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A Response of Rejoinder of Mr. Deeq Yusuf : Revisiting Somali Political Rhetoric

Dr. Abdurahman Baadiyow

Let me begin this response by thanking Mr. Deeq M. Yusuf for reading and writing a rejoinder to my article “Revisiting Somali Political Rhetoric.” Both pieces were published by WardheerNews on 12 October and 15 October, respectively.  The Deeq’s  piece is essential since it allowed me to explain my viewpoint more articulately. Of course, Mr. Deeq and I agree that the modern state system introduced to Somalia during the colonial period did not coax well how to coexist peacefully with its societal basis. The Somali state policy was geared to suppress the Somali traditions: Islam and clan culture, the principle derived from the modernization theory.  

As a result, the political elites expressed resentment and frustration through reorganizing themselves along the two cultural lines: Clans and Islam. Those who organized along clan lines were the armed oppositions, and those who organized along the Islam were the various Islamist movements. As such, political elites were divided into elites taking the state as their property and others on the other side of the spectrum as armed factions. Both elites undertook armed confrontation to get or keep political power, and finally, the state was destroyed in 1991. 

On the other hand, my article criticized the state-society relations in Somalia founded on modernization theory. It also rationalized why the early political elites were not anti-Islam and against the societal ethos or secular as many Islamists would like to describe them. These elites followed the prevalent ideological persuasion inherited from the colonial powers. The adopted Somali Constitution in 1961 clearly states that all laws should abide by Islamic principles. However, implementing this article required deep knowledge of Islam and modern state intersection, which was unavailable. Moreover, I suggested promoting Islamic values and nationalism as the shared ideology of all Somalis to contain political clannism wrongly articulated and used by the political elites.

Furthermore, my piece calls for accepting the reality of the existing clan system instead of denying it as political elites advocated and giving clans their societal space. The state had intervened in the clan system, and reciprocally, the clans had intervened in the state. Their mutual intervention created a web of systems that interwoven and disabled the operationality of either of them.  I also emphasized that clannism is a sense of belonging that binds together members of clans, and they are inseparable and necessarily interwoven. Indeed, clannism as a neutral phenomenon could be used rightly or wrongly. Clannism is important for clan cohesion as nationalism is essential to the state citizens’ cohesion. They are similar; their difference is the level, not the substance.  

Having said that, let me briefly glance at what Mr. Deeq introduced in his rejoinder.  The first critique of Deeq was the use of the postcolonial theory; instead, he suggested using the dependence theory. Dependency theory is based on the premise that underdeveloped countries experience unequal economic relations with developed nations. This theory is an essential contribution to the liberation of the colonized countries; however, it has nothing to do with the perspective of my piece. Moreover, Deeq injected into the rejoinder the concepts of modernity and Westernization, which I have not mentioned in my piece. These concepts are complex and have no accepted single definition. Furthermore, modernity is not characterized singularly in describing the European or Western Renaissance; “multiple Modernities” could be adopted as developed by S.N. Eisenstadt.

The most important statement that attracted my attention in the rejounder’s thesis is “Islam is originally synonymous with modernity.” Indeed, this is a great mistake. How can Islam, a universal religion, be equated to modernity? The terminology of modernity is linked to the historical period by dividing history into three large epochs: Antiquity, Medieval, and Modern. This division of history is widely accepted even though it is not universal either. Accordingly, modernity had many characterizations, such as the emergence of nation-states, urbanization, industrialization, colonialism, advancement of technology, etc. As Deeq have mentioned, Muslim history, the Golden Age, should be viewed as the period of laying the foundations of modern science, literature, medicine, and philosophy. However, we should not mix this scientific advancement with the Muslim empire’s system of governance based on family rule and devoid of the consultative values of Islam.

The Muslim state is founded on Islamic values of justice, equality, democracy (shura), and establishing a social, political, and economic system that drives its guidance from Islamic principles and values. The Abbasid and Umayyads and subsequent states in the Muslim nations created a family rule and inheritance system of governance, and even though Islam was implemented in society in general, the governance system deviated from the Islamic values of shura. They are not a model of the desired Muslim state.

Finally, Turkey is not alone as a model for democracy in the Muslim world. Among 56 member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), 50% exercise some form of democracy. Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan are big states that exercise democratic elections. Secularism mixed with some Islamic principles is exerted in most Muslim-majority countries. Mr Deeq’s sympathy with Turkey is well understood since that is the public sentiment in Somalia, and I share the same sympathy. However, the statement that the secular state promotes Islamic values is bizarre. What is happening in Turkey is recovering some Islamic values and practices that were suppressed earlier by Kemalist elites.

In conclusion, all the points Deeq have raised are very complex conceptions. They are not part of my piece and are out of the context. However, I am grateful to him for questioning the perspective I was engaged in explaining to my students and the Somali public for more than 30 years.  

Dr. Cabduraxmaan Baadiyow
Email: [email protected]

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