(Somalia) Drought, Not Famine

The first in-person reports came in last night on Channel4 news where the journalist managed to speak with a representative of Somalia’   Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Striving Youth). Commonly referred to as al-Shabaab, the group comprise a band of rebels in the thousands whose objective is to overthrow the Somali government. Along with the typical terrorist manifesto, they cite religion as their driving force insisting on applying an interpretation of sharia which frankly as events of late have shown, have nothing to do with the Sharia, the Quran or even Islam. Allow me to explain.

The first disgusting statement by their spokesman is that they were not suffering a famine, rather, a drought. People are dying, children are malnourished, it is estimated that up to 4 million are suffering, and they begin with a discussion on semantics – all the while it is prety clear to see what is happen via the video footage.

The second disgusting statement is their belief that, and I quote the translation from the reporter’s question, “God is punishing us for our sins,” that is to say that they ascribe to the position that the trial they are suffering is a result of God Almighty being angry with them. The converse being that where people are not suffering, God Almighty is happy with them? We know quite clearly from the Quran, the Sunnah, from the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, that trials are not set upon people purely because they were sinners, rather, trails have been set upon people to see how they respond to the change of circumstance. A subtle but very important difference.

And within their mindset sits another troubling revelation. For weeks now some aid agencies have complained that their staff have been intimidated and obstructed by al-Shabaab, so much so that the World Food Program has had to pull out of the region. There has been much speculation on why this is the case, and now their spokesman has given us the answer, he said, “We ask Muslims to help us so that we do not have to rely on help from unbelievers.”

So to make their point, to discriminate aid based on the faith of the one offering it, and to deny those who are suffering because of this ugly interpretation of Islam, they call this sharia law? I can’t help but say to them that God Almighty is in fact punishing you for your sins, your stupidity sits in the same category of the uneducated, pre-Islamic fools who acted not with the subject of justice to mind, but to seek political authority, whatever the cost.

Amongst one of the charities that do have access to the region and who are authorized to provide support are Islamic Relief, the UK based charity which is one of the many tied in to the Disasters and Emergency Committee group. I wonder why al-Shabaab haven’t raised concerns given the interaction Islamic relief has with non-Muslims? After-all, if all non-Muslims are ‘out to get the Muslims’ then surely by working with non-Muslims, Islamic Relief are conspiring with them. Absurdity leads to absurdity.

As for those actually within Islamic Relief, it must be a bitter pill to swallow, to provide the much needed aid they have to ignore the politics of al-Shabaab and do what needs to be done; providing help to those who need it. This is of course the mandate of all respectable charities, including I might add, the world food program.

I’m just frustrated that once again we have another band of self righteous Muslims who are using Islam as a means of creating division, adopting obscure, even unIslamic principles, dressing them up as a means and path towards piety and righteousness. Ironically, this reminds me of the Rhetoric used by Anders Breivik, where hate, mistrust, even anger is channeled onto external parties. What do al-Shabaab and Anders Breivik share in common? They identify problems (more imaginary than real), they assign blame onto a third party, they then enforce injustice as a means of delivering what they believe to be truth.

The Quran is very clear, warning about such mindsets: “O People of the scripture, do not exceed the limits of your religion beyond the truth, and do not follow the vain desires of people who went astray before you, who misled many, and who strayed themselves from the right path (5:77)”

The context of this verse actually addresses the relationship between mankind and God, where instead of recognizing and worshipping God Almighty alone, some misrepresented the nature of god. The message contained is however general, it is a warning to not misrepresent Islam. Which is exactly what al-Shabaab have done by finding pathetic reasons to obstruct the deliver of much needed aid to a population suffering a famine.

When I see the way al-Shabab is acting there, I am reminded of another verse of the Quran, “They did not forbid one another from the wrong they would commit. Vile indeed was what they used to do (5:79)” And Prophet Muhammad said, “By He in Whose Hand is my soul! You will enjoy righteousness and forbid evil, or Allah will send a punishment on you from Him. Then, you will supplicate to Him, but He will not accept your supplication (Ahmed 5/388)”

My advice to al-Shabaab: Stop creating excuses to reject aid as this is an injustice and what you are doing is wrong. Do not be so paranoid so as to suggest that the world food program has any objective other than to help those who are suffering. Do not be so arrogant and proud to assume that every non-Muslim is out to abuse the Muslims, for it is clear that even Muslims take advantage of Muslims (most recent examples include Mubarak in Egypt, Asad in Syria). Instead when you find truth, justice and fairness, work with truth justice and fairness, even if those displaying those attributes have a different religion (Prophet Muhammad was an excellent example of seeking peace with and establishing mutual terms with non-Muslims whenever possible). If you continue this path you are committing an injustice. And while people are sometimes tested to determine the strength of their faith, if you continue the path of rejecting good resulting in harm and injustice for the very people you claim to be representing, as the words of the Prophet himself from the hadith above state, Allah may actually send a punishment on you from Him.

Further, think about this. Could it be that this famine has affected your region such that you are forced to interact with non-Muslims such that you move away from your distrust of non-Muslims carte blanche? Could this be God Almighty’s way of helping you realise the futility of certain religious positions you have adopted such that you become less narrow minded and more accepting of the wider human condition. Think about it, and Allah knows best.

May Allah Almighty protect us from foolishness when interpreting faith, protect us from extremism which diminishes faith, and guide us towards a path where societies can come together on common terms for mutual prosperity and success in this life and the next, ameen.

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