise of religious purity. Affirming their grip on the economy, education and dominating mosques’ pulpits, they now want to go for the last bastion of our nation’s soul and identity, our refuge at times of suffering and plight. They want to deprive us of one of our last freedoms, the right to sing. They want to silence our music and our poetry, smash our centuries-old drums, break our mandolins, slit the throats of our female singers (already one of our nightingales Marwo Mohammed was stoned to death in Hargeisa in the early 1990s) and deny us to reconstruct our spiritual shrines – our theatres. Just remember Taliban’s religious lunatics destroying the historical sculptures of Bamian and denying people to laugh. 

Somalis know through their age-old culture that life without singing is dull, dreary and not worth living at all. As Africans music is in their blood. Everywhere and on every occasion they sing. They like to while away the toil of life with songs, drums and music. They sing in the fields when tilling the land, at wells when watering animals, in the ranges when grazing their animals. Even their beasts and their livestock, their cows and their camels, their goats and their sheep comprehend and lull to the whistle, tunes and humming of their herder.

The Wahhabist/ Salafist attack on music and women is not incidental. They know the power of music and women’s role as cultural custodians of the nation. They know that they could not win the hearts of people and particularly the youth as long as music fills the airwaves and as long as young mothers sing folkloric lullabies to the tender ears of their children, handing down centuries-old legends, superstitions and mythologies to future generations. It was the Greek Philosopher Diogenes who said “Discourse on virtue and they pass by in droves. Whistle and dance the shimmy, and you've got an audience.” The Islamists know that the soft power of music and the lullabies are more powerful to win hearts and minds than the shrieking voice of the firebrand Imam who advocates hatred and stoic life from the pulpit.

Now with Somaliland’s parliamentary election drawing close, it does not take a genius to predict who will be looking at us in the face when the new house of deputies convenes sometime in April in 2005. Having chosen to co-habit with Islamists for so long and trying to gain international attention for its nascent democracy, the government would have no choice but to concede to the majority vote and handover power to the second Islamist/ Wahhabist government to ever come to power in the Horn of African, the first being Sudan. The other option would be to follow the Algerian route, declare the vote null and void and plunge the country into a religious war, a route that the people of Somaliland can neither afford nor allow to happen.

In Somalia, the situation is even bleaker with Islamist courts maiming people’s limbs and sending them to death in Kangaroo courts and giving refuge to all Islamist fugitives and criminals. It was in Mogadishu that the killers of the foreign humanitarian workers in Somaliland were arrested by the CIA before they were handed over to Ethiopia which in its turn extradited them to Somaliland. I remember when I wrote the long essay “Against the Saudization of Somaliland” end of 2003, some of the otherwise supportive readers rebuked me for dedicating the essay to the memory of the humanitarian workers who were killed in Somaliland at the time. They were of the thinking that it was impossible for Somali Muslims to commit such heinous crimes. The recent arrest of the culprits who happened to be members of the Al Ittihad has since then vindicated my position. I know it is hard to swallow for my fellow Somalis but what many of them, who commonly live abroad, do not know is that the moderate, integrative and inclusive Islam in which they grew up is rarely practiced today back home. It has been taken over by a Jihadist brand of Islam spread by disciples of Wahhabism and Salafist marauders.

The greatest challenge that the newly elected president of Somalia would face in the capital is not the warlords as many observers may like us to believe but the Al Ittihad terrorists who exploited the political vacuum to own all businesses and run powerful militias. With the newly-elected President Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed, who is known to be a trigger-happy fighter with a strong disliking for Islamists, Somalia may have got the man it deserves to return it to normalcy through the barrel of the gun.

But it is the peaceful and democratic Somaliland that Islamists may find an amicable environment to thrive and prosper. Looking at the recent history of Islamist movements, it is only in democratic countries or political vacuums that they find their safe havens to operate but never in dictatorships where despots call the shots.

Knowing the dangers that may result from such political void, the IGAD countries and the international community have invested money and energy to establish a government for Somalia. But in order to bring quick results and to pre-empt any future plans of the Islamists to abort and fail the efforts of the international community, it is imperative on the African Union and the world community to strengthen the hand of Abdillahi Yusuf against the Wahhabi/Salafi/ Ittihadi enclaves in Mogadishu.

It is also equally imperative on the IGAD, the AU and the International Community to give Somaliland the recognition it deserves and extend urgent economic assistance to enable it ward off the menace of the enemy within that would otherwise not only threaten Somaliland’s nascent democracy but would spill over to the entire Horn of Africa to frustrate peace building efforts in Somalia and work as a safe haven for Jihadist groups in neighboring countries.

Until then, we Somalilanders will try to ignore to look at the heavens in search of a new god but will hold tight our musical instruments, rebuild our theatres and continue to be enchanted by our artistes’ famous prologue, the lyrics of the celebrated Somali playwright Hassan Sheikh Mumin,

“Night and day we fashion our words,*
In depth we help our advancing mother-tongue,
We lead it, we always guide it, we set it right,
We never shirk, we toil for it, we kindle the old wisdom,
We winnow it, satisfy its needs, we strive for it,
We guide the public rightly, we entertain them and we lead
them by the hand to profitable things…”

 Bashir Goth

* Translation of Hassan Sheikh Mumin’s Leopard among the Women “Shabeel Naagood” by B.W. Andryzyewshi, 1974

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Celebrating 1st July in a New Light: a Somalilander's Perspective
Bashir Goth

"Take from the altars of the past the fire - not the ashes" ~Jean Jaures

On July 1st 1960, the people Somaliland celebrated a day of destiny. They gave up their sovereignty which they had won four days earlier by their own will.

They had a mission to fulfill and a vision to achieve . Their mission was to establish a strong united government with the South and not to let such historical opportunity slip from their grasp. Their vision was to bring all Somali-speaking people under the blue flag. This day the Somalilanders realized of a much larger vision they shared with the remaining four parts of Greater Somalia; with Somalis in Djibouti, the Reserved Areas of Ethiopia, the Northern Frontier District of Kenya and of course Italian Somalis of the South.

It was natural for Somalilanders at the time to see the Independence of Somaliland as the first step in a long and torturous journey towards the ultimate dream of all Somalis. The realization of Somaliweyn. This dream at the time was part of a general trend in Africa. A trend of unity and brotherhood that prevailed among all Africans emerging from under the yoke of colonialism. One has to recall, however, that when the dream of Somalis was limited to uniting the territory of the Somali speaking people under one flag, other Africans at the time had even bigger dreams. Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana thought the independence of Ghana in 1957 was not sweet enough unless all Africa was independent and united under one flag and a United States of Africa was created. Thus came the historical meeting of William V.S. Tubman of Liberia and Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea with Nkrumah, in Sanniquellie, northern Liberia in 1959, to ink their famous communiqué of solidarity which later would become the precursor of the Organisation of the African Unity, OAU.

Even at his moment of triumph, as the hour of Ghana’s independence struck, Nkrumah couldn’t hide his quest for a much greater goal of an independent and united Africa, thus came his words in his independence speech:

"We again rededicate ourselves in the struggle to emancipate other countries in Africa; For our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.

"I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind." Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Independence speech on March 5, 1957.

Negritude, an expression of African identity pioneered by celebrated black intellectuals such as Leopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal and Martinican poet and statesman Aime Cesaire, also paved the way for a unity among the blacks of the world albeit more of a cultural commonality than political.

African intellectuals and statesmen had the historical responsibility to rise to the need of the moment and the desire of the African people for Independence and unity. It is a historical misjudgment to expect of the Somali people to do otherwise. They too saw the unity of the territory of the Somali speaking people as a springboard to a unity of the whole of Africa. Dismantling of colonial borders between peoples of the same race and language was for them the start of setting the record straight.

No where was this better expressed than the words attributed to Farah Omaar, a Somalilander of broader vision, “ My country is too small to be divided into five parts.” Thus sang Somaliland poets and lyric writers among the most notable among them were Timacadde, Balayaca, Jabiye and Ali Sugule to mention but a few.

On 26th June and later on 1st July, the people of Somaliland had lived through one of their sweet dreams, that of independence and unity of at least two parts of the whole. Their jubilation for these two days was sincere and not orchestrated or forced. It was a patriotic and spontaneous outpour of the people’s true feelings. Every Somali person, whether inside the two united parts or outside them celebrated and embraced these two days as their own victory.

The fact that such beauty, such patriotism and such genuine feelings of brotherhood had been hijacked, betrayed and destroyed by the Siyad Barre’s dictatorial regime should not make the people of Somaliland look at these days with shame and remorse. Quite contrary, Somalilanders should be proud of the heroism of their men, women and children who rose to the historical responsibility of the moment, who like Nkrumah saw the independence of Somaliland as not enough and yearned for something bigger and better. Somalilanders should be proud that it was the sacrifices and the patriotism of their fathers that had made part of a Somali dream come true – the birth of the Somali Republic on 1st July 1960.

History is a witness that Somalilanders made the far bigger sacrifices for the sake of Somali unity than our Italian brothers. Gripped by the unity fever, Somalilanders had given up everything. The capital went to the south. So was the posts of the President, Speaker of the parliament, the Prime Minister and key cabinet ministers such as the defense, the foreign office, finance and interior. Even the Armed Forces Chief of Staff and the Commander of the national police force were seen as too big a share to be given the north.

Despite such injustice, the Somalilanders continued to hang on to their hopes, dreaming of the arrival of the day of reckoning when all Somalis would come under the umbrella of unity and their sacrifice would be rewarded with a fair share of wealth and government. This explains the Northerners’ outright rejection of the attempted coup by their military elites in 1961, with the most celebrated Northern playwright Ali Sugule hailing the military’s alertness in squashing Hassan Kayd’s coup with his famous “Nin lagu seexdow ha seexan,” sang by the late Somali melody queen Magool.

Whether the Somalilander’s unbelievable sacrifices and proverbial patriotism could be seen as political naivety or visionary cause went awry will be a subject for debate among history students for years to come, but one thing is true that Somalilanders’ had invested heavily in the Somali cause and had lost heavily too.

To borrow Nkrumah’s words again, Somalilanders dreamed of a Great Somali Unity whose greatness was indestructible because it was to be built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.

They, however, instead reaped misery, destruction, fear and loss of human dignity. The Somali unity was destroyed by the brutality of the Siyad Barre regime to the people of the north. Even the ensuing civil war among the northern clans was a measure orchestrated by the Barre regime aimed at finishing off whatever its missiles, tanks and planes had missed and a sinister move aimed at sowing long term discord and never healing spiritual wounds among the Somalilanders.

Thanks to the wisdom of their elders, their shared blood and cultural values, the Somalilanders have overcome their plight, pieced their lives together, rebuilt their villages and towns stone by stone and block by block, reclaimed their sovereignty and created a vibrant and constitutional democracy to the envy of many Africans and to the admiration of the international community.

This shouldn’t make Somalilanders, however, negate the dreams and the noble goals for which our fathers and mothers fought. Just like we are doing today, they were trying with the best of their ability and to the best of their knowledge to guarantee a peaceful and better future for their children and grandchildren. Never, should we, therefore, denigrate nor downgrade their efforts and their struggle. To disassociate ourselves from their achievements, is to decry their accomplishments, to demean their intentions, to question their honesty and their integrity and to discredit their intellect and political vision.

Let us view the day of 1st July in its historical perspective and celebrate the bravery, the vision, the patriotism and wholeheartedness with which our people have fought to realize their dream symbolized at the time by 1st July. To shun and reject the historical importance of 1st July, is to say that our fathers and mothers have died in vain, danced in vain, sang in vain and jubilated in vain in their thousands.

No, never… our fathers and mothers had fought for the right cause, at the right time and for the right age. Somalilanders today are also fighting for the right cause, at the right time for the right age by reclaiming their sovereignty and chartering their own way for their own future and that of their children. Just the same way as our fathers and mothers thought they were doing. Had they had the prophetic vision and the foresight to see where their achievements would end, they surely wouldn’t have taken the road they took. But as fallible human beings, how could they! We also cannot swear the fruits we are sowing today would not be sour someday in the distant future. To put it simply we are trying to do our best. So did our fathers and mothers in their time. Therefore, let us respect their record and their history if we want our children to respect our record and our history as well.
Celebrating 1st July in a New Light: a Somalilander's Perspective
Bashir Goth

"Take from the altars of the past the fire - not the ashes" ~Jean Jaures

On July 1st 1960, the people Somaliland celebrated a day of destiny. They gave up their sovereignty which they had won four days earlier by their own will.

They had a mission to fulfill and a vision to achieve . Their mission was to establish a strong united government with the South and not to let such historical opportunity slip from their grasp. Their vision was to bring all Somali-speaking people under the blue flag. This day the Somalilanders realized of a much larger vision they shared with the remaining four parts of Greater Somalia; with Somalis in Djibouti, the Reserved Areas of Ethiopia, the Northern Frontier District of Kenya and of course Italian Somalis of the South.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Is so-called Awdalnews website a platform to deform, distort and ridicule Islam?
If one browses this ill-thought website which claims to be a SomaliLander-website one is shocked the amount of energy and efforts that people like So-called Bashir Goth and his type spend to be-little and de-value the religion of Islam.
More on 10 April 2004.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Massquerading Successful Somaliland as Failed Somalia
Bashir Goth.More

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Against the Somalisation of Islam_ A refutation to Mr. Goth’s Article
By Muumina-Shaqlan
1. Preliminary Remarks
It is not my intention to offend or defend anybody in this write up. However, I find Mr. Goth’s article titled “Against the Saudization of Somaliland” revolting and offensive to the basic principles of Islam, ulama and Somali women. There are so many inaccuracies and disinformation about Islam in his article. He deceitfully questioned about the authenticity of salat, zakat, sawm, haj and hijaab practices as basic obligations in Islam. His naked attack on Saudi ulama and Da’wah groups in Somalia is completely unjustified and unwarranted. It is utterly wrong of Mr. Goth or any other man to indulge into something that is entirely a religious matter of women’s concerns. MORE Hadhwanaag

Saturday, January 03, 2004

African Phoenix
Bashir Goth

The following poem is a response to the much touted birth of the African Union: