Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sufi Jihad in Somalia

Sufism is tolerant, mild and gentle. But it seems that some sufis are picking up arms against the more extreme forms of Islam in Somalia. However, I was struck by this picture in NYT last Sunday - a Qur'an, a gun, and a Playboy gun-strap. The sacred and the profane - all wrapped in a small inter-connected world.
Here is the caption for the picture: Moderate Sufi scholars recently did what so many others have chosen to do in anarchic Somalia: They picked up guns and entered the killing business, in this case to fight back against the Shabab, one of the most fearsome extremist Muslim groups in Africa.

Also see the full slideshow here and read the related article here.

While talking about Somalia, there was a ridiculous opinion piece in Wall Street Journal last month by Stephen Prothero, Professor of Religion at Boston University. I just found an excuse to fit it in this post. Now, I had heard good things about Prothero's book Religious Literacy: What every American needs to know -- and doesn't. But this WSJ piece is simply bizarre. While referring to the menace of contemporary Somali pirates, he makes a religious connection dating back to the early days of Islam. So what is his logic:

When Muhammad and his followers moved in the year 622 from the commercial center of Mecca to the more agricultural settlement of Medina, almost all of the emigrants found themselves out of work. They didn't own farming land in Medina, and because they had left behind suppliers and customers alike they couldn't trade as they had in Mecca. So Muhammad turned to the longstanding Arabian practice of the ghazu, or bounty raid. His men would capture camels and caravan drivers and hold them for ransom just as Somali pirates today are capturing and ransoming ships, supplies and sailors. Though many of the prophet's early bounty raids were unsuccessful, they did cause merchants to reroute their caravans, just as the Somali pirates are redrawing the shipping map in the Gulf of Aden.

Oh...and Muhammad used words in negotiations, and the Somali pirates today use words in negotiations. And Muhammad would plan for these raids, and these Somali pirates today plan for these raids. And Muhammad used horses and camels in raids, and the Somali pirates use .... oh wait. This last one doesn't really work.

Instead of looking at piracy as piracy (yes, pirates sometimes do hold people for ransom, and yes, piracy causes a change of routes for those affected by piracy), Prothero twists and turns to bring religion to the debate. Of course, he doesn't address why 99% of the Muslim population does not engage in maritime piracy - even though they hold Muhammad in the same high esteem as the Somalis. But then that would have exposed logical problems with the article - and the opinion piece would not have been published in the first place.

Read the Prothero piece here.


Don said...

So... if I wanted to publish an opinion piece, your advice would be for it to contain no logical consistency? All right!

Salman Hameed said...

"So... if I wanted to publish an opinion piece, your advice would be for it to contain no logical consistency?"

Yes - if you are publishing in the Wall Street Journal. :)

Uh-oh. Rupert Murdoch will now be very upset.

Atif Khan said...

Lol.... its funny seeing the Playboy strap on that AK47 beneath Quran.

SKhan said...

As-Salaamu Alaykum, Salman.

It seems that they view of Sufism as being a moderate, mild, peaceful version of Islam is so pervasive, it even appears on your blog! But in reality, Sufism is simply an Islamic practice, not a form of Islam. It is not a sect, nor is it a group. It is simply the Islamic practice of purifying one's heart. Nor have all Sufis been peaceful. In fact, there was not a single jihad led against European colonial powers that wasn't led by Sufis. The Naqshbandi Sufis defended the Ottoman Empire from Russian invasion. The Qadiri and Darqawi Sufis of North Africa fought against the French. The Shaykh of the Sudanese Sufi Shaykh Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi successfully fought against the British. Sufis in India also resisted the British. Even movements such as the Deobandis (whom I am sure you have heard of) practice Sufism. The "Sufi Jihad in Somalia" shouldn't really be anything new, accept to people who believe what the mainstream media have to say about Sufism (that it is some kind of peaceful sect/version of Islam).

Kirpal Singh successor said...

It is sorrow of matter that The Christians of Somalia face complete annihilation because of the systematic persecution of Christians by the followers of Sunni Islam. The Islamic inquisition is also in full swing in Afghanistan, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Therefore, the usual brutal and barbaric Islamic path of complete Islamization and utter annihilation of minorities is continuing and the way of Mohammed is being simulated by his supporters.

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