Recently, the Huffington Post re-published an Associated Press article on Sufi resurgence in Somalia. Following the withdrawal of the armed militant group Al-Shabab from the country’s capital of Mogadishu, Somalis are once again allowed to engage in Sufi practices without fear of death and violent repression. The article paints a landscape of men and women chanting in divine states of worship. The writer makes mention of women: “Beyond the circle of worshippers are dozens of women, some of them so moved that they are crying.”The passivity that is thrust upon women in conflict, particularly in media coverage, reeks with patriarchal and racist notions of brown and black women being incapable of speech. To illustrate the presence of women only “beyond the circle of worshippers” is to deny the active presence of Somali Sufi women asworshippers, and their agency over their own spiritual selves. Through focusing on the sheikhs who have returned to allow for Sufism to again be practiced publically, the narrative becomes one-dimensional, ignoring both the historical and contemporary roles that women have played in Sufi and Somali traditions.
In this context and at other moments, Somali women have never, despite media reports portraying them purely as victims of extreme forms of violence and female genital mutilation, been docile or victims. In fact, Somali women have become entrepreneurs, police officers and soldiers, and have always been advocates for the people in their communities across the Diaspora. Recently, Anike wrote a post on how Somali women from the Diaspora are now returning to rebuild their nation that has been ravaged by civil war and international interventions.
In much of the reporting on the struggles of women of colour (in this case WOC living and caught in conflict), men are the main actors on the stage. As the instigators of war, famine and rape, the leaders of the various rebel militant groups take centre stage thanks to journalists and media outlets. Treated almost as a sick and twisted show to be enjoyed by those who are detached from the conflicts and are comfortably sitting in the West without knowing on an experiential level the amounts of violence that populations experience, the storyline is embellished around dark men who just can’t get along. Women are treated as the undercurrents, the ones who are only affected, but are not able to affect their environments and circumstances. Much of this erasure of in this case, the agency of Somali women, also stems from an erasure of herstories of Somalia’s rich history.
So, in order to counteract the common narrative of victimized Somali women, let’s learn about some other Somali women who are on the forefront of resistance. And let’s keep in mind that these women are not the exceptions but are the reality of the complexities of Somali women and other women of colour across the globe. [Read more...]