Saturday, August 12, 2006

An Open Letter to Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweis

Liban Ahmad

I am writing this open letter to you in the hope of adding my voice the many Somalis who shared ideas with you so as not to see the efforts of the United Islamic Courts of Somalia become an exercise in futility, and your personality a byword for demagoguery.

I believe that successive Somali governments (former Transitional Somali Government and current the Transitional Federal Government) failed to address the question about Somalis whose names are included in the suspected terrorist list of several countries. My unease over our selected leaders' approach to the question stemmed from the fact that failed states like Somalia has no time to harbour terrorists. Foreign countries want reassurance that Somali citizens are not involved in terrorism. That is partly the job of any Somali government.

You are a Somali citizen and a political and religious leader as well. Like it or loathe it, your actions and judgement will have ramifications for national reconciliation.

You were quoted as saying that the Islamic courts will go the southern parts of Galkacyo "because people from that town want the courts there." If the quoted words are yours, I doubt you are acting out of your Muslim heart; you may be acting out of your tribal heart. Reason: your actions may destroy the 13 year old agreement that led to peaceful coexistence in Galkacyo. Damages may outweigh benefits. You will be remembered for failing to understand what the late General Mohamed Farah Aideed and President Abdullahi Yusuf had understood: that they have obligation to work towards peace in Galkacyo.

You have an obligation to rein in any members from Southern Galkacyo who might be carried away by the UIC's swift victory over warlords. Failure to do that will mean you are sanctioning clan warfare. A sense of history can be of help to you. And remember that "the study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance."

Remember that the name you use -Islamic Courts- always gives wrong impression: Somalia has never lived under an Islamic state nor did it have an effective central government for the past fifteen years. How can a religion and clan based group administer justice when courts are known by clan names? The court of Sacad, The court of Abgaal, The court of Sheekhaal, the Court of Raxanweyn, the Court of Marehan etc, etc? Do you think that Islamic state will thrive if one adopts grassroots approach that empowers every clan to become a state within a state? Have you forgotten the countless Somalis who were killed or maimed on the basis of the clan they belonged to? How can justice be done under an unjust designation?

The United Islamic Courts of Somalia are a new force that still has the potential to contribute to Somalia's future positively. The UIC's foreign policy is quite discouraging. What benefit will Somalis gain if our energy that can be channelled to nation building and national recovery is directed towards antagonising neighbouring countries to achieve personal aspirations?

Whose task is it to formulate foreign policy? The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) or the United Islamic Courts of Somalia? Already the presence of United Islamic Courts have affected the relation within The TFG troika-Parliamentary Speaker Shariif, President Yusuf and Prime Minister Geeddi. This is not a small feat. It shows that the TFG is ready for power-sharing. The Transitional Parliament has one virtue: it is pyre of personal ambition aimed at serving clan interests. Every top politician can be challenged. MPs may be fractious but they debate issues candidly.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweis: Misguided or Pious?

As a Sheikh you have obligation towards Allah and towards people who regard you as an example to follow. Avoiding any unprovoked action or any move that may have adverse consequences for Somali clan relations ought to be uppermost in your mind. Why so keen on opening a questionable court in a part of Somalia that has benefited from self-rule, that has not been blighted by warlords? Don't you think that such actions can create major disagreement on governance for Somalis in the future? Do you want Somalia to become like countries that instituted Sharia law in some parts while other parts use secular laws? Why so keen on being regarded as Amiir Muminiin in Somalia when your words and actions polarise people who have coexisted peacefully? Remember that religious innovation is a sin in Islam. Why do you combine elements of Jahiliya with basic Islamic precepts?

Many people have raised questions about Hargeisa based Court's desire to see you in court so you can answer questions about your alleged role in the murder of expatriates in 'Somaliland'. Do you think those people will be on your side if you choose to become a DEMAGOUGE?

You blame members of the TFG for being pro-Ethiopia whereas your actions seem to be endangering peaceful coexistence on which Somalis agreed without the help of any foreign country! Can't you see the contradiction in your words and actions?

May I anticipate that wisdom and foresight prevails in Somalia.

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