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Somali leadership has failed its young people

Calgary Herald
by Abubakar N. Kasim

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Somali community’s leadership is largely to blame for the youth crisis that is crippling the East African community in Canada.

Religion plays a key role in the lives of the Somalis. After all, 99 per cent of Somalis are reported to be Muslims.

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Children growing up in a new environment have to deal with the identity crisis — a process every ethnic community goes through in its attempt to adjust to the new environment.

They have to go through the struggle of finding a balance between the culture of their new adopted country and the teachings they receive at home and at the mosque.

The mosque is where families send their children, to establish and maintain a strong attachment to their religious identity. It is also a place where the destitute turn for hope, and a believer visits for spiritual nourishment.

It is important for the mosque to offer a glimpse of hope to confused youth and provide them with a balanced approach to life by striking a middle ground between faith and the culture they live in.

Unfortunately, the Somali community has failed miserably in this challenge. The mosque in the community has not fulfilled its role.

The main religious institution the Somalis have had for a long period of time has been Toronto’s west end Khalid Walid mosque. Sadly, it has adopted the Saudi-based Wahhabi, or Salafi movement, which only complicated things further. It has contributed to making the youth look at society and the rest of their fellow Muslims with contempt and disdain.

The Salafis are hard-line literalists who don’t tolerate the differences in humanity and instil hate in the hearts of their followers. The word tolerance is not part of their dictionary. Their motto is not live and let live, but to have the entire arena — which is vast enough for everyone — only for themselves.

If you were to visit the mosque’s library even today, you would never find materials by any Muslim intellectuals except Saudis and those who are influenced by their extreme version of Islam.

Not only that, such books and multimedia productions don’t only promote the Salafi ideology, they demean other Muslims and warn followers to stay away from them.

The institution does not join hands with other organizations — Muslim or otherwise — due to their narrow-minded approach to life.

It would have been wiser for them to join hands with other communities to learn from each other’s experiences, as some communities have been in Canada long enough to offer practical advice on social issues. But since they don’t consider other Muslims to be true believers, they would not feel comfortable having their members exposed to “deviated ideas.”

They do not help the youth to adapt to the Canadian culture while still maintaining their religious identity. They have instructed their followers to look at the society around them with repulsion and disgust.

Teachings on the mosque’s website referred to non-Muslim westerners as “wicked,” “corrupt” and “our clear enemies,” the Toronto Star reported in 2008.

The National Post reported that the mosque instructed followers not to say “Happy Thanksgiving” or invite friends into their homes for turkey dinner on the holiday weekend. It compared wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” to congratulating a murderer — a comment it later retracted.

Not only did the mosque fail to offer hope to hopeless youth, its internal rivalry, which had led to the establishment of another centre in the same neighbourhood, has added fuel to the fire.

According to the Toronto Star, there are an estimated 80,000 Somalis in Toronto, another few thousand in Ottawa and about 3,000 in Fort McMurray. Violence has taken its toll on the Somali youth.

Not only has the mosque failed, the leadership in general has not risen to the challenge, as each one put tribal interests ahead of everything else.

Tribalism is the cancer that is eating the flesh of the country of Somalia. The community leaders who were supposed to put their differences aside to look after the youth have carried the baggage of tribalism with them from home and have allowed such differences to divide them further, even in their new country.

That is why the youth are in the mess they are in after the leadership has failed them.

The religious establishment of the Somali community should first and foremost repeal the Salafi teachings. It should not import anything from the foreign nations. Salafism is a bankrupt system designed to distract Muslims from the Saudi royal family, which has taken the entire country as its family corporation and named it in the family’s name.

Second, the Somali leadership should put a lot of emphasis on tackling the disease of tribalism that has eaten them alive.

The community should join hands with other communities in its attempt to find a solution to its problems.

Abubakar N. Kasim is a Toronto-based freelance writer


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