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ICC NOTE: Currently the Islamic militia has taken control of the capital, Mogadishu. This article speaks to how Islamic extremism, is taking root, notably in the courts, although leaders of this movement claim they will bring a better life to Somalians.

Profile: Somalia ‘s Islamic Courts

BBC NEWS

Published: 2006/06/06

The Islamist militia that now controls Somalia ‘s capital, Mogadishu , has emerged out of a judicial system funded by the powerful business community to try and bring some law and order to a country without a government.

But over the past two years, the Union of Islamic Courts has emerged into Somalia ‘s strongest fighting force – forcing the warlords who have controlled the capital for the past 15 years into retreat. There are 11 autonomous courts in Mogadishu , some of which have periodically tried to clamp down on robbery, drugs and what they say are pornographic films being shown in local video houses.

The Islamic Courts say they want to promote Islamic law rather than clan allegiance, which has divided Somalis over the past 15 years.

However, all but one of the 11 courts is associated with just one clan – the Hawiye, who dominate the capital.

Some clan elders in north Mogadishu have now set up their own court, independent of the Union .

Al-Qaeda links?

The Union ‘s public face is its chairman Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate who sought to assure Somalis and the international community this week that the Islamic Courts were no threat and only wanted order.

But the Union does contain radical elements.

Two of the 11 courts are seen as militant; one is led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, on an American list of terrorism suspects because he used to head al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, which was linked to al-Qaeda.

He is, however, strongly critical of the United States and its “war on terror”.

Western diplomats are also concerned by Afghanistan-trained militia commander Adan Hashi Ayro, whose militiamen have been implicated in numerous killings of Somali nationals, as well as five foreign aid workers and a BBC producer, Kate Peyton.

During the years of warfare and anarchy, many Somalis have increasingly turned to their faith for some sort of stability.

One visible sign is that before the civil war began in the 1980s, very few women wore headscarves in Mogadishu .

Now, almost every woman wears a headscarf and an increasing number are wearing veils covering their faces, with just narrow slits for the eyes.

Even those Mogadishu residents who are wary of Islamic extremism may welcome a single group being in control of the capital for the first time in 15 years, saying there will at least be some authority.