Reviewed by Adan Makina, WardheerNews
Author: Marco Zoppo
Published: Rowman & Littlefield
Publication date : August 20, 2021
Editor’s Note: The newly-published book, Horizons of security State and extended family, that was preceded by an interview whose topic was An Interview with Dr. Marco Zoppi, WardheerNews Books Review Section is delighted to share with you the experiences of the author about Somalis living in Scandinavian countries. A scholarly luminary and a widely traveler, Dr. Zoppi’s book contains an ocean of new revelations that is worth delving into. Published by the world renown Rowman & Littlefield (rowman.com), the book unveils the living conditions of Somalis in the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In the introduction to the book, the author begins with the question: Experiencing Hell in the Welfare Paradise? From his viewpoint of the so-called Safety Net, drawing his experiences from the Somalis he interviewed using qualitative research method, there could be long term repercussions of social vulnerability because, the integration measures set by these countries seem not conducive to the Somali lifestyle. Available in Hardback and eBook, the subject matter of the book is drawn from the Social Sciences that incorporates Sociology, Anthropology, Urban, Refugees and Race and Ethnic Relations. The Author, Dr. Marco Zoppi is a Research Fellow in the Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Bologna. His 246 pages book is worth purchasing for those willing to have a valuable additional scholarly asset in their bookshelves or libraries.
Dr. Marco Zoppi is a contributor to WardheerNews and has been a great essayist and researcher since joining our digitized magazine that is committed to disseminating news and information to the people of the Horn of Africa and the world at large. Even though we have been in contact in the past, he recently jolted my nerves with an electronic correspondence stating that he has a book that has been published September of this year. Amazingly, the book touches on the living conditions of Somalis dispersed in the Scandinavian or Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
His book, though taken from his PhD Dissertation, “Horizons of Security State and Extended Family: the Somali safety net in Scandinavia” contains public policy issues related to unemployment, education, and the welfare system in the aforementioned countries and how Somalis have been adversely affected in the past and present times. There is no doubt the book will immensely attract the attention of Somalis and other global philomaths and researchers once it gets out of the publisher’s oven. Loaded with tempting and new philosophical, sociological, and political and psychological language, together with humanistic references from world renown authors, researchers, and writers of literary repute, Dr. Zoppi’s book will obviously tilt the currently existing scale of balance where Nano-democracy has become the norm in democratized nations in the Western Hemisphere.
Food, political and personal security are the major harbingers of ontological security which is the major driving factor that inculcates trust and human personal safety and as well safeguards the interaction and assimilation of diverse communities regardless of race, religion, gender, and political, social and national origin. In our modern world of governance, the concept of “I, we, and others” have become separating factors even in the most democratic nations. For Somalis and the Scandinavians, mistrust of each other has opened cans of worms that have infiltrated societies having different cultural, religious and linguistic differences. In such instances, the philosophy of “others” infuses finger-pointing, discrimination, “I am who I am attitudes”, segregations, and the denial of basic human rights by the host countries to those who seek refugee or asylee statuses. In the preface to his book, the author states: The welfare state for the Scandinavians is like the camel for the Somalis! Welfare in Scandinavia is associated to bumblebee that is known for continuously flying and leaving in its path “undisputable social domains.”[i] To the Somali nomad, not owning a camel lead to dependency theory while in Scandinavia, the lack of access to welfare distributions obviously degrades the Somali self-sufficiency lifestyle.
Of the three Scandinavian countries mentioned earlier, the absence of assured safety net for the Somalis and the denial of travel documents to disperse to more sympathetic countries like England and others, causes travel estrangements. A man of literary repute, it would make sense to me to refer to the author as an expert in ethnomethodology because of his admiration for social order. His interest in heuristic inquiry that deals with things of personal interest also gives him credit while his focus on linguistics and social sciences makes him indisputably someone having interest in semiotics. His reliance on written texts propels him to the study of hermeneutics while his use of in-depth interviews of transcripts and creative non-fiction that are covered in his book reveal his knowledge of narratology and narrative analysis.
Statistical data collected by the author reveals that Somalis are the most populated when compared to other foreign communities. Likewise, population aside, Somalis have the lowest employment rates in Nordic nations, lag behind in education, have larger families in every household and fetch immense welfare benefits that is deducted from higher income workers and business conglomerations. While every political campaigner applies modest verbal logocracy–a “pseudo-democracy created by mere words”–as an assurance to safeguard the needy if elected to office, things change for the worse once taking over the helm. Hurling expletives like “scroungers” and “undeserving” become political categorizations for the less fortunate ones who, perhaps, voted for the winning previous official campaigner.
“People with multiple allegiances to place” (Van Hear, 1998)[ii] is the global defining factor for those who departed their places of birth and are now known as Diaspora. While Diaspora in modern Somali language is “Qurbajoog” or Tahriib from Arabic, it started with the collapse of the Somali central government in 1991, however, it was preceded by Tacabir which is also Arabic. While Tahriib is a dangerous mode of traveling that involves traversing through dangerous territories using dilapidated boats commandeered by merciless captains known as Ameerul Bahr from where the naval rank admiral evolved from, others travel through the deserts. The preceding Tacabir allowed Somalis to work on foreign merchant ships.
Since time immemorial, human migration from one place to another has been a common feature that cannot be neglected and it may have begun with the biblical exodus of aforetime and even before. While Somalia has been described as the fourth generous to strangers out of 140 countries worldwide according to Charities Aid Foundation (Thompson Reuters Foundation, 2016)[iii], with Iraq being the leading, followed by Libya–three of them being Muslim countries ravaged by civil wars that have been instigated by Western hands, there must be a hidden secret as to why three neighboring Nordic countries unanimously took equal initiatives to treat Diaspora Somalis with contempt and suspicion.
In antiquity, the application of eleutheria emerged during the era of the Athenians. Meaning “being free”, it has remained a driving factor in the concepts of democratization and the major principle of liberty. In opposition to eleutheria, douleia implied “being a slave”. According to Hansen (2010), eleutheria signified the equality of natural citizens of the state and nationals from foreign countries. Further, Hansen (2010, p. 3) stated that eleutheria has been mostly used as a basic democratic concept in assembly debates or discussions that contradicted democracy and tyranny.[iv] In his conversations with his interviewers, the author uses the term interlocutor(s) for select people who were willing to take part in discussions or dialogues.
While culture is in opposition to cults and customs, instead, it is a strategy that reinforces people’s sense of identity. The former popular practice that was known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that has changed name to Female Genital Cut (FGC) has been popular among 28 African and Middle Eastern countries and through global fight has been diminishing in recent times even in Somalia after Muslim scholars branded it ‘haraam’ meaning forbidden according to Islamic law. Better known as “pharaonic circumcision” or “Gudniinka Fircooniga” in Somali, it was first given that name by a Sudanese scholar.
Blaming Somalis for fundamentalism and other forms of insecurity is nothing but surreptitiously religious and inhuman politically motivated agenda that contravenes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 10th of October, 1948. The fear of alien cultural infiltration and religious dominance resulting from human reproduction in the future could be other factors that instill narcissistic feelings to the host leaders which in turn spread the outgrowth of uncontrollable and malevolent, tattooed right-wingers driven by national pride.
It is wise to learn from history. “We remember the past in order to make the present tolerable and the future worth waiting for” is a wise saying worthy of contemplation and comprehension. In 509 B.C.E. the ruling Romans who were known by the name Patricians gave the local Plebeians the right to elect officials of their own who were called Tribunes. Corresponding to the time of Augustus, the Term “Pax Romana” that meant Roman Peace promulgated the “Twelve Tables” which to this day translates to “not guilty until proven guilty.” Thus, Somalis, even though not guilty of any offences, have become culprits in the most democratically advanced and natural resources-rich Nordic countries.
In 387 BCE, the Roman Empire wreaked havoc in Greece. Under the command of King Justinian of the Christian Orthodox Church, fleeing with manuscripts of their ancient philosophers, the Greek immigrants got protection and shelter from the Sassanid Empire that was Persian and ruled by King Khosrau (Chosroes). In later years, after degrading a letter from Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and delivered to the same powerful Persian king, the Christian Orthodox Roman Empire brought down his Zoroastrian empire. Finally, Khosrau or Chosroes was assassinated by Shervah, his own son.
With the end of the Cold War (1960-1990) and the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union, Samuel Huntington’s book the “Clash of Civilizations” which implied the clash of cultures and religions brought in novel philosophical thoughts among scholars. For Huntington, Islamic extremism would be the major barrier to Western global dominance. However, Francis Fukuyama who was a student of Huntington came up with a new book. “The End of History and the Last Man” that was in response to Huntington’s previous publication caused consternation among scholars. Fukuyama’s book pinpointed the end of liberal democracy and the rise of neoconservative movement.[v] Perusing through both books gives the reader a view of impending global political changes and what they promulgated came to fruition.
In his introduction, the author asks: experiencing hell in the welfare of paradise? In Denmark, Somali mothers have insurmountable problems dealing with general schools and daycare systems that place restrictions on student-parent connections, according to interviews conducted by the author. While Somalis in the United Kingdom enjoy undeterred freedom to business transactions, pursuance of education and assimilation and freedom of travel, those in Scandinavian countries feel some sort of restraining or estrangement placed on them.
Between Somalis and the Scandinavian welfare systems, the author decries what he defines as clash that require negotiations. To his amazement, he found that there were Somalis living in Scandinavian countries who shied away from Somali cultural practices while others felt fully critical of the Somali culture. In his interviews, those interviewed by the author broke their silence. Even those Somalis who came from England to pay visits to relatives in Scandinavian countries discovered negative socialization and other impediments and as for those Somali-Scandinavians touring other European nations, they perceived more acceptable social integrations that they felt would have been applicable had it been applied to those living in Nordic countries.
The term pastoral-nomadic has become the defining factor for the entire Somali nation to academic and non-academic circles, according to the author in Chapter IV, while downplaying the differences between nomads, semi-pastoralist and farmers. In academia, applying pastoral-nomadic categorization to an entire nation could be defined as generalization which is totally unacceptable.
Such copious mentality among academic and non-academic circles requires better focus and deeper sense of acceptable human imagination and research endeavors. Taking a leaf from Somalia’s first President’s 1963 OAU address, Aden Abdille Osman, had this to say: “Unlike any other border problem in Africa, the entire length of the existing boundaries, as imposed by the colonialists, cut across the traditional pastures of our nomadic population. The problem becomes unique when it is realized that no other nation in Africa finds itself totally divided along the whole length of its borders from its own people.” Perhaps, the prevailing pastoral-nomadic focus evolved from the first president’s attractive speech.
There’s no doubt that welfare is a subject of academic interest and failure to find universal solutions could lead to experiences of transcultural encounters, as the author contemplates. Transcultural encounters in modern Europe resulting from welfare experiences have been rampant in contemporary Europe and other developed countries globally. A good population of Somalis live in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and most rely on welfare benefits. If unemployment is rife among Somalis in Scandinavia, obviously, the Somali remittance system known as ‘hawala’ or ‘xawaala’ could experience tremendous downfall since it is the major sustainer of the economy of their relatives in war-torn Somalia. The asymmetrical tensions between citizen experiences and expectations are a challenge to the former golden welfare system, the author explains. Unfortunately, the twists and turns of modern politics in Scandinavia could be attributed to be the major cause of the degradation of the former golden welfare system.
The book could be enticing to the reader who would like to know more about Somali tradition and culture. His clear explanation of Somali cultural foundations that stretch back to their past history and how their own scholars distorted the term homogeneity to suit their own interests, deserve corrections. When it comes to the role of women in conventions that is called “shir”, according to Somali “xeer” which serves as the sole legal jurisdiction, majority of the conveners are men. In the West, attempted rape is a crime while among Somalis Like Thucydides who is acknowledged to be the “Father of Scientific History”, Dr. Marco Zoppi’s book defines Somali traditional lifestyles using modern anthropological, sociological and even historical epistemology in ways that attracts the attention of the reader.
In terms of natural resources, we’ll begin with Norway that is rich in natural resources such as oil, seafoods, natural gas, forests, minerals and hydro-electric power. Besides, it is the world’s 13th largest exporter of seafoods. A nation endowed with such immense and vast resources deserves to treat its “others” with dignity and respect, educate them thoroughly so they can catch up with the citizens and then become part and parcel of the Nordic cultural foundations and unified social fabric. Failure to do so will result in the skyrocketing of crimes of startling proportions and altered mindsets and the infiltration of undesirable and uncontrollable hateful forces from both sides of society. It should be the prerogative of the Norwegian Parliament that is known as Stoërting to take drastic measures when it comes to the observance of equity and equality.
After Denmark, The Netherlands and Finland, Norway is the fourth in the international observance of OECD regulations.[vi] OECD is an abbreviation for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD was founded in 1961. Nations undergo rigorous review processes before becoming members. Colombia was admitted in April 2020 while Costa Rica joined May 2021. Currently, there are 38 members with no single African or Arab country included. The only Muslim country that is a member of OECD is Turkey.
In public policy-making, voluntary associations emphasize ‘associative democracy’ that is voluntary whereas ‘discursive economic relations’ is concerned with the reintegration of planning and execution of different players interests. With ‘negotiated governance’, there is limited autonomy in states and is irreducible centrality’ for certain interest groups. The absence of the term ‘negotiated governance’ among nations could be a recipe for divergent politics where every entity chooses a different democratic policy as a choice.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said: “O mankind, your Lord is One and your father is one. You all descended from Adam, and Adam was created from earth. He is most honored among you in the sight of God who is most upright. No Arab is superior to a non-Arab, no colored person to a white person, or a white person to a colored person except by Taqwa (piety).” [Ahmad and At-Tirmithi].
It is un-Christian and contrary to the Christian doctrines of mercy for three Christian countries that are guided by social democracy to contradict the biblical exhortations of mercy. In the Bible, the word mercy is intensely covered. Some of the examples are: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Mathew, 5:7). Likewise, the Book of David tells us:
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:5).
In Colossians 3:12, we read: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” When it comes to time of need, there is a lot to learn from Hebrews 4:16 that explains what is expected of those who have wealth. It tells us, “Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
I don’t know of any educated Somali either from Scandinavia or other parts of the world who took to the keyboard to spend enough time writing anything identical in context to what Dr. Marco published. A previous interview with the author gave me enough information on the plight of Somalis in the countries under discussion. The Somali ‘Muufo’ or Mofa that is identical to the Western pancake, is most flavorful when out of the oven for its exposure to open air automatically reduces the much-admired taste. Now that the book is out of the publisher’s oven, time is ripe to grab a copy before others narrate distasteful and altered narratives. Dr. Marco deserves a pat on the back and obviously, his prestige and honor will be with us for a long time as long as his book remains on global booksellers’ shelves. Order one today to reminisce the Somali love for the camel and the current chicken in Scandinavian countries that has been chosen as a replacement for the much-adored Somali “Beast of the Desert.”
Email: [email protected]
[i] Zoppi, M. (2021). Horizons of Security: The Somali Safety Net in Scandinavia. Rowman & Littlefield.
Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-charity-index-idUSKCN12O2RX
[iv]Hansen, Mogens H. (2010). Democratic Freedom and the Concept of
Freedom in Plato and Aristotle. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 50 (2010) 1–2. Retrieved from http://www.duke.edu/web/classics/grbs/FTexts/50/Hansen1.pdf
[v] Thies, Clifford (June 24, 2011) The End of Hystery? Francis Fukuyama’s Review of The Constitution of Liberty, Mises Institute
[vi] Botta, E. and T. Koźluk (2014), “Measuring Environmental Policy Stringency in OECD Countries: A Composite Index Approach”, OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 1177, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jxrjnc45gvg-en.
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