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ICC NOTE: There are many in Somalia who are now pushing for the country to become an Islamic state. Freedoms are being taken away rapidly as the Islamic courts are being established in the capital.

The Times June 13, 2006

No music, no dancing, no football as Muslim law takes over from reign of the warlords

By Rob Crilly

The man who drove US-backed warlords out of Mogadishu says he has no desire for an Islamic state

In an interview with The Times Sheikh Ahmed insists the courts have no interest in turning Somalia into an Islamic state or governing like the Taleban in Afghanistan . He claims to have no agenda beyond keeping the warlords from the city.

“We don’t do anything. We will make facilities for the community — whether politicians or intellectuals, women or youths — we make facilities for people to choose what they want,” he says. “We just want to defend our people.”

He denies any links to al-Qaeda even though his movement includes jihadists such as Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of Al-Ittihad, who has admitted meeting al-Qaeda leaders and is wanted by the US .

“The USA has to bring evidence of whether he is a criminal. After that we will have a discussion,” he says. The West has got it all wrong. “We ourselves have a question. The Westerners are against our religion, but we don’t know why,” he says before a muezzin’s call to prayer abruptly ends the interview.

Today there are 11 courts, each administering justice to a particular sub-clan. In the void of a failed state, they have managed to set up schools and clinics, and their victory last week has halted the bloodiest round of fighting seen in a decade, with more than 350 people killed this year.

But the restoration of some semblance of order has come at a price. The courts have closed cinemas accused of showing immoral films and made celebrating New Year a capital offence. A boy was recently allowed to stab his father’s killer to death in front of a cheering crowd.

At Mogadishu ’s Peace Hotel weddings used to finish with hundreds of people dancing in the car park, but no longer. “The Islamic courts have told us there can be no pop music,” says a waiter. “It’s very sad. We all hope that things are not going to be like Afghanistan .”

Further afield Somalia’s fledgling government, set up 18 months ago with United Nations backing, is watching developments anxiously from its base in Baidoa about 130 miles to the northwest.

It has opened talks with the Sharia courts to see whether they might be able to work together. Mohamed Abdi Hayir, Somalia ’s Information Minister, said: “Like any organisation there are extremists and moderates within the courts. We will see if we can work with the moderates so that the extremists do not have any power.”

But Sheikh Ahmed’s allies include many who believe that the Sharia courts’ triumph in Mogadishu should be replicated nationwide, turning Somalia into an Islamic state.

Sheikh Mohamed Siad, the governor of Lower Shabelle, is one of the military strongmen whose thousands of militiamen and fleet of “technicals” — Toyota pick-ups fitted with anti-aircraft guns — provide much of the Islamic courts’ muscle.

“We are Muslims and we must work at implementing Koranic law. Democracy will never work,” he says, slurping a cappuccino as he holds court.

The militias are engaged in a war against infidels, he says. “The warlords are killers, looters. So we are at war with them and the people who supported them, including Americans.”

JUSTICE AND THE KORAN

Sharia, or Islamic law, is either specified in the Koran or Sunna (sayings of the Prophet), or interpreted from them by religious scholars

Saudi Arabia

Exclusively derived from the Koran and the Sunna. Recommended punishments for some specific offences include mutilation and beheading

Nigeria

Some northern states have implemented Sharia. Recommended punishments are enforced

Malaysia

Islamic civil courts are increasingly powerful, despite secular constitution. For the full story…