Are the Somali-American Religious Scholars into Doublethink?
by Ahmed Dirie, Ph.D.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
I was in a self-imposed exile from the Somali-run-and-owned websites for the past four to five years. I strictly stayed away in writing commentaries about the Somali politics and current social issues, partly disappointed with the Somali ethos and Somali doublethink when it comes to our dystopic social conditions and partly by potential threats from certain individuals and interest groups. Several times, I was very much tempted to re-emerge and share my views but I opted to remain in hiatus.
Once again, I am forced to break my silence and speak about an enigmatic question about the re-emergence of the Somali religious scholars in Minnesota, especially their recent stand against Al-Shabaab and Al-Shabaab’s atrocities against the Somali people. In one hand, I am so thrilled by the stand-up of the Somali religious scholars and on the other hand I am conflicted and in total disarray and I keep asking myself why now and what has suddenly changed? Is this again a Somali doublespeak and far from realities? What is the motive behind the two successive recent forums at Twin Cities?
The first forum titled “Town Hall Meeting part 3: A discussion of the roles of religious leaders in the successful rebuilding of Somalia” which took place on March 10, 2013 and second one “Who is behind the killings of Somali intellectuals?” on March 19, 2013. In fact, the title of the latter should have been “Who is behind the killings of Somali religious scholars?” because the religious scholars focused and highlighted the killings of the Somali religious scholars who spoke about Al-Shabaab’s distorted Islamic views and Al-Shabaab’s ruthless killings. The Somali religious scholars did NOT speak about the killings and loss of the Somali intellectuals as well as the killings of would-be intellectuals.
Now as a Somali skeptic or maybe a cynic Somali, I am ascribing to the cynic idea of assuming that the Somali religious scholars in Minnesota came out as self-interested group and they are jumping onto the band-wagon since Al-Shabaab is severely weakened or probably defeated. Or this is some sort of doublespeak and they are not letting us to know the real motif of their coming out at this moment in time. Remember, we all know that the Somali religious scholars kept silent for the past 20 years and they refused to provide answers and a comfort to Somali-American families who lost their young boys to Al-Shabaab. Remember, they even collectively stone-walled those families and community leaders who were seeking answers through legal channels. And those families who lost their children to Al-Shabaab and community leaders who spoke about Al-Shabaab were publicly vilified and called anti-Muslims. You also remember, certain Somali groups in collaboration with certain non-Somali Muslim human rights entities and activists have undermined the very possibility of finding who were the recruiters for Al-Shabaab in Minnesota State or North America.
At this stage in life, and as a Somali skeptic, I am sharing my thoughts loud and dare the risks out there once again. I am hoping that the efforts of the Somali religious scholars are not a doublespeak and they genuinely stand for stand for what they say and act on it because they were silent for the past 20 years. For a fact, the two forums were very informative and most of the religious speakers highlighted the history and the philosophy of political Islam, especially the distorted utopian ideas of Al-Qaeda as well as that of Al-Shabaab group. In particular to the point of publicly sharing: the foundational books and readings of Al-Qaeda, timelines on the evolution of Al-Shabaab’s ideology and the ideological conflicts and breakups among Somalia’s religious scholars.
I was very much impressed by the crisp and straight talk of Engineer Abdikarim Suleiman who highlighted the failure of the Somali intellectuals, especially those religious scholars who secretly brainwashed and recruited innocent young Somali-Americans for Al-Shabaab. Engineer Suleiman was courageous to publicly state that some of those shady individuals were among audience at the forum. I assume, another straight shooter was Sheikh Abdirahman Sharif of Masjid Darul Hijra who highlighted the role of public intellectuals and the limitations the religious scholars in nation-building.
Now, what we need to avoid is doublespeak as Somalis or what we call in Somali “Shimbirayahow Heesa, Hees Wanaagsan Heesa” and I hope that the Somali religious scholars are not just chirping as birds or just jumping onto the band-wagon. They were probably in coma for two solid decades, Isn’t it? The prevailing mood among many Somalis or some sectors of the Somali population is “All is well” and we are all moving forward. Indeed, there are good reasons to be positive and forward looking as Somalis. But we need to accommodate the skeptics among us, based on their past experiences or just being rational humans endowed with sixth senses.
I am also hoping that we stand for the interests of the Somali-Americans and the interests of the marginalized Somali people, those back home in Somalia or in the Diasporas. There is a need to exercise healthy skepticism and also to advocate the need of cultivating new social imaginaries in order to move forward and rebuild the Somali nation, especially the warped mind of the Somali people. Finally, we need to understand our place in this world and the one after since certain so-called Somali religious leaders and their affiliates killed and starved many Somalis to death by their mere thought of afterlife.
Ahmed Dirie, Ph.D.
Independent Research Scholar and Writeradirie@gmail.com