NY Times Reports Grassroots Islamist Movement in Somalia

December 28th, 2006 10:26 AM

Never underestimate the mainstream media for their ability to advance a theme that runs counter-intuitive to the sensibilities of most clear headed individuals.

Thus I was not surprised to read that both the New York Times and the BBC furthered the idea that life in Somalia was relatively calm under the Sharia law that was imposed on the Somali people ever since the Islamists ran the warlords out nearly six months ago.

The Islamists came to power earlier this year as a grassroots movement that drove out Mogadishu’s warlords and restored a semblance of order to a city that was once one of the most violent on the planet. - The New York Times

Some residents say lawlessness has returned to Mogadishu - which had been under Islamic rule for six months. - BBC News

Beware of New York Times articles that include labels commonly associated with progressive political movements. For instance the use of the term "grassroots" typically means a community effort to further an idea or an agenda. I don't know about you but I tend to think that the term is almost always referenced in a positive manner to connote the uprising of popular ideas with communal backing.

However, I can find little happening in Somalia that would indicate that the forceful introduction of Sharia Law by a group of Somali Islamists is a grassroots effort; unless of course you consider that the Islamists took over in a battle against the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT). The problem of course is that the ARPCT is believed by some to be backed by the United States government; hence you have a grassroots movement anytime someone opposes the specter of the tyrannical United States.

The reporters at the New York Times are so predictable. They appear to have no problem painting a picture of relative calm even if that calm comes at the hands of brutal Sharia courts. (We have seen this lack of moral courage in reporting before - the idea that Iraq was relatively calm under the rule of Saddam Hussein has been furthered by many in the press. I suppose it's OK when the killers do their killing quietly i.e. calm in the eyes of many in the MSM).

It seems that the New York Times reporters conveniently forgot that the Islamic Courts Union is also believed to be associated with al-Qaeda. So the group that forcefully took over Somalia is allegedly linked to the sworn enemy of Western civilization.

At least the BBC reports this fact in their closing paragraph.

UIC leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is accused by both Ethiopia and the US of having links to al-Qaeda - charges he denies.

He may deny this link but there is a bit of background information on him that tells a different story.

The United States put Sheikh Hassan Dahir on a terrorist list because he headed the al-Itihaad al-Islamiya Islamic militant group in the 1990's, a group funded by Osama Bin Laden. The group is associated with the U.S. Embassy bombings in 1998 that killed 257 people and wounded over 4000, one of the largest terrorist attacks against American's in history.

He does not deny leading that group and puts the United States in the light of attacking Islam and not the other way around.

However, he agreed with those who say that worldwide, Islam is under attack by the US and its allies and supports "the Mujahideen who are fighting back".

After al-Itihaad was defeated in the 1990s, he started to play a key role in the emerging Islamic courts, being set up by businessmen desperate for some kind of law and order in a city ruled by warlords.

Although these courts imposed such punishments as amputations for thieves and stoning to death for serious crimes such as rape and murder, they were warmly welcomed by residents of north Mogadishu, who felt safer than those who lived in warlord-controlled but lawless south Mogadishu.

How do these reporters come off with the warm and fuzzy depictions of Sharia law? Words like "although", the medias' favorite "but monkey", are nothing more than an attempt to whitewash the brutal truth.

Worse than that however is the lie in the above BBC passage. Read it again and you will see that the word "although" is attached to a statement that is meant to lead you into believing that Sharia law is only imposed for the "stoning to death for serious crimes such as rape and murder".

Apparently they missed the following statement from the Islamists themselves.

Somali Muslims who fail to perform daily prayers will be killed in accordance with Qur'anic law under a new edict issued by a leading cleric in the Islamic courts union that controls Mogadishu.

The requirement for Muslims to observe the five-times daily ritual under penalty of death was announced late on Wednesday and appears to confirm the hard-line nature of the increasingly powerful Sharia courts in the capital.

"He who does not perform prayers will be considered as infidel and Sharia law orders that that person be killed," said Sheikh Abdalla Ali, a founder and high-ranking official in the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia.

"Sharia law orders the killing of any Muslim person when he fails to perform prayers," he said in an address at the opening of a new Islamic court in Mogadishu's southern Gubta neighbourhood.

The BBC further explains the "semblance of order" that is being reported by the New York Times in another report.

Local Islamic courts were set up by businessmen who wanted someone to catch and punish thieves and people who do not respect their contracts.

Some of these courts joined to form the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and their small groups of gunmen became Somalia's strongest fighting force.

What do they want?

The UIC is divided between moderates and hardliners.

They all say they want to restore stability and law and order to Somalia.

Hardliners also want to curb foreign influences, which they say are immoral. They have closed down cinemas showing foreign films and football matches.

Some radio stations have also been told not to play foreign music or local love songs but other radio stations and cinemas have been left alone.

The UIC have also staged public executions and floggings of people they have found guilty of crimes such as murder and selling drugs. [emphasis mine]

So you see, one persons order is another persons agenda. The idea that public executions, floggings and amputations ushered in a semblance of order as if that is a good thing is ludicrous and could only be furthered by someone who is short sighted or highly biased. Semblance is the key term here; just ask David Blaine about the difference between appearance and fact.

The situation in Somalia is complex and it doesn't do anybody any good to whitewash the facts with superfluous adjectives that are intentionally placed throughout the article to steer opinion. The Times does present a more balanced approach to this report than most of their articles but I still can't get past these obvious devices. The framing of the Islamist rule as a grassroots effort is simply misleading.

It's no wonder that people are turning away from the mainstream media, how else are they expected to get an honest approach to reporting the news?

Terry Trippany is the editor at Webloggin.