Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Revising Somali Political Rhetoric: What do we share, and what do we differ?

Dr. Abdurahman Baadiyow

In the political rhetoric of Somali elites, juxtaposing the relations between the modern state and the tradition is vastly misused, relegating the state as desired and the tradition as despised. This conception is derived from the modernization theory based on the indispensability of the postcolonial states to follow the European model of state-building if they aspire to develop like the developed nations.  However, this theory, which was prominent in the 1960s and 70s, was challenged by many scholars later. One such challenge stemmed from the postcolonial theory founded on the concept that literature written by colonial scholars distorts the experience and realities of the colonized people.

The modernization theory was driven by the racial superiority of Whiteman, who inscribed the inferiority of the other races. Thus, as critical theory, the postcolonial theory attempts to articulate the colonized people’s identity and rewrite their history and culture. It also sheds light on how literature in colonial countries appropriated the language, images, scenes, traditions, and so forth of colonized countries. This theory is part of the intellectual liberation movement that restores ownership to its people, and its slogan could be summarized in the Somali language: “sow ma qaan-gaarno” meaning, “Aren’t we adults?

In our Somali context, we have been told since the beginning of the liberation movement in the 1940s that to build a viable and modern state, we must eliminate clans and the evil of clannism. Moreover, our religion of Islam must be dealt with similarly to the Christian faith, which confines itself in the churches and has nothing to do with the state. Unfortunately, our early generation accepted these narratives and considered them their central ideology to promote Somali nationalism and realize national unity.  That was a general trend of early nationalist movements everywhere, not derived from the bad faith towards Islam and their Muslim people. However, as the laboratory of what works and what fails, history demonstrated that applying the modernization theory, adapted to the Somali context, bred disastrous outcomes, state failure, collapse in 1991, and the subsequent civil war. 

The collapse of the state of the ideal Somali nation, which Allah bestowed them with a common language, religion, and culture, calls for a profound revision of the fundamental political elite ideology articulated since the 1940s. Is it true that clans and their indispensable association with the consciousness of clannism are organically malicious?  What are the criteria for their evilness?  From the Islamic perspective, good and evil are derived from the concepts of “Munkar” and “Ma’ruuf” detailed in the jurisprudence (Fiqh).

This means clannism is neutral and can be good or bad regarding how to use it. It is the actions of humans that can make clans do evil actions and benevolent work. Indeed, clanship and Islam are interconnected, and it is evident in all Muslim societies that clans are a social reality. Islamic values are based on legal marriages, extended families, and relatives. Islam does not permit extra-marriage associations that may produce children with unknown fathers.  Moreover, Islam is different from the Christian religion. Islam is a comprehensive way of life, gives moral guidance to its believers, and offers legal provisions that are required to be implemented by the legitimate authorities. Its directives must be applied to the whole gamut of Muslim life at the personal, societal, and state levels.

Therefore, we must reexamine the relations between the modern state and its societal base (Muslim clans). This approach is founded on what Somalis share and what is private for a particular group. Groups include clans, social organizations, Sufi orders, Islamist movements, political parties, business companies, etc. All Somalis own the state as equal citizens in their rights and responsibilities. The Constitution offers equality among them whether they belong to big or small clans, are men or women, or belong to different persuasions and groups. The state shares ownership of every Somali citizen, and each is obliged to its protection and defense.  Moreover, all the citizens must also compete for opportunities given by the state, such as employment, education, health provisions, and all social services, and be equal in getting protection from the state for their lives, properties, and dignity.

Moreover, Somalis share the religion of Islam. They should oppose the monopoly of one group of their shared Islam. The different groups who advocate for the application of Islam and the promotion of its teachings should know that they have no monopoly on interpreting Islam the way they wish. Of course, there are multiple interpretations of Islam through Ijtihad regarding its application in the state and society.

There is little difference in performing rituals such as prayers, fasting, and zakat, pilgrimage, but beyond that, there are amble procedural disagreements. Therefore, Somali scholars of Islam should be tolerant of each other, and none of the group should not consider themselves to be the only righteous one and the others erroneous. In addition, we must work on creating a common practice of Islam in the public spaces agreed upon and enacted as the law of the land. We should abandon conflicts in the name of Islam, calling for the unity and brotherhood of its believers. 

In conclusion, we must be aware that three elements of our basic thought, Islam, nationalism (state), and clannism (society), cannot exclude each other. They must coexist in a demarcated sphere organized into the hierarchical system where Islam is superior; the call for nationalism that unifies our people in the territorial state is the second. Then, private belonging to specific clans should be separated from the shared. 

This means every Somali citizen should respect the shared Islam and state and deal with his group dues in the best way possible to develop their constituency, mobilize their resources, and advance their cohesion.  This undertaking should align with the law of the land that hinges on Islamic principles, as the constitutional provision provides. There is no enmity between the state and traditional society, as we have been taught for years, and the previous narratives of their mutual exclusion should be ignored. We should keep what we share and recognize what we differ.    

Dr. Cabduraxmaan Baadiyow
Email: [email protected]

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