Somali Culture And Islamic Extremism Essay

1680 words - 7 pages

After decades without a functioning national government, either their traditional clan leaders or local warlords have governed the people of Somalia. The lack of a national government and the following decades of turmoil have led Somali people to develop an identity that focuses on self and self-preservation. Since small clans have governed the people there has not been a higher power to settle disputes between clans or to provide services that the Transitional Government (TG) has failed to provide. In the early part of the century, Islamic extremist groups began to fill this gap. The groups were even able to control the majority of Mogadishu for a short period. These extremist groups ...view middle of the document...

Religious affiliation is to the individual sect of Islam as opposed to Islam itself. The only weak national link of all Somali's is the relation to a common ancestor Samaal (Tradoc Culture Center, 2011).
With the majority of the population focused on survival there is no opportunity or desire to attend school. Somali children are educated though oral story telling. The stories are a way of controlling the children with minimal adult supervision and instilling lessons of morality, history and values (Tradoc Culture Center, 2011). Oral story telling is a highly regarded tradition in the culture of Somalia (Diversity Council, 2007).
The lack of a formal education system, decades of turmoil and the lack of a national identity combines to form small groups controlling small areas. The small groups are usually traditional clans. When problems arise between the clans something is needed to settle the disputes, Islamic extremist groups have filled this gap. The extremist groups are able to fill the void of a higher power that can provide a larger sense of stability. “Somalis have been Sunni Muslims since the inception of their nation centuries ago, and Somali culture is inextricably entwined with Islam” (Diversity Council, 2007, p.3). For many people, strict Sharia law is better than no law at all.
A number of Islamic extremists groups have formed to fill the void of power in Somalia. The most successful, The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), “a group of Sharia law courts that united to form a rival organization to the Transitional Government Forces” (TGF) (Tradoc Culture Center, 2011). The militant arm of UIC was Harakat Al- Shabaab Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab). Al-Shabaab was linked to UIC until their fall in 2007. Since the fall of UIC, Al-Shabaab has been the most powerful Islamic extremist group in Somalia. On 9 February 2012, Al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al Zawahiri declared Al-Shabaab had joined forces with the Jihadist movement. (United Press International, 2012)
The Somali people have traditionally practiced a moderate form of Islam. As Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups have gained power, there has been a shift toward a more fundamentalist practice. Al-Shabaab has had to relax its fundamentalist stance at times due to loss of popular support. In 2009, Al-Shabaab banned international aid agencies from southern Somalia. Al-Shabaab reversed the decision in 2011 during widespread famine. Many supporters and members of the group blamed the leaders because the strict rules prevented much needed aid from reaching those in need (Hanson, 2011).
In early 2012, Western oil companies began to harvest oil from newly discovered oil fields. Al-Shabaab issued warnings that they would not recognize exploration licenses and “Somali oil carries death.” (United Free Press, Inc, 2011). Estimates of the size of the oil fields varies, some of the estimates equates the potential oil to that...

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