An alarming call recently arrived from Somalia. The intended audience was Somali youth — like me — living in Canada. According to CBC News, the Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group Al Shabaab has released an audiotape calling for terrorist attacks in a host of countries — including Canada. A suicide bomber, believed to be an American citizen, urges young people to rise up and murder non-Muslims. As a Somali-born Canadian citizen, I would like to respond to their call by asking them a few questions.
Who gave them the authority to speak on behalf of Islam?
The message they preach is quite contrary to the one preached by the Prophet Mohammad, who is described in the Qur’an as a mercy to mankind. He held the sanctity of human life in high regard: to kill one person is like killing the whole of mankind, while saving one life is equivalent to saving the entire human race. The innocent people Al Shabaab is ordering us to kill have welcomed us into their homes and allowed us to live freely, to practise our faith without any interference. On the other hand, these fanatics persecuted us in our own land and forced us to flee.
Haven’t they read in the Qur’an that “Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes — from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.”
Their approach to a religion that promotes justice and peace is worrisome. They have hijacked my faith and claim to speak on behalf of more than 1.2 billion people. They are trying to manipulate young people who have no basic knowledge of their religion. Sadly, they have succeeded in luring a few individuals into their trap.
In 2009, CBC reported that Al Shabaab may have recruited as many as 30 Somali Canadians. In early 2011, Canadian officials said the group had been so successful at recruiting that they considered it to be the top threat to Canada’s national security.
This group has brought shame to their religion and to the reputation of Somalis around the world. They have been a menace, persecuting people who don’t agree with them. Their message is based on hate and animosity. I was shocked when Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 22 people and injured 40 at a graduation ceremony for medical students in Mogadishu on Dec. 3, 2009. And in October of this year a truck bomb was detonated in front of the education ministry in Somalia’s capital, killing at least 70 people and wounding dozens. Many were students and parents.
Al Shabaab is well-versed in manipulating people. Not long ago, the same people were fighting under the banner of tribalism. They were involved in murder and rape, even among those who had sought refuge in mosques. Now they have put on a new disguise, claiming to be holy men with a mission from God.
Somalia is a mess. Ever since the collapse of the Siad Barré regime in 1991, it has been unable to stand on its own feet. When one mob leaves, a new one emerges. The current religious mob that controls southern Somalia is probably the worst of all. They are committing atrocities in the name of Islam and behaving like savages. Their savagery reached ghoulish proportions when they destroyed graveyards and removed the human remains, claiming that Somalis had been worshipping the graves.
They have made the Muslim religion appear repulsive and ugly. Many people living under their persecution will likely abandon the faith altogether if they are able to escape. Al Shabaab militants have created misery in their native land and are trying to poison the minds of young people living in the West with their hate and misguided teachings.
Abubakar Kasim is a freelance writer living in Toronto. This piece was originally published in the Toronto Star