Sharia Alert: culture wars? Is the New Duranty Times drawing a sly parallel between Christian conservatives in the U.S. and Sharia advocates in Somalia? Probably. “In Somalia, Islamic Militias Fight Culture Wars,” from the New Duranty Times, aka the New York Times, with thanks to all who sent this in:
MOGADISHU, Somalia, June 18 “” Flush from a military victory earlier this month that caught Washington and the world by surprise, Islamic militiamen have begun waging smaller battles “” cultural, not military ones “” in and around Somalia’s shellshocked capital.
A week ago, when Mexico and Iran were still playing the first half of their World Cup soccer match, gunmen allied with the Islamic courts burst into a tiny theater in the Hiliwaa neighborhood of north Mogadishu, condemned the place as ungodly and angrily switched off the television set.
When they caught sight of a man with a trendy Afro, with lines shaved into it, they tied his hands behind his back, took out a pair of scissors and evened it out into a scalp-revealing buzz cut.
“They said, ‘Your hair is against our culture and is not Islamic,’ ” recalled the man, Abdi Fatah, 26. They whipped him with a belt, then jailed him for three days….
Moderate sheiks led by Sharif Ahmed, a fresh-faced former geography teacher who insists his country is not using Taliban of Afghanistan as a model, are jockeying for power with those with a more rigid interpretation of Islam. For every warm handshake a visiting reporter receives, others offer nothing more than an icy glare….
But one of his disciples is Mohamed Ali Aden, 19, who commanded 350 men in the recent war and said he would settle for nothing less than a full-fledged Islamic state.
“We’ve neglected God’s verses for so long,” Mr. Aden said in an interview. “We want our women veiled and we want them at home. We men have to grow our beards.”
Mr. Aden counts as an associate Aden Hashi Ayro, a young military commander trained in Afghanistan who leads a faction linked to a string of assassinations. He is believed to despise the West. Mr. Ayro could not be reached for comment despite numerous inquiries. People close to him said he had nothing to hide but was unavailable.
Mr. Aden, though, was willing to speak, albeit with obvious disdain. Mr. Aden, an orphan who said religion taught him what his deceased parents never could, spoke in a whisper, his face peeking out from under a scarf.
“If you will not join Islam, you are not my brother,” he said, refusing to offer his hand. “I am a holy warrior and those who disturb Islam, we will disturb them.”…
When they could manage to track down the gunmen running rampant in the streets, some courts adopted stringent forms of Shariah, cutting off thieves’ hands, executing killers and doling out lashes for lesser crimes.
Soon, the clan-based courts merged in a powerful alliance that eventually took on and toppled the warlords who had been ruling and running roughshod over Mogadishu residents.
But those courts owe part of their strength to the Bush administration, which tried secretly to undermine them. In recent years, American intelligence agents paid warlords to root out Islamic militants operating in Mogadishu. The United States said a small cell of Al Qaeda, made up of foreigners, had set up shop in Mogadishu after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and were being protected by court leaders.
“Al Qaeda’s concept is right and one day they will rule,” said Mr. Aden, the young militia commander. “The name Muslim and Al Qaeda are the same to me. We are alike.”
But sympathizing with Al Qaeda and working on its behalf, Somalis say, are two different things. “I think there are people here who love bin Laden and Al Qaeda but that’s true in every capital, even Washington,” said Ali Iman Sharmarke, a prominent Mogadishu radio journalist who studied in America. “But those willing to strap a bomb to themselves and fight for Al Qaeda, they’re not here.”…
But there have been other confrontations. Earlier this year, Islamic militiamen stopped Ismahan Ali Mohamed, 18, on the street and ripped the long, tight-fitting skirt she was wearing. They ordered her to wear a looser garment next time.
Now, she wears a flowing hijab on the streets that covers all but her face. “It feels heavy and it’s not comfortable,” she said, removing it inside a hotel restaurant to reveal a bright pink outfit that still covered her but allowed more of a glimpse of what was underneath. “With this, I feel happy and beautiful and free,” said Ms. Mohamed, an aspiring actress.
A friend, Ubah Mohamed, 34, who runs a beauty shop, said she feared the new rules. “If these Islamic people get their way, we’ll have to cover all the way,” she said. “I’m a beautiful girl and I like to show others how beautiful I am. Behind the veil, no one can tell.”
Malyun Sheik Haidar, 31, who publishes a small newsletter devoted to women’s issues, heard from a man involved in one of the Islamic courts that her publication would probably be shut down. “He said, ‘Women have a right to sit in your house and do domestic things,’ ” she said. ” ‘You don’t have a right to do a journal on human rights.’ “…