Saturday, June 6, 2009

Neo-Islamists must first be confronted on religious and jurisprudential, rather than military, grounds

Although I have been immersed in recent weeks doing research for an upcoming book on China-Africa relations, I try to keep up on developments in the Horn of Africa. I ran across a perceptive piece on Somalia by Abukar Arman, who lives in Ohio and writes on Somalia, the Middle East, and Islam. His short analysis appeared in a Foreign Policy Association document dated 4 June 2009 titled “Somalia’s Neo-Islamists.” The principal organizations that constitute the “Neo-Islamist” movement in Somalia are al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam. Abukar Arman’s analysis is worth reading in it entirety, but I was impressed by one particular conclusion. “The Neo-Islamists and the religious leaders that shape their obtuse frame of mind must be challenged religiously and jurisprudentially but not militarily," he wrote. "It is the only way to prevent perpetual sectarian strife in Somalia — a challenge that this predominantly Muslim nation has never faced.” While I don’t think that moderate Somalis should allow the Neo-Islamists to seize power militarily unopposed, I believe Abukar Arman is correct that they should be confronted first and foremost on religious and jurisprudential grounds. Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam and their foreign funding and foreign jihadi fighters might be able to defeat moderate Somalis on the battle field, but they will not in my view defeat them on the basis of their interpretation of Islam and implementation of their version of Shariah. Image: Abukar Arman. Source: Somaliland Times.

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