More than 160 Somali scholars have issued a fatwa denouncing the al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabab group, stating its activities have “no place in Islam”, writes Mohammed Kahiye from Nairobi.
This is the first time Somali imams have come up with a fatwa (religious edict) against the group, which controls many areas to the ire of the Western backed government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
At a conference on the phenomenon of extremism in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, the scholars said they condemned Al Shabab’s use of violence against innocent people. Al-Shabab or “The Youth” is fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.
The announcement comes at the time of the killing of US-born jihadist Omar Hammami also known as “Abu Mansoor Al Amriki” who was on the FBI’S most wanted list with $5 million bounty on his head.
Despite being pushed out of key cities in the past two years, the Islamist militia still remains in control of important towns and large parts of the rural countryside.
President Mohamud opened the government-organised conference that drew Somali scholars, elders and imams from both within the country and abroad.
Sheikh Abdirzak Ahmed Mohamud said: “It is forbidden to join, sympathise or give any kind of support to Al Shabab.”
Sheikh Hassan Jaamai, who is one of the most respected Somalian scholars in the US, told the journalists covering the event that one of the objectives of the conference was to issue a fatwa on whether Al Shabab had legitimacy or not, with the final edict concluding that it is not an “Islamic” movement. He added: “It’s like a gang that comes together to kill Somalis, without any legitimate reason or justification.”
“The only thing they want is to create chaos in the country so that they can survive,” said Sheikh Abdikani from the Gulf, referring to bomb attacks on a restaurant in central Mogadishu that killed 15 people on the opening day of the meeting.
At the end of the four-day conference, the seven justifications for the fatwa were read out by Sheikh Abdirizak Ahmed Mohamud:
• Al Shabab has strayed from the correct path of Islam, leading the Somali people onto the wrong path. Their ideology is a danger to Islam and the existence of the Somali society.
• The Somali government is a Muslim administration, it is therefore forbidden to fight against it or regard its members as infidels.
• Al Shabab is an extremist group and they must atone to God and cease its erroneous ideology and criminal actions.
• It is haram/forbidden to join, sympathise or give any kind of support to Al Shabab.
• It is a religious duty (fard) to refuse shelter to Al Shabab members, who must be handed over to the Somali authorities.
• It is forbidden to negotiate on behalf of Al Shabab members in custody or bailing them out of prison.
• Somali officials have a religious duty to protect its citizens from the atrocities of Al Shabab. The general public also has an obligation to assist the government in its security operations against Al Shabab.
Last week, Al Shabab’s Twitter account was suspended for a second time after claiming on its feed that it had ambushed the convoy of the president, who was unhurt. It has since set up a new account.
President Mohamud took office a year ago in a UN-backed bid to end two decades of violence, with clan-based warlords, Islamist militants and its neighbours all battling for control of the war-torn country.