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Faisal Jeylani Aweys has not seen his native Somalia since he fled 14 years ago, but he lives in hope of winning an Olympic medal for his war-torn country. And Awey's chosen sport of taekwondo has a way of throwing up medals for countries in trouble such as Afghanistan — so why not Somalia?Aweys grew up in a country at war and his mother died from cancer when he was still a small boy.He left with a sister for Switzerland at the age of 13."I discovered a life, that of an adolescent, because up to then, my life had only been running away."Inspired by his mother who had been a taekwondo athlete, Aweys also took up the martial art."My French teacher knew a bit of my story and told me to 'go for this'," he said."Out of respect for her, I did it. It was a way to get closer to my mother."Now he teaches taekwondo in Lausanne and is ranked 60th in the world in the under 58 kilograms category.In Switzerland, Aweys quickly became a black belt and qualified to become a referee and coach."For a long time, I fought in the name of my club, not Switzerland, as I did not have a passport," he said.Married and with a young child, Aweys decided to halt competition in 2010 because he thought sport would dominate his family life.But the secretary general of the Somali Olympic Committee, Duran Farah, went to the Lausanne Open tournament and Aweys' life changed again."He was looking for top level athletes. At first I was not very keen, but I had no real excuse not to fight, so I said yes."Country needs heroesAweys won tournaments in France, Switzerland and Germany.And in 2013 he went to Egypt for his first tournament outside of Europe as a Somali athlete.There were eight in the delegation and two were exiles in Europe.Aweys came fourth and realised he could compete at an internaitonal level."The work paid off," Aweys said.At the African championships in Tunisia, he beat rivals from Gabon and Mozambique before losing in the semi-final to the Egyptian favourite.A bronze medal inspired him and now, with money from the Olympic solidarity programme, he hopes to compete in the 2016 Games in Rio.To get an automatic place, Aweys must qualify at the African Games in Brazzaville in September or in a small number of qualifying tournaments after.Or he must get an invitation.But Aweys says he is determined "to go to the Games under my own steam".Success in Rio would give the long-suffering East African country of ten million people a first Olympic medal."Anything is possible," he said with a smile.Rohullah Nikpa won Afghanistan's first Olympic medals in at the 2008 Bejing Games and 2012 in London.Hadi Saei of Iran won two Olympic golds in the sport, "so why not me?"If that dream comes true, Aweys would join Abdi Bile, the 1987 world 1,500-metre champion, and British-Somali 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic champion Mo Farah among a rare number of sporting heroes for a country that badly needs them.Source: http://www.thelocal.ch
Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, has urged Australians not to join theIslamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) “death cult” after a 25-year-old male model from Melbourne became the latest foreign recruit to die while fighting with militants in Syria.Sharky Jama, a former model and keen football player from Melbourne’s Somali community, had been based in Iraq but was shot dead in Syria.His family said they received a text message and phone call from someone on Monday informing them that he had been killed.Sharky Jama is believed to be the 20th Australian to die fighting for IsilHussein Haraco, a Melbourne Somali community leader, said he had known Jama’s family for ten years and he was known as a good person who assisted other community members.“They haven’t got any idea what is the reason,” Mr Haraco told ABC News.“He was just a young man playing soccer and being at other activities and suddenly something happened and he went to Syria. [it’s] really shocking for the whole community and we are really confused.”About 90 Australians have gone to the Middle East to fight for Isil, including about 20 who have been killed.The nation was shocked by the apparent death last month of Jake Bilardi, a Melbourne teenager who is believed to have died in a suicide bombing.The death of Jama prompted Mr Abbott to issue a plea to Australians to stop “going overseas to join these terrorist groups”.“Don’t. They are death cults. That’s what they are,” Mr Abbott said.“They’re not about religion. They’re just about death. And it’s just as likely to be your death as anyone else’s death. If you go overseas for this kind of purpose, you are a danger to others, you are a danger to yourself. Don’t do it.”Australian officials said they were unable to confirm the latest death.Mr Abbott this week said he would deploy a further 330 Australian troops to train the Iraqi army to hold and seize ground from Isil.Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk
Kenya begins construction of security wall along Somali border
MANDERA, Kenya, April 14 (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government has begun constructing a security wall along its border with Somalia to help curb cross border incursions by Somali militant Al-Shabaab.
Director of Immigration Services Gordon Kihalangwa, who officially broke the ground in Mandera late Monday, urged the locals to support the project which he said would help prevent Al- Shabaab militants from crossing into Kenya.
Kihalangwa said the wall will run from Mandera in the north to Kiunga in the east coast, covering Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Lamu counties.
He said the purpose of the wall is to demarcate the Kenya- Somalia border besides securing the country from Al-Shabaab militants, adding that the government is doing everything possible to sensitize members of the public on the importance of the wall.
"The project is fully funded by the government with relevant government departments chipping in; the ministry of transport, the National Youth Service and Kenya Defence Forces have given in their support to this noble task," he said. "We will ensure that our borders are secure by preventing illegal immigrants and proliferation of small arms into the country."
Kihalangwa said the wall will not bar cross border movements, adding that there will be designated points for exit and entry into the country. He revealed that machinery, equipment and materials for the construction are already on the ground.
Kenyan officials say the security wall will provide a long-term security efforts to secure the border, adding that once the construction is completed, it will only be crossed by entering through the appropriate border points.
The Islamist group has carried series of deadly attacks in northeast Kenya and other cities, including the capital city of Nairobi, since the East African country sent its military into Somalia in 2011 to fight the Al-Qaida inspired group.
Kenyan authorities have also blamed the militants for being behind spates of kidnapping of expatriates working in the sprawling refugee camps in the incursion-prone northern region and tourists in the coastal archipelago towns of Mombasa and Lamu.
Officials link these attacks to the fact that Mandera and Bula Hawa, an adjoining town in Somalia, are barely two kilometres apart, thus making it easy for terrorists to cross the border and attack. Somalis living at Bula-hawa town had also violated the no- man's land and encroached into Kenya. The wall will thus help rectify the situation.
(CNN) - Laying down tracks for their debut album in the recording studio in Los Angeles, Iman Hashi, 25 and her sister Siham, 27 could not be further from their hometown of Mogadishu. The sisters were born in the Somali capital but were forced to flee after war broke out in 1991.
Along with their parents, the girls relocated to Canada as refugees where during their teens they discovered a passion for music.
Heading south to LA by way of Atlanta, the singing sisters with a bold flair for fashion are now embarking on a musical journey, gearing up to unleash their Afro-pop sound to the world.
CNN's African Voices caught up with the sister act -- known collectively as Faarrow (combining the translation of their names into English -- Iman means "Faith" and Siham means "Arrow") to talk about music, aspirations and Somalia.
CNN: Hi guys, thanks for chatting with me today. What are some of your musical influences?
Iman: We love Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie -- stuff my mom would listen to and play -- and the Spice Girls. We used to die for the Spice Girls. I love new artists now but I don't know if it's a nostalgia, but I remember ... my mom used to pump whatever -- Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston.
CNN: You are working on your debut album now -- how's that been?
Siham: We've been working with Elijah Kelley -- he's actually an actor. He was in "Hairspray," "The Butler," and most recently he was in the George Lucas animation, "Strange Magic." That's what he's more known for but his first passion is music. He's an incredible producer, writer and singer. I just felt like he was always the missing piece. He brought everything together.
CNN: So now that you've found your "missing piece," how would you describe your sound?
Siham: Our music before was experimenting with Afrobeat sounds but now it's more of a fusion (of what) we are inspired by. It's pop with undertones of hip hop and rhythmic African percussion. It's a fusion of everything.
CNN: And do you guys write the songs as well?
Siham: The entire album was pretty much (written and produced) by me, my sister and Elijah. And when we signed we already had a lot of those songs already done. Warner Brothers Records is really great in that way that they already loved what we were doing and let us do our own thing.
CNN: What are you listening to right now?
Siham: Oh my God, there's so many!
Siham: I really love this new song -- I don't know if Iman is going to agree with me -- but his name's; I love it.
CNN: As well as your music, you both work with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) -- how did you start your humanitarian work?
Iman: Ever since we were kids we wanted to help Somalia, we always talked about it. But we were like "what can we physically do?"
We were doing some research and we called our mom and she said 'You know you still have family over there. There's a refugee camp in Kenya and your great uncle and his kids live in a refugee camp.' And we did some research about Dadaab refugee camp, it's a massive camp that has taken in Sudanese refugees, Somali refugees, Rwandan refugees -- pretty much anywhere there was a conflict. Everybody fled to Dadaab. In the beginning (it was) pure advocacy talking about it on Twitter and Facebook.
CNN: But then you decided to "up your game" as it were...
Iman: Yes, then we started a non-profit and we'd do small benefit concerts in Toronto and in San Diego -- wherever there was a big Somali community we would do outreach but all we had was our singing, working with UNHCR in a capacity as a spokesperson. We headlined World Refugee Day at the Kennedy Center, as well as the Nansen Awards twice in Geneva. We felt like this platform of singing -- the bigger it gets, the more we can do.
It's our purpose to be a voice for our country.Siham Hashi
Siham: We obviously love fashion so we wanted to do our own socially conscious brand so we've been making these bracelets and necklaces called "Wish Creatively." Wish stands for "Women Internationally Selling Hope." We wanted to do a socially conscious brand where we sell these bracelets where it goes back to projects in Kenya or Somalia with women providing them with a sustainable income.
CNN: So what's next for you two?
Siham: We're actually in the mixing process right now. We still have a few (tracks) to finish up but the majority of the album is pretty much done. We want to turn it in as soon as possible so they can put together a rollout plan and get ready for the first single to drop.
Iman: I don't feel like we ever lost that feeling like we're creative spokespersons for our generation as well as for Somalia. I feel like now because we followed our dreams it's like 'they're not just refugees anymore.' We don't have to become doctors so we can one day give back to Somalia and help rebuild -- it's such a beautiful dream but not ours. In our culture, anything creative is not really respected or appreciated. But I feel like now but even with our new deal we're still trucking along. I feel like we inspire people.
When my wife Khadijo and I were expecting a baby daughter 17 months ago, we asked friends in our Somali community to suggest some names. A young, Western-educated Somali woman came up with "Amelia. It's a beautiful name and easy to pronounce," she said. "And it will go down well with Aussies. And after all, she'll be an Aussie herself."As a statement of fact this was true. Our daughter would be spared the trauma we suffered as refugees; the years of limbo and statelessness before the welcome shock of a new home on the other side of the world. So we considered going with "Amelia" to pave the way for her easy integration into her country of birth. Though we were quietly apprehensive about the response from Somali elders, we felt comfortable with the decision.We were hopelessly naive. News of our chosen name spread on the Somali-Australian grapevine. The older generation reacted with intense hurt, even anger. They saw our non-traditional choice, a name that owed nothing to our Somali or Muslim heritage, as a betrayal of our identity. They were especially disappointed in me because I am a poet and poets are seen as the keepers of the culture.Still, the controversy spread.The episode was a sobering lesson about a truth I suspected all along: names are never really "neutral". A name both defines and shapes a person. It tells a story, and not always a happy one. In a complex world of migration and globalisation, I wonder how many of us are truly at peace with our names.Some people are named after their grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, aunts, uncles, national heroes or historical figures to keep generations connected. In the Somali culture some are named after an event such as Geedi (traveller) for someone born during travel or Ubax (flower) referring to someone born in a pleasing environment, surrounded by aromatic flowers.Many Somali refugees have changed their names. Since 1991 a brutal civil war in our homeland, in the Horn of Africa, has displaced 1.7 million people, roughly one-fifth of the population. The displaced spent years in refugee camps or embarked on long, treacherous journeys to safety; the luckier ones found haven in countries such as Australia and elsewhere in the West. Some of these newly arrived refugees feared that if they kept their real names, the authorities would trace their travel route and return people to their last country of departure. So these Somalis changed their names on arrival at the airport. Many still use these bogus names in official documents, but use their real names in the community.I know two brothers who were smuggled to Australia from an African country and an Asian country and as soon they arrived in Australia to seek political asylum they changed their names, even disguising the fact they were brothers. Their respective children are confused about why they don't share the same names as their cousins.Somalis are a nomadic and oral society. They enjoy travelling and talking but not writing and reading. Some of the generation who changed their names have since passed away leaving their children with unknown family and clan names. These young people are in limbo, both in the Somali community in Australia and in their country of origin. From other Somalis they often hear insults, such as "you have a fake family name."Some were sent home to Somalia for "cultural rehabilitation". When they came back to Australia they told heartbreaking stories. They said they had been teased or accused of being imposters. Some were disowned by their clans.I see the federal government wants to refuse protection visas to people who destroy evidence of their identity or arrive with false documents. I hope our leaders understand that many refugees behave this way simply out of fear and desperation.Other Somalis changed their names after they settled here. A youth from Melbourne's north told me he called himself "Moe" because "you can't get a job with the name Mohamed". While this saddened me, academic research shows Moe is right.If you have an original African, Asian or Middle Eastern name, your chance of being called for an interview is much less than if your name sounds Anglo-Saxon. Candidates with names such as Smith are at a distinct advantage compared with those called Al-Utaibi (Middle Eastern), Adekanmbi (Nigerians), Malakooti (Afghan), Etsehiwot (Ethiopian), and Chenguang (Chinese). Even amongAnglo-Saxon names, people with more easily pronounced names occupy higher status positions in professions such as law or politics. Lucky you, Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten. Research also shows that those with African, Asian, or Middle Eastern names are also less likely to be promoted. Australia is seen as a successful model of multiculturalism; however, this subtle and soft discrimination based on name profiling is chronic and growing in the Australian labour market. It is dampening the ambitions and aspirations of many young migrants.But the encounter with Moe also got me thinking about converts to Islam. I often see some new Muslims changing from their original names like John or Janet to Osman or Aisha. On one occasion at a La Trobe University prayer room I met an older Anglo-Saxon Muslim man. "Assalamu alaykum," I greeted him. "Wa'alaykum assalam," he responded as the Muslim custom requires. "What is your name brother?" I asked. "Ahmed," he answered, explaining he had converted to Islam 30 years earlier.Some new converts to Islam even change their family names believing that this is true Islam. While I respect their choice, it has nothing to do with Islamic teachings. Earlier in my life a well respected local Somali sheikh explained to me that Prophet Mohamed never changed the names of new converts to Islam unless the name had a bad meaning within Islam. 'Abdushamsi' (the slave of sun) is one such name. Almost all his companions kept their traditional names once they embraced Islam, names such as Abubakar, Omar, Khadijo, Maria, Salman, Bilal, Suhayb. Mohamed himself had his name long before he became a prophet.I think these new converts consult sheikh Google fatwaa and that's all. If anyone is going to change his or her name, I would invite them to adopt an Australian aboriginal name. I think this is fair. So from now on my nickname will be Yahbini, meaning "star". Many Africans and Asians also changed their names during the Christian missionary expansion in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. This reminds me of an amusing encounter from 13 years ago, when I was new to Australia. I went to an office to fill out a form. "What is your Christian name?" asked the lady behind the desk. "I'm not Christian," I said, incensed.At one of my favourite coffee shops in Fitzroy, a place to which people flock during their morning break like thirsty camels around a water wheel, the woman behind the counter once asked: "What is your name?" "Yusuf," I said. "Josef?" She leaned in to hear me better. She tried again, "Yufus?" "Whatever is easy for you," I smiled. After all, it took me ages before I could pronounce the name of my Sri Lankan friend "Rajalingam."As I said, names tell stories. In free societies we are free to change our names, just as we're free to choose our lifestyle or religion. And yet when a person changes their name they risk obliterating not just their personal history but the history of their community and their sense of belonging to that group. A change of name can leave a person as vulnerable as a tree with damaged roots swaying in the wind.So what of my daughter's name? My mother in-law, aware of the community tension regarding Amelia, suggested instead the name "Eemaan", meaning faith. We took her advice. For all that, the young people still call my girl Amelia.Dr Yusuf Omar is an Australian from a Somali background. He recently completed a PHD on Somali youth perspectives and he is also one of the two Victorian members of the (federal) african ministerial consultative commitee (AMCC). -
Ines Dumig's photo series "Apart Together."Dumig met Sahra through a photo workshop at Refugio, a shelter in Munich, Germany, for refugees and torture victims. What drew Dumig to Sahra specifically was her strength and her ability to effectively reflect on all of her experiences."It really impressed me how she deals with everything," Dumig said. "She's strong in her way of connecting with the culture here and also reflecting on what happened, the culture where she comes from."The number of refugees seeking asylum in the European Union increased by 25% last year, with Germany receiving the most applications.One of the reasons Dumig decided to photograph Sahra is because growing up in Germany made Dumig realize that she lived a fortunate lifestyle. Another reason has to do with Dumig's interest in people's emotions and finding one's identity."I realized so many people want to come to Europe, and I always had the feeling to disappear or to go away," Dumig said. "Seeing how people live in other parts of the world made me realize how privileged I am.""Apart Together" serves not only as a documentation of Sahra, but as a far-reaching story about people from all backgrounds. The title of Dumig's work refers to the fact that although people may be physically apart from one another, the comparable feelings they experience are what link all people together."Sometimes we feel strong, sometimes we feel lost -- that's kind of universal, I think," Dumig said. "That's why I want to universalize (Sahra's) story as well, not only make it about her."The underlying themes of "Apart Together" include the feelings of isolation and "otherness" and the search for a valuable human dignity."Every one of these (refugees) have strong stories, and in the bureaucratic system, they are just a number or a document," Dumig said. "But they are a person, they are people with emotions and lives."Sahra is currently under the status of "suspension of deportation," meaning German immigration officials may grant her discretionary relief from deportation. Dumig describes Sahra as someone living through an unresolved situation.Regardless of the challenges Sahra faces as a refugee in Germany, she is a survivor and the embodiment of resilience, determined to establish a new life for herself. She has learned to speak German fluently, and she has started working in the nation as well.Like an unsolved photographic puzzle, each photo within "Apart Together" provides a piece of insight into Sahra's experiences. There is no certain and clear way in which to arrange the pieces, because they are a representation of the fragmented nature of Sahra's life.Many of Dumig's photos are not of Sahra herself, but instead show her surroundings. This makes "Apart Together" rich in symbolism and challenges viewers to develop their own perceptions. The photos are powerful because of this symbolic nature, as there are infinite interpretations attached to each one."I think everyone interprets by themselves, by however way they perceive it through their own experience. That's up to the viewer," Dumig said. "It depends on who looks at the pictures. ... Everyone will see something different.""Apart Together" allowed Dumig to share various special moments with Sahra, and they were both able to learn from each other."It was just something we both got something out of," Dumig said.Ines Dumig is a photographer based in Germany.Source: http://www.cnn.com
Aar Maanta recently stood next to a three-foot-tall image of his face as one of his music videos played on a pull-down screen.Surrounded by girls in brightly colored headscarves and guys in even more vibrant athletic shoes, the popular London-based singer talked about his work at The Common Table in Minneapolis."There's a term that's been used for my music: afro-hop," Aar Maanta tells them "Afro because it's African music and hop because it's hopping from different genres — jazz, reggae, house music."On Saturday, Aar Maanta will bring that combination to the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, where young Somali-Americans are eager to hear him.The visit to The Common Table was one of many Twin Cities stops for Aar Maanta during a weeklong fellowship sponsored by the Cedar Cultural Center and Augsburg College.Fadumo Ibrahim, development assistant and Somali community liaison for the Cedar, is enthusiastic about the program"Oh, my god. I love everything about this residency!" she exclaimed.The program brings in Somali artists from around the world to help create cultural connections, Ibrahim said."Music is a common language that everybody can understand," she continued. "Youth, millennials, older generation, Somalis, non-Somalis, this program brings all of them together."When choosing this spring's artist-in-residence, Aar Maanta was one of the first musicians to come to mind, said Adrienne Dorn, the Cedar's director of development."Most Somali artists are singers who sing to playback or lip sync even," Dorn said. "Aar Maanta is one of the only — if not the only — Somali musical artist who has his own live band. He's kind of forging a path."In Minnesota, putting together a music group likely isn't too difficult. But in Somalia, Dorn said, armed conflict has a way of shutting down jam sessions."When the civil war broke out in the early '90s, a lot of the existing musical groups had to flee the country," she said. "Instruments and recordings were looted and destroyed. But there was also this wave of conservatism so all of a sudden artists, where they were once leaders in their community, were now kind of looked down upon."For Aar Maanta, changing that has become a mission."Reviving live music, that's the reason why I am here today," he said during a panel discussion about writing music for the Somali diaspora.He found a receptive audience at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where students are attracted to his afro-pop style.Somali-American student Abdir Ahmandahir sees traditional Somali music as an important reflection of his heritage. But it's not what he wants to hear in his headphones when he's walking across campus."Most of the music is geared toward older Somali people or Somalis currently in east Africa," Ahmandahir said. "I don't relate to songs about giving up 20 camels for a girl's heart. I might have to sign a pre-nup, but not 20 camels."Like 18-year-old Ahmandahir, Somali-born Fadumo Ibrahim is always looking for music that speaks to the Somali diaspora. For her, Aar Maanta strikes the ideal balance between traditional and progressive."Of course, I love all his songs," she said.One of her favorites casts the Somali singer in the role of stay-at-home dad."He's talking about how the culture shifted, because back at home mothers were stay-home mothers, the nurturers," Ibrahim said. "The men used to be, 'I'm the breadwinner. I'm not gonna stay home.' But now your wife works. And it's OK. Understand that that's now OK. That's one of his songs that I say, 'Yes, yes. If all Somali men could be just like that, it would be perfect.'"Aar Maanta aims to make music that reaches uprooted Somalis, which addresses the unique issues of those living outside of their homeland. He hopes more Somali artists will do the same."Musically," he said, "It's a really good thing to see, the revival of Somali culture and music."And things can only get better."https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkbfCWTu0ZwSource: http://www.mprnews.org
A Minnesota teen has achieved the rare and prestigious honor of being accepted to all eight Ivy League schools.
Munira Khalif, a senior at Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, told NBC affiliate KARE that she was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools — plus several other prestigious universities.
"I'm humbled to even be able to have these choices because I know that that's not the case for everyone," she said.
The eight Ivy League Schools are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania. Khalif was also accepted to Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Minnesota.
In addition to stellar grades and test scores, Khalif — who is the daughter of Somali immigrants— is a recipient of the United Nations Youth Courage Award and founder of her own non-profit, Lighting the Way. The organization is dedicated to improving access to education for East African youth.
"You're not accepted because of a score you're accepted because of the person that you are," she told KARE.
Meanwhile in Utica, New York, a Vietnamese immigrant and senior at Thomas R. Proctor High School, was accepted to all 13 schools she applied to — including 5 Ivies.
"I remember in third grade a teacher asked me what I wanted to be and I said: 'I want to go to the Ivy League and I want to be president,'" Trinh Truong, 17, told NBC affiliate WKTV.
Over the past 2 weeks a heated and controversial debate has raged on social media centering on the dominance of Western scholars who often appear incredulously unaware of the impact on their knowledge production of the structures of power that has conditioned the positions they occupy. The debate began after Safia Aidid, a Somali-Canadian doctoral student at Harvard, highlighted the absence of Somalis from the editorial board of the newly launched Somaliland Journal of African Studies. This led to a response by Dr. Markus Hoehne, a German anthropologist specializing on Somalis, in which he claimed the absence of Somalis from the editorial board was due to the lack of serious young Somali scholars because they, according to Dr. Hoehne, don’t value scholarship. This patronizing, condescending and unreflective remark was followed by an even more blatantly insulting comment when Dr. Hoehne told the group of young Somalis who were infuriated by his remark that he would no sooner leave the thread and they would go back to clannish in-fighting. What does one make of this controversy? How is it possible that an anthropologist who is relatively well known and established among those interested in and involved in Somali Studies can publicly state such opinions? What about the tremendous amount of energy and anger shown by so many up and coming young Somali scholars, including myself? In Summary, why is this controversy happening now? In the following lines I want to reflect a little on this issue.Critiquing AnthropologyThe critiques made of Dr. Hoehne and the SJAS in terms of the impact of the dominance of Westerners on Somali Studies are familiar in various fields in academia at least since the 1960s. Cultural/social anthropology as a discipline has rightly borne the brunt of these critiques because of its historical, practical and theoretical intimacy with the encounter between colonizing Europe and the colonized other. As a consequence of these critiques some anthropologists began to examine the global structures that had made plausible the emergence of anthropology as a discipline and how the knowledge it produced were utilized and by whom. In the introduction to the edited volume Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter (1972) the distinguished anthropologist Talal Asad wrote:
“It is not a matter of dispute that social anthropology emerged as a distinctive discipline at the beginning of the colonial era, that it became a flourishing academic profession towards its close, or that throughout this period its efforts were devoted to a description and analysis – carried out by Europeans for a European audience – of non-European societies dominated by European power. . . . We are today becoming increasingly aware of the fact that information and understanding produced by bourgeoisie disciplines are acquired and used by those with the greatest capacity for exploitation”.This critique of anthropology is penned in 1972 at a time when anthropology was coming under an avalanche of criticism and when the theoretical coherence of the discipline was disintegrating. Prof. Asad pointed out that the crisis the discipline was experiencing in the ‘60s and ‘70s had to with a transformation in the global structure of relations:“The answer I would suggest is to be sought in the fact that since the Second World War, fundamental changes have occurred in the world which social anthropology inhabits, changes which have affected the object, the ideological support and the organizational base of social anthropology itself”.What was happening to the world of anthropology since the Second World War?The attainment of independence by the formerly colonized, especially African countries, led to a situation where anthropology’s object of study, ‘primitive’ societies, were now being led by nationalist political leaders who were eager to recuperate the history of their peoples and quite critical of anthropology and its relationship to the colonial project. With the attainment of political independence anthropology’s object of study, the primitive, was speaking for him/herself and producing knowledge about his own society challenging the anthropology’s position as an expert on the ‘natives’.I draw attention to this brief history of anthropology because I think it sheds light on a number of issues relating to the questions raised above. It’s obvious that the discipline of anthropology has been subjected to critical analysis and some of its best practitioners have themselves spearheaded this critique of the discipline. How is it then that Dr. Hoehne responded to the criticism made of the journal and of him as though he had never been exposed to these critiques? There may be a number of factors to explain his response, but I want to focus on one. It seems to me that the tiny field of Somali Studies has not been much affected by this criticism. The reason for this is two-fold. First, no academic in this field has produced a work whose significance is such that it attracted the attention of critical voices outside of this small field. Take the work of the doyen of Somali Studies, anthropologist I. M. Lewis. Lewis’s most significant and lasting contribution to Somali Studies is his description of ‘segmentary lineage system’ as the base of Somali social organization and the key to understanding Somali social life. The notion of segmentary lineage system as the organizing principle of social life in what was then called ‘stateless societies’ by anthropologists was first proposed by the famed anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard in his monograph The Nuer (1940) based on the so-named ethnic group in today’s South Sudan. Evans-Pritchard was an instructor at Oxford at the time when Lewis did his first study of Somalis in northern Somalia.The case in pointThe point I want to make is that Evans-Pritchard’s work, The Nuer, is today considered a classic text and a must read for students being trained as anthropologists. Consequently, The Nuer has been thoroughly critiqued from every angle because of the stature of the man who wrote it and because it’s considered a ground-breaking monograph (See G. Stocking, Susan Mckinnon, Sharon Hutchinson). By comparison, Lewis’s A Pastoral Democracy (1961) is barely read outside of those involved in Somali Studies and thus is spared from critical analysis. Partly as a consequence of the absence of real critique, with the exception of few voices such as that of Prof. Abdi I. Samatar and C. Besteman, segmentary lineage system as the key to understanding Somali social and political dynamics has become a taken-for-granted assumption of the many ‘experts’ on the Somali people.There is another reason why Somali Studies hasn’t been subjected to much criticismAs noted earlier one of the consequences of the attainment of political independence by African countries was that the formerly silent native was now in a position to produce knowledge about their own societies and to challenge what others wrote of them. Due to a number of reasons including the colonial school system or lack thereof and the long period of statelessness there haven’t been many Somalis who have mastered the languages and the discourses of Western academia to challenge what non-Somalis produced on the Somali people. In other words, there have been few Somalis who were in a position to speak back, again with notable exceptions. This, however, is changing and this is what the #cadaanstudies controversy showed. With the formation of a relatively large Somali diaspora in the West, there is now a good number of young Somalis coming through the University systems of Western countries. These are well aware and well versed in the critical discourse of Western academia. They have read Michel Foucault, Franz Fanon, Edward Said, Talal Asad and many more. They are well aware that colonialism was one historical moment in the encounter between peoples, nations and continents in unequal relations of power, an encounter that continues today with a new dynamic. Some of us young and university-educated Somali diaspora will challenge what is written about Somalia because we have the credentials and we have mastered the discourse to enable us to speak back. We will also speak back not simply because we are Somalis but because we are going to Somalia to do the necessary work to pursue lines of inquiry other than the traditional ones and ask questions that reveal the half-truths that is often written about Somalia from the safety of Nairobi and security compounds in Somalia. This is desperately needed today.Today’s environmentThe paucity of credible Somali academic voices is exacerbated today by the new environment created by the war on terror. The security-development complex and the international led state-building project which is part of this new war has created a market for anyone calling him/herself a Somali expert. Individuals, organizations and think tanks are daily appearing on the scene claiming expert knowledge on Somalia and selling their services to states and organizations. Established academics in Somali Studies are serving as guest lecturers and on the boards of many of this shady think tanks based in Nairobi. The thin line between academia and intelligence work is becoming quite blurry in the case of Somalia under the war on terror. Somalis, whether from the diaspora or in Somalia, are part of this complex network. They often serve as the informants and local researchers and eyes on the ground for many of these Nairobi based think tanks and Somali experts. This goes to show, if it needed showing, that simply being a Somali isn’t enough to produce good or sympathetic work. So, to my young fellow aspiring Somali scholars there is much work that needs to be done. The energy shown by the #cadaanstudies controversy should be translated and inspire more of us to think critically and produce original work.This article was written by Ahmed Sh. Ibrahim. He is a PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology at CUNY, currently doing fieldwork in Mogadishu for his dissertation examining the early genesis and evolution of shari'a courts that later unified to form the Union of Islamic Courts.
Abdisamad Adan is starting at Harvard University later this year.Abdisamad Adan could barely carry a conversation in English five years ago, but he's just been accepted to study at Harvard University. He credits the dramatic change in his fortunes to Somaliland's Abaarso School, a very small boarding school he attended, which was founded in 2009 by an American hedge fund manager."I'm not the smartest kid in Somaliland but I've had [the] opportunity [to attend Abaarso]," said Adan, who received his Harvard acceptance letter, along with a full scholarship, this month and will begin his undergraduate studies in September.The Abaarso boarding school has become something of a feeder school for elite universities. Adan, 20, is among a small number of underprivileged students who are increasingly getting accepted into the most prestigious American universities, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon and Georgetown.The Abaarso School is based in Somaliland, a self-declared independent state in Somalia.Abaarso's founder, Jonathan Starr, is a former American hedge fund manager turned headmaster, who left his job in finance because he wanted to do something different.A family connection led him to launch the school in Somaliland, a self-declared independent state in Somalia that is still recovering from decades of civil war and a severe drought.Related: Harvard rejects about 95% of applicantsThe boarding school houses 185 students in grades 7 through 12. It is staffed by American teachers who work on "volunteer pay," according to the school.The school has received roughly $2 million in financing, mostly from Starr and his finance friends.Many of Abaarso's students come from nomadic families and, like Adan, didn't speak English before joining the school.Adan joined Abaarso, on a scholarship, shortly after it was launched. His grandmother had not even heard of Harvard before he began his application process."Harvard does not mean a lot to her, but when she realized I got into the one I wanted, she was very happy," said Adan, describing the day he received his acceptance letter.Related: Colleges with the highest-paid gradsStarr says it's been an uphill battle to get colleges to notice bright students like Adan. Many elite universities that see an application from Somaliland may crumple it up and think it's a practical joke, he said.So Starr has been canvassing universities and promoting his school, while also arranging for students to study for a year abroad to gain international exposure.Adan received financial assistance to study for a year at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York, where he was able to prove that he could keep up with his American peers."I wouldn't have had the opportunity to do the SATs if I hadn't gone to America," he said.Looking ahead to the future, Adan says he wants to focus on academic subjects that will help him serve his country after he graduates. He's particularly interested in economics and political science."I'm just trying to put myself day after day in a better position to help my country," he said.And Adan says he has no problem with Harvard's cut-throat reputation."People kept telling me that Harvard is really really competitive and everyone is trying to beat you. I was like, great. That's what I want."Source: http://money.cnn.com
A Muslim women's rights advocate and outspoken critic of Islam has championed the U.S. as the best country in the world to live as a woman and as a black person.Somali-born author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 45, emigrated to America in 2006 after facing death threats in the Netherlands, where she had been a member of parliament and a target for extremists after renouncing her faith and becoming an atheist.Hirsi Ali, who describes herself as a liberal, has accused her fellow liberals of failing to have a proper sense of perspective about life in the U.S. and for not being more critical of Islam.Muslim women's rights advocate and outspoken critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali has championed the U.S. as the best country in the world to live as a woman and as a black personHirsi Ali is married to British historian and public commentator Niall Ferguson, right, who left his wife of sixteen year for the Somali intellectual
Somali troops with a British Political Officer, 1910 ©.The recent #CadaanStudies controversy that pitted a German anthropologist, Dr. Markus Hoehne, against young Somali researchers, students and professionals led by Safia Aidid, a Somali-Canadian doctoral student at Harvard, prompted a frenzied debate about the state and future of Somali studies. The trigger for this controversy stemmed from the absence of any Somalis from the editorial board of a recently created Journal of Somaliland Studies. And amidst the brouhaha, the lack of Somali voices on a journal about Somalia remains one critical issue, which is about much more than Markus Hoehne and Somalia.The #CadaanStudies discussion ultimately reveals a crucial problematic intrinsic in academic ‘expert’ discourses that marginalize some voices and bodies and privilege others, all the while benefitting professionally from the communities they purport to study.To be sure, as an academic based in a major American research university whose published scholarship revolves on the Somali people, I found it fascinating that Dr. Markus Hoehne tells us that he “did NOT come across [sic] many younger Somalis who would qualify as serious SCHOLARS- not because they lack access to sources, but because they seem not to value scholarship as such.”Yet what triggered my intervention here were the condescending remarks that Dr. Hoehne leveled against those who challenged him, with his statement in Somali that translated to “young Somalis should return to their clannish ways once they are done with their critique of his neo-colonial attitudes.” The original Somali in verbatim was “Waan u maaleynayaa, markaad dhameysey hadalkaaga guumaysiga ku sabsan ayaad dib u noqon kartaa qabyaaladda soomaaliyeed iwm.” This crudely expressed attitude is, I think, indicative of a more widespread problem in academic discourse.Of course, I must note the significant contributions made by white scholars to Somali studies. I applaud and commend the amazing work that some of these produced and produce which continues to shape my own intellectual growth (i.e. Catherine Besteman, Lidwien Kapteijns, Peter Little, etc.)With that caveat, however, it occurs to me that remarks like Hoehne’s demand that we as established scholars in Somali studies recognize the responsibility we have towards younger generations. Somalists in major research universities in Europe and North America occupy positions where they can play pivotal role in training future generations in this area study. With the devastation that Somali educational institutions have suffered over the last three decades, there is an added urgency to fulfill this obligation. Hoehne was crude and insensitive, but he was not wrong that there could be more Somalis studying Somalia, and it is our collective responsibility to incubate the next generation of experts.Then, perhaps, we might be able rightly to marginalize a researcher who specializes in Somali studies, who engages in verbal taunts with young Somali-diaspora members, mocking them as ‘activists’ and whose identity, nation and ability he openly disparages.We can certainly question his judgment. But more importantly we need to take his comments at face value and acknowledge that he is genuinely convinced that most Somalis are incapable to partake in knowledge production, but are fit to be mere informants and audiences for his supremely-located analytical eye.Clearly, we can also read this thread as exemplar of how some researchers remain clueless to their positionality within research and knowledge production at this beginning of the 21st century. The power disparity that prevails between White European scholars in Somalia (or other countries in the South) and their ‘native subjects’ can either become an integral critical part of the process of knowledge production, with an explicit acknowledgement of how this power shapes the research itself, or it can remain silent, and of course ultimately also shape the research findings with serious implications. The type of knowledge that early European anthropologists whose work aligned with imperial and colonial powers represents the latter, as Edward Said’s work Orientalism, as well as Mahmud Mamdani’s Citizen and Subject cogently demonstrate.Most relevant for Somalia, I.M. Lewis’s reductionist analysis of Somali clan structures in great part informs the unworkable clan political dispensation and regional fiefdoms that currently characterize Somalia. The International community, with Somali sectarian warlords and politicians, continues to rely on this outdated and problematic understanding of Somali social structures that was produced by British colonial academic experts.This #CadaanStudies debate also brings to the fore a dominant new type of Somali-expert who is often very distinct from some of the primarily academic Western researchers of yesteryears. Some in this new cadre of researcher-development practitioners use their scholarship and their academic training to marginalize any critical voices. One could argue that this type of researcher-development practitioner can espouse attitudes that are messiah-like towards Somalis. One such researcher commented on a work that I did with a senior White-Canadian scholar as problematic. A key premise of this critique was that my analysis could not be ‘objective’ as I was a Somali and thus emotionally invested in the plight of refugees in Dadaab.For such ‘expert’ researchers, Somalis cannot and will never amount to more than dependents on neo-missionary handouts. Their lot is reduced to one only known and knowable by PhD-touting young men and women whose expertise is validated as much by their hegemonic and flexible citizenship and their relationship to donor countries as it is by their university credentials. For some in this cadre, Somalis are forever slaves of their primordial ‘tribal’ instincts that I.M. Lews reified.In such a landscape, we should read this #CadaanStudies discussion as revealing a genuine un-censored portrait of a status–quo that is rarely articulated as explicitly as it is in this thread. So perhaps we need to thank Markus Hoehne for exposing academia’s dirty secrets to the air.And we should applaud the young Somali students, scholars and professionals who initiated this call to critically question the current state of Somali studies. We, their elders, whether Somali or non-Somali, ought to heed their call and open spaces where all conscious academics and researchers might work productively to paint a richer, fuller picture of the place that some of us call home.Cawo M. AbdiCawo Abdi is an assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. Here research interests include migration; Gender, Race and Class; Family; Islam; Development Studies; Human Rights; Globalization; Africa; Middle East. Her book, “Elusive Jannah: The Somali Diaspora and a Borderless Muslim Identity," is forthcoming with the University of Minnesota Press, 2015..
White academics celebrating their African studies journal. Photo via Facebook
On the evening of March 25, the hashtag #CadaanStudies ("cadaan" meaning "white" in Somali) emerged amongst Twitter timelines as a small collective of Somali academics and writers spoke out, 140 characters (or less) at a time. Initiated by Safia Aidid, a Canadian Harvard PhD candidate, the hashtag gradually became a commentary on the whiteness and privileges prominent within academia. More specifically, the online conversation served as a direct response to the launch of the Somaliland Journal of African Studies (SJAS), a peer-reviewed scholarly journal that claims a particular focus on East Africa—the absence of a single Somali editor, advisory board member, or contributor left many pointing out that the only thing Somali about this journal is its title.
Founded by Rodrigo Vaz, a white male MSc candidate for The School of Oriental and African Studies at London School of Economics, the journal was made in collaboration with University of Hargeysa's Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Yet somehow, it lacks any Somali involvement. This fundamental error is one often repeated in academia or any platforms that narrate the black or African experience.
"The content of [our] first issue had, unfortunately, no papers on Somalia...or by Somalis for a simple reason: we received none," says Vaz on the public criticism SJAS has received. "I take the blame for that. This happened likely because the call for papers didn't reach as many students and scholars as we would like to. That is something we are working on."
The content featured in SJAS's first issue involves no representation or inclusion of Somalia and its people, but rather material regarding the ECOWAS mission in Sierre Leone, migrant domestic work in South Africa, and the relationship between ethnicity and violence in Kenya elections. (They are currently in the midst of preparing the second issue.) But its description stating that SJAS is dedicated to "covering an academic research area in clear expansion" led many to wonder if this journal was simply created by an aspiring young, white academic hoping to attain credit in an area with growing scholarship that's still garnering little attention.
"The Horn of Africa and the Somali diaspora are 'hot' topics of academic and policy interest, and concern to many states, institutions and organizations for a number of reasons: states and their collapse, civil war and post-conflict society and restructuring, religion, radicalism and terrorism, gender, migration/diaspora, assimilation," said Aidid, a few days after #CadaanStudies attracted the attention of Somali academics and activists globally. (With 44,995 Somalis reportedly situated in Canada as of 2011, it is currently the country's largest African diaspora.)
Twitter activism is nothing new. In the case of #CadaanStudies, people used social media to deconstruct the privilege within academia while connecting communities internationally, strengthening the message that black voices will no longer be undervalued in African and Black studies. "The #CadaanStudies hashtag, Safia, and many others are completely right on this... reversing that is our top priority right now," said Vaz.
#CadaanStudies assembled 1,500 tweets in its first few days of inception and its Storifyhas been viewed around 1,200 times. "It wouldn't be a stretch to say that is information and debate [that has reached] more people than [those that] have downloaded most academic articles," said Aidid on the outreach of her hashtag.
Vaz, who is also the Editor-in-Chief of SJAS, has yet to take to Twitter to respond to any of the hundreds of tweets directed to him: "My team and I want to show results attached to our words. Replying to the comments about SJAS without concrete measures would be empty talk. Once we have results to show, which should happen very soon—this week—we will upload them on the website and social media platforms. Until then, 140 characters won't do," said Vaz.
There is, of course, a long history of white people finding something untapped outside of their own peripheries and attempting to claim full ownership of it. Somali Studies as a field has formal origins in the 18th and 19th centuries, and during its time as an existing scholarly field, it has had an overwhelming presence of white academics who have intellectualized what has always been common knowledge to Somalis themselves. "
Abdul-Rahman Jama, a blogger and Oxford University student, believes that Somali Studies still maintains a "colonial flavour" in its production of knowledge on account of white academics: "The technique is simple; collect local stories, publish them as exciting new research, publish them, get further funding [and] repeat," he said. The knowledge that is produced becomes groundbreaking information despite it already being common knowledge to its "subjects."
"There has been certainly, and unfortunately—for colonialist reasons and legacies—a disproportion of white scholars on many levels of study fields, African studies included. That should change and if SJAS can contribute to that, then I can only be glad," said Vaz when asked if he recognized the ways in which the mistakes of SJAS thus far were reminiscent of a history of white monopolization in academia.
The conversation revolving around #CadaanStudies went far beyond these fundamental questions, however, when Markus Hoehne, a white German anthropologist and a co-editor of SJAS, discovered Aidid's initial announcement of her intended Twitter debate via her personal Facebook page. In one of his many responses to the growing concern of SJAS's lack of Somali presence, Hoehne insisted that there is a general absence of Somalis in academia because they don't seem to value scholarship. He went further to claim that this issue would subside if Somalis were willing to do the work.
"To add insult to injury, he suggested the reason none of us could grasp this is because we are Somali, and could benefit from looking 'beyond your Somali navel.' So not only was he wrong, he was wrong in the most patronizing and insulting way possible," said Aidid. She has since then published an open letter, A Collective Response to Dr. Markus Hoehne and the Somaliland Journal of African Studies, which has gathered signatures from over 200 academics, writers, and activists, primarily of Somali or African descent.
"I completely disagree with Markus Hoehne's remarks. Not only they are disrespectful to all Somali academics in Somalia and Somaliland... they were unnecessary and needlessly provocative," said Vaz on whether Hoehne's comments were reflective of the journal. "SJAS doesn't subscribe to statements made by its advisory board members, whose responsibility and accountability for what they say or do starts and ends with them."
Hoehne's comments ignited a further firestorm of debate, including responses from Somali activists, academics and writers, which led to his public response in the Sahan Journal that ran a few days after the same publication ran Somali writer Hawa Y. Mire's essay: "#CadaanStudies, Somali thought leaders and the inadequacy of white colonial scholarship."
"It is not just that Somalis are absent from academia. Why are they absent? Who benefits from this absence? Because we know who it benefits and it is not us," asks Illyas Abukar, a PhD candidate of University of Maryland College Park.
The online conversation has shed light on the continuous and prominent issues that lay within the production of knowledge about Africans and black people. #CadaanStudies challenges us to continuously ask the question: Who is granted the privilege of telling these narratives and why?
Huda Hassan is a copywriter and photographer based in Toronto with an interest in pop culture, cultural identity, politics and new media. She has worked in the past with Sway Magazine, Pound Magazine, MANIFESTO Festival, Vervegirl magazine and is currently a writer for Huffington Post Blog. She is also co-author of Basodee: An Anthology Dedicated To Black Youth. To see Huda's complete work experience, please click here. You can also find Huda on Twitter and herpersonal blog.
Authors who publish books generally want to sell them. Well, what sells better then timely, dramatized sensationalism with a personal angle, which reinforces readers’ latent fears and beliefs?After reading Somali-born author and anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s disturbingly deceptive new book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, I can confidently vouch that this read is exactly that: Dramatized sensationalism with a personal angle that reinforces the larger audience’s fears and suspicions.The book’s abject flaws begin with the introduction, which doggedly fixates on media reports disproportionately covering slanted stories of terrorist acts involving Muslims in destabilized and conflict-ridden regions of the world — without providing any crucially relevant context or background.All, of course, to make the case that Islam is not a religion of peace.Anyone who relies on such reports to draw their conclusions about the world’s second largest religion might agree with that assumption, but they would be wrong.It goes on to leave the reader with an impression of a woman who has endured hardships in her personal life that continue to haunt her and unfortunately prohibit her from objectively viewing the religion she was born into – one that she, decades later, still clearly holds responsible for her traumas.In her newest book, Ali, who is not an expert on Islam and has no formal religious training or qualifications, calls for a revolution within Islam similar to the Protestant Reformation that resulted from criticism of the Catholic Church.She pleads for adherents of the world’s second largest religion to reject core tenets of the Islamic faith, which she has referred to in the past as a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death,” and instead embrace an almost Unitarian Universalist brand of Islam that, among other outlandish modifications, rejects the veracity and validity of the revered Prophet Muhammad.Ali might as well ask for Earth to stop rotating on its axis, as the chances of that happening are probably equally as unlikely.Being born and raised in a Muslim family does not make one an expert on Islam. Her Orientalist approach to “reforming Islam” calls for dissociation from, and outright rejection of, its basic, fundamental principles – this, despite the fact that she has yet to exhibit a firm grasp of what these principles actually convey.As a woman, I empathize that Ali was subjected to female genital mutilation at the tender age of five while her father, who was a politician, was imprisoned. Frankly, it is inconceivable and unacceptable that girls and women are still forced to endure this unethical, abominable practice.But Ali should stop spreading misinformation and educate herself on the fact that this barbaric practice predates Islam. It is not rooted in Islamic practices and in fact stems from cultural practices deeply rooted in certain segments of religiously diverse African populations.Islam does not oppress women, as Ms. Ali often and wrongfully asserts. In fact, if practiced as intended, it actually liberates women from patriarchy and objectification.According to today’s societal standards, modernization has led women to believe that our liberation is directly proportional to the height of our high heels, square inches of skin on display for visual consumption and the sexiness and marketability of our appearance.Perhaps Ms. Ali can be forgiven for not knowing that Islam was the first religion to grant women rights to property and wealth inheritance; that it banned the horrible practice of female infanticide during a period in history when burying newborn infant girls was considered normative; that it encourages women to keep our family names even after marriage, so as to maintain our own individuality.But ignorance is never an excuse for willfully perpetuating intolerance towards an already marginalized group of people whose religion is demonized on a daily basis.Ms. Ali alleges she was forced to flee to the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage. As a woman myself of South Asian heritage, I know of many cases where Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh women have been pressured into arranged marriages against their will. But, Islam cannot be scapegoated for Ms. Ali’s disturbing circumstances. Religion is not the culprit; cultural traditions are responsible for the pressuring of women and girls to enter into marriages against their will. Islam unmistakably outlines that a woman’s consent is mandatory for marriage. Therefore, coercion is prohibited in our faith.She has often said that according to her, the problem does not lie with Muslims; it lies within the tenets of the faith practiced by Muslims. I would argue that the problem is not with the tenets of Islam, but rather the way Muslims improperly practice their faith or mix it with cultural practices. If she wishes to salvage any credibility, Ms. Ali must stop erroneously conflating religion with culture to justify her unwarranted criticism of Islam.The problem that exists is not within Islam; it is among the less than one percent of its adherents who have limited access to resources and jobs, who have been victimized by failed policies and corrupt governments, who misunderstand or misinterpret its teachings, who have granted precedence to their own egos and greed, who prioritize personal and political agendas over its tenets and who have lagged far behind in adapting to the 21st century.Unfortunately, by virtue of biased reporting and a myriad of other factors, the actions and voices of this minuscule minority have been amplified and provided a platform to wrongly define and misrepresent Islam in Western society. And while failed governmental policies (in the U.S. and abroad), destabilization and multiple invasions coupled with more than a decade of war can never justify acts of terrorism, this context is simply important to help explain the motivation for terrorist groups who have capitalized on these factors in the most recent decade to build their ranks.During a recent appearance on, Ali baselessly claimed that “Muslims were responsible for 70 percent of violence in the world today.” Later, she amended this unsupported claim to “70 percent of all fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims.”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71dBK0iCRro
What she still failed to mention is that a bulk of these casualties, mostly Muslim, occurred in Syria, which recently entered its fourth year of a bloody civil war that has exacted a tremendous toll on its people, but still has been largely left ignored by the world’s superpowers.Any dialogue seeking resolution for conflicts plaguing the Muslim world is incomplete without taking into consideration the many factors that have contributed to destabilization in these regions across the globe. Ali’s approach is also especially problematic because it presumptuously categorizes the followers of the world’s second largest – and fastest growing – religion into restrictive labels and proceeds to dissect and analyze them through a one-dimensional, myopic lens.Islam is not a monolith. As The Reluctant Fundamentalist author Mohsin Hamid pointed out eloquently, there are more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and each individual has unique life experiences and perspectives. It is disingenuous to lump a large group into a single category and paint them all with the same tainted brush.Ali stresses: “The assumption is that, in Islam, there are a few rotten apples, not the entire basket. I’m saying it’s the entire basket.” But in order to effectively determine whether to direct our focus on the apples or the basket, we must first educate ourselves on the actual scope and source of the problem and also verse ourselves on the proper, contextualized understanding of Islam.Once again, Ali has demonstrated a failure to do both. But judging by the latest round of media appearances while promoting her most recent, sensationalized book, she will undoubtedly still turn a nice profit.Dr. Zainab Chaudry is a spokeswoman and Maryland Outreach Manager for the Council on American Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. She is a Board Member of Interfaith Action for Human Rights, and serves on the Taskforce of Bilal Initiative – an initiative designed to expand dialogue on racism and prejudice within American Muslim communities
As a Somali associate of mine likes to say, when people think of Somalis, they only think of PTW (Piracy, Terrorism & War). As with a lot of Africa, sadly this narrative only focuses on the negative aspects of the community. Somalia and its people have had a number of success stories, notably the Somali money transfer system. Prior to tighter regulation and counter terrorism measures, the money system functioned effectively, catering to a large diaspora population, and despite an enduring conflict and the absence of a stable government.Beyond money transfer, Somalis have been hugely successful traders in the African continent and beyond. In the United States, Minnesotans in particular can attest to their success, despite facing many difficulties when they arrived in the state. In African markets, they have outperformed the traditional survivalist business model. While Somalis might be begrudged for their competitive nature, they are also applauded for the low prices and the services they provide to local communities. While there is lot to learn from the Somali trading culture, it remains much harder to replicate.In the Somali community, trust plays a major part when accessing business capital. They operate in strong social networks, and through partnerships and community resource pooling, risks are spread and thriving business are created. Somali entrepreneurs have a high appetite for risk and willingness to work anywhere. They often trade in the more dangerous places, such as informal settlements.Most Somali shops are co-owned by several investors. They view their shop as an investment and look to grow their capital collectively. Somalis often sell their shops to local investors for a profit. Somali traders are concerned about turnover, and are also willing to accept smaller profits. They often reinvest their collective capital in additional stores. By operating multiple stores, operations also benefits from bulk buying savings and lower distribution costs.Somalis also invest substantially more in their businesses than local traders. According to Rory Liederman from the University of the Western Cape, Somali start-up capital for a spaza shop (small grocery) in South Africa range between R30,000-R40,000 ($2,500-$3,330), whereas the average South African spaza starts operations with less than R5,000 ($415).Somalis are also known for their value offerings and services. They often provide credit to their customers, without overextending the debtors’ column. Deals are made without contracts or unnecessary paperwork. They often sell certain stock keeping units (SKUs) at a loss and make successful use of the lost-leader strategy to create traffic and maximize turnover.However, Somalis are not alone in their exploits in Africa businesses. A number a countries have seen a large increase in Ethiopian, Eritrean and Chinese traders. Fuijan province in particular is well represented in the small grocery trade in the continent. The influx of foreign traders has created tension with many local shop owners, and South Africa in particular has suffered from xenophobic attacks. South Africa’s newly appointed Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, recently made headlines by stating that foreigners need to share ideas with local entrepreneurs.However, research has shown that with most business successes, to identify and to replicate, are two separate issues. During a recent market research project in Mombasa, Kenya (a city well accustomed to Somalis), local traders could describe in great detail the strategies and tactics used by Somali traders. A number of local traders have collaborated and implemented risk pooling strategies, however with limited success. As one Mombasa entrepreneur put it to me, “we know what they do, but it’s difficult, as trust is in short supply in this neighbourhood.”Source: http://www.africasupplychainfrontier.com
While promoting her new book, Heretic, on a March 23 episode of "The Daily Show," Somali-born author and anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali made a staggering claim: “If you look at 70 percent of the violence in the world today, Muslims are responsible,” she told host Jon Stewart.
Stewart did not demand any evidence and Hirsi Ali provided no citation. However, she made a strikingly similar statement in a March 20 essay previewing her new book for the Wall Street Journal: “According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies,” Hirsi Ali wrote in WSJ’s Saturday Essay, “at least 70% of all the fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims.”
I contacted the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a leading British foreign policy think tank, to inquire about the source of Hirsi Ali’s statistic. According to IISS Media Relations and Communications Officer Kat Slowe, IISS did not explicitly state such a figure in its research.
“I have spoken to a number of our experts and they cannot identify where this statistic may have come from,” Slowe told me.
“Their best guess is that the journalist in question [Hirsi Ali] may have access/a subscription to the [iISS] Armed Conflict Database and may have calculated this statistic independently. There are some concerns that it could be misleading as, without Syria (near 200,000 total deaths, and almost half of last year’s global conflict deaths) the figure would look massively different (and of course, this conflict did not have its root in religion),” Slowe added.
Hirsi Ali’s AHA Foundation did not respond to my request for a citation on the statistic, nor did the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute that employs Hirsi Ali as a resident scholar. My email query to Hirsi Ali’s personal account at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where she serves as a fellow, also went unanswered.
Around 24 hours after my initial query, Hirsi Ali publicly backed off her claim that Muslims are “responsible” for most of the violence in the world. “Depressing that 70% of fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims,” she declared on her personal Twitter account.
Hirsi Ali linked to a survey of casualties in global conflicts by IISS’ Hanna Ucko Neill and Jens Wardenaer which made no reference to Muslims or religiously inspired violence. Apparently Hirsi Ali calculated the statistic on her own by using an IISS report that documented fatalities in conflicts in territories from eastern Ukraine to sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East to Mexico, where drug gangs fueled widespread killing. The IISS's Slowe noted that year's surge in conflict-related deaths occured thanks to the fighting in Syria, explaining that Hirsi Ali's claim "could be misleading" because "this conflict did not have its root in religion."
Instead of responding to my question about her statistic, Hirsi Ali’s AHA Foundation forwarded my email query to the Washington Free Beacon, a right-wing publication with its own history of Islamophobic tall tales and hoaxes. In a currently un-bylined article about the query, the Free Beacon accused me of anti-Semitism.
History of fraud
Hirsi Ali’s highly suspect statistic is only the latest deception by one of the world’s most prominent opponents of Islam. While other anti-Muslim activists like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have marginalized themselves on the fringes of the far-right, Hirsi Ali remains a darling of the American mainstream media. In Heretic, a polemic recycling many of her past arguments against Islam, she calls for the emergence of a Muslim Martin Luther — the authoritarian 16th-century zealot who called for burning down the synagogues of Jews, whom he compared to a gangrenous disease. With the book's release, Hirsi Ali has been welcomed with open arms by the BBC, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and a relatively accommodating Jon Stewart. ABC News has even run an excerpt from Heretic, while the New York Times Book Review hosted her for an interview filled with hardball questions about her favorite children’s books.
Hirsi Ali’s power to persuade lies in her dramatic personal story and the public persona she has constructed. She has marketed herself as a expert native informant who has emerged out of the dark heart of radical Islam and into the light of Western civilization. Her tale is an uplifting, comforting one that tells many Westerners what they want to hear about themselves and their perceived enemies. With anti-Muslim attitudes at their peak across Europe and the US, her sweeping critique of Islam as an endemically violent faith has enormous cachet. The only problem is that like her writings on Islam, much of what she has told the public about herself is questionable.
In May 2006, the Dutch television program Zembla thoroughly debunked the dramatic story Hirsi Ali had told to advance her career, concluding that Hirsi Ali had sold the Dutch public “a story full of obscurities.”
Born Ayaan Hirsi Magam, she migrated to the Netherlands in 1992, changed her name to Hirsi Ali, and lied to Dutch authorities about her past. Contrary to the story she told the government, she arrived in the Netherlands not from war-torn Somalia, but from Kenya, where she lived in a secure environment and under the protection of the United Nations, which funded her education at a well-regarded Muslim girls’ school. Though she told immigration authorities and the Dutch public she had fled from civil war in Somalia, she left that country before its war broke out. Indeed, she did not live through a war there or anywhere else. Thanks to her fabrications, Hirsi Ali received political asylum in just five weeks.
Hirsi Ali told astonished audiences on Dutch talk shows that her supposedly devout family had forced her to marry a draconian Muslim man, that she had not been present at her own wedding, and that her family had threatened to kill her for offending their religious honor. However, Zembla told a drastically different story. Hirsi Ali’s brother, aunt and former husband each testified that she had indeed been present at her wedding. It turned out that Hirsi Ali’s mother had sent her brother to a Christian school, not exactly an indication of Islamic fanaticism.
“Yeah, I made up the whole thing,” Hirsi Ali admitted on camera to a Zembla reporter who confronted her with her lies. “I said my name was Ayaan Hirsi Ali instead of Ayaan Hirsi Magan. I also said I was born in 1967 while I was actually born in 1969.”
Hirsi Ali’s claim of honor killing threats also appears to be empty; she remained in touch with her father and aunt after she left her husband. In fact, her husband even came to visit her in the Dutch refugee center where she lived after leaving him. Even though he had paid her way to Europe on the grounds that she would join him in Canada, Hirsi Ali’s husband consented to the divorce she sought. (Watch the full Zembla program on Hirsi Ali.)
Fabrications that toppled a government
In 2003, just a decade after gaining political asylum in the Netherlands, Hirsi Ali was elected to the Dutch parliament on the ticket of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy. VVD leadership knew that the story Hirsi Ali told on her immigration forms was a gigantic lie — she had told them as much — but covered up the fraud and even advanced it to propel her career.
“She’s witnessed five civil wars in her youth, and has fled with her family many times. She’s made of iron and steel,” the VVD’s Neelie-Smit Kroes said of Hirsi Ali at the time, reciting claims her party knew were false.
A year after joining the Dutch parliament, where she said she attempted to ban Islamic schools in the Netherlands, Hirsi Ali teamed up with Dutch director Theo van Gogh to produce a documentary called Submission. The film portrayed violence against women in Muslim communities as a logical result of Islamic belief, relying on actresses to portray abused women and featuring semi-nude, niqab clad women with Quranic verses scrawled across their torsos. Van Gogh, a filmmaker and columnist who had taken to calling Muslims “goat fuckers,” was gunned down and stabbed to death soon after the film’s release by a Dutch Islamist radical. Before fleeing the scene, the killer pinned a note to van Gogh’s body threatening Hirsi Ali with death. Hirsi Ali’s persistence in the face of the episode helped earn her hero status across the West, particularly in post-9/11 America, where Time magazine named her one of its 100 Most Influential People in 2005.
Zembla’s revelations of Hirsi Ali’s lies in May 2006 interrupted her ascent and threw the Dutch government into chaos. No one was more damaged than her friend and close party ally, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk. Nicknamed “Iron Rita” for her ruthless anti-migrant crackdowns and her demagogic appeals to xenophobia, Verdonk was shamed by the revelations of Hirsi Ali’s deceptions. When she announced her intention to strip Hirsi Ali of her citizenship, however, she was skewered in parliament and forced to relent.
Days after Zembla aired its exposé, Hirsi Ali announced her plans to leave parliament and take up a position with the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington-based think tank that housed many of the neoconservatives who helped orchestrate the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In the immediate aftermath of the furor she caused, Verdonk introduced the so-called “Law on Integration,” one of Europe’s harshest anti-immigrant bills. Only one member of the Dutch House of Representatives opposed it. However, the governing coalition soon collapsed because of the scandal Hirsi Ali’s deceptions inspired. With a new coalition seated in February 2007, and without Verdonk and Hirsi Ali in power, the government was able to adopt a more tolerant approach to immigrants.
Winning a Harvard fellowship, defending Breivik
Upon her relocation to the US, Hirsi Ali was embraced by a coalition of liberal interventionists, neoconservatives and “New Atheists” like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Bill Maher. With extended appearances on the Christian Broadcasting Network of Pat Robertson, who blamed homosexuality for the 9/11 attacks, self-proclaimed feminist Hirsi Ali won droves of fans among the Christian right. Despite her views on Islam, which she called a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death,” or perhaps because of them, she received a fellowship from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
As she rose in prominence among America’s intellectual elite, Hirsi Ali’s history of lying tumbled conveniently down the Orwellian memory hole. In promotional material for her best-selling 2007 memoir, Infidel, Hirsi Ali’s publishers at Simon & Schuster have pushed the discredited claim that “Hirsi Ali survived civil war.” More recently, conservative pundit Peggy Noonan glossed over the reasons behind Hirsi Ali’s flight from the Netherlands, writing, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali got death threats and eventually fled to America.” Few, if any, American outlets have noted that Hirsi Ali left the Netherlands as her public credibility collapsed and her anti-immigrant party fell into crisis.
With support from across the American ideological spectrum, Hirsi Ali sharpened her rhetoric against Muslims. In a candid 2007 exchange with Reason Magazine, she declared that the religion of Islam had to be “defeated.” “Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful,” Hirsi Ali stated. “It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now….There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.”
Junketed to Berlin in 2012 to receive the Axel Springer Honorary Award from the right-wing German publisher, Hirsi Ali appeared to blame liberal defenders of multiculturalism for the killing spree committed by the Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik, claiming they left Breivik with “no other choice but to use violence. (Breivik cited Hirsi Ali’s work in his 1,500 page manifesto explaining his plans to commit a series of terrorist attacks across Norway.)
“[T]hat one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America – myself among them – but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.” (Her words were met with an extended standing ovation.)
When Brandeis University canceled plans to award Hirsi Ali an honorary degree in April 2014, it appeared that her increasingly vitriolic tirades against Islam and its adherents had caught up with her. But then came the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, a seemingly clarifying moment that Hirsi Ali and fellow anti-Islam activists seized on as confirmation of their darkest prophecies. Two months later, she released Heretic.
Having rebranded herself a brave “reformer” following in the footsteps of the Selma marchers, Hirsi Ali has found her way back into the mainstream limelight. While American media demonstrates an endless appetite for her polemics about Islam, holding her to account remains taboo.
Editor's Note: Cat Slowe's official title with IISS has been clarified -- her official title is Media Relations and Communications Officer.
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author. His bookThe 51 Day War about Israel's assult on the Gaza Strip will be published by Nation Books in July 2015. A senior writer for Alternet, he has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English, Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada, Al Akhbar English, and many other publications. His book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel is the winner of the 2014 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Award. His 2009 book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Timesand Los Angeles Times bestseller.
Mo Farah is arguably one of the best distance runners in the history of the sport. The Somali-born British citizen is a double-Olympic gold medalist (5000m and 10,000m) and has stood at the top of the podium in countless international races throughout the world for the past 14 years. This Sunday, Farah laces up his flats to complete in the 25th edition of the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon in Portugal, an IAAF Gold-Label Event.For Farah, the prestigious event will be his first road race of the season. His personal best for the 13.1-mile distance is exactly 60 minutes and there’s no doubt that he’d like to smash the 1-hour barrier on Sunday.“I have heard a lot about this race and all the famous athletes who ran there before,” Farah says. “I know it is a fast course and always gets a good field. My goal is to win the race. Normally that requires a sub-60 performance.”Farah has run other half marathons, including the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon in 2013 where he set the British national record of 1 hour, 59 seconds.Farah, who usually trains in Portland, Oregon under the watchful eye of coach Alberto Salazar, spent seven weeks training in Ethiopia over the winter gearing up for the 2015 season. This year, the world championships take place in Beijing, China. Farah won double gold in the 5,000m and 10,0000 at the 2013 edition of the championships in Moscow and says doing so again is on his career bucket list.The 31-year-old also hopes to defend his Olympic titles in Rio next year, but after that, he says there won’t be another Olympics in him. “I will be retired from competitive running [in five years from now] and hopefully doing some work with kids to inspire them to get involved in sport,” Farah admits.Farah says he’s put in the miles for this weekend’s race in Lisbon. “There are no shortcuts in long distance running,” he admits. “You have to do the work. I think about what my rivals may be doing that that inspires me to push harder.”The field assembled to compete against Farah is top-notch—many of the athletes on the start list have all run faster than Farah for the half-marathon distance. Stephen Kibet of Kenya has clocked a 58:54 as has fellow countryman Silas Kipruto (59:39). Additionally, Guye Adola (59:06) of Ethiopia and Morocco’s Aziz Lahbabi (59:25) are in the mix. Farah aside, these runners are setting their sights on Zersenay Tadese’s world record (58:23), a mark that was clocked in Lisbon five years ago.The women’s race should be equally exciting. The home-field advantage goes with Portuguese runner Anna Dulce Felix, a 1:08:32 half marathoner. She will be toeing the line against Kenyan Olympic silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo.Elites aside, a massive field of 34,000 runners will be touring the scenic Portuguese capital on foot. One of the most stunning vistas on the course will be at the start where runners cross the gorgeous 25 de Abril Bridge.Source: http://running.competitor.com/
ST. CLOUD – Dozens of Somali students poured out of Tech High School here Friday for the second time in a week, saying they were outraged that the administration had not done enough to stop classmates who taunted them for being terrorists, tried to pull off their hijabs and regularly hounded them.State troopers and local cops, who arrested a Somali senior here during another clash Wednesday, swarmed the front of the school and eventually stood guard behind the front door. Administrators restricted most students inside from leaving; teens gawked at the commotion through the windows.It was the latest example of racial frustrations erupting at the St. Cloud school district, which is mostly white but home to a growing East African population. Complaints about Somalis being harassed at Apollo High School, another institution in the district, prompted an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education in late 2011 that called for improving the environment for East Africans.Raha Omar, an 18-year-old senior, said Somali students have a right to feel safe at school.“Every single day something happens,” said Omar, as protesters, including one student in tears, fanned across the lawn and some negotiated with a cop at the entrance. “Somali kids [are] being treated like crap. … We go to [administrators] and nothing happens.”As tension grew on the lawn, one white student walking by told a friend on the phone to sneak out a back door to avoid being stuck inside for hours, as happened on Wednesday.Superintendent Willie Jett was vague when asked about what the administration had done in past years to address racial problems, saying the staff is focused on this week’s events and would be having broader conversations with parents and students.“Our response has to be geared toward how to make kids feel safe,” he said.Somali students told the Star Tribune of a pervasive climate of bullying toward girls who wore hijabs at the school. They said students spat on them from the top of the stairwell at the place they used to pray, told them to go back to their country, jumped on their cafeteria tables and stepped on their food, and knocked coffee cups out of their hands.Jett said the district had filed a report with the U.S. Department of Education on its progress with Somali students as recently as last summer. In recent days, the Minnesota Department of Education has also reached out to the district, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which helped spur the 2011 settlement, has plans to meet with school administrators.Lunch walkoutOn Wednesday, tensions exploded after Somali students learned of a white classmate posting a picture on the social networking app Snapchat of a Somali freshman in a wheelchair and appending a caption that linked her to ISIS, the Islamic terrorist group. Someone took a screenshot of the picture and it rapidly circulated.Jett said staff was talking to the perpetrator’s parents and considering suspension or other options.But more than 100 Somali teens, upset that the bully didn’t seem to face any consequences, staged a walkout from the cafeteria that day and protested on the lawn, as the administration put the school in containment, meaning that students’ movement inside was restricted.“You cannot change how a person thinks, but I think teachers should take the responsibility, because when we’re in class or school, we should all be treated equally,” said Suda Salah, a 19-year-old senior. “When a kid does something like that, he should be punished; there should be consequences.”Administrators came outside to try to defuse the situation.“All 1,425 students in this school are very, very important to us,” said Principal Adam Holm, according to video footage.“How many times have each and every one of us felt victimized at the school?” junior Hafsa Abdi told him, surrounded by a large crowd. “We do not feel safe at this school. We have come to report and report and report, and have not seen anything.”Leaders of the protests, backed by Somali elders, met with administrators privately on Wednesday and Thursday but say they fear the district isn’t doing enough to change the culture of the school.On Friday, some of the Somali students demanded that charges be dropped against 19-year-old senior Redwan Shire, who said that he tried walking out of the building on Wednesday to take his sister away from the protest, fearing the situation was too volatile. He said a security guard tried to restrain him, he pushed back, and wound up in jail for eight hours for disorderly conduct. Shire was also suspended for five days.Tech High School staff met with Somali students Friday morning to try to smooth over tensions, but talks fell apart, according to interviews. The school had no authority to have the charges dropped, according to Jett, who couldn’t say why the police were called shortly thereafter. Some Somali students said there was a minor dispute between a Somali and non-Somali classmate trying to film on her phone as they gathered after the failed talks; they said police showed up and they were ordered out.St. Cloud Police Lt. Jeff Oxton said the department would defer to the school on exactly what happened, but that officers responded to a disturbance inside. They quickly determined the matter was under control and stood guard as a precautionary measure.After about an hour, Somali students had mostly dispersed as rain descended in the chilly air. Some said they didn’t want to come back.Maya Rao • 612-673-4210Source: http://www.startribune.com
St. Cloud Tech High School ninth grader Hodo Nour talks about Snapchat and Facebook posts made about her that implied she is affiliated with the ISIS terrorist organization.School officials in St. Cloud said Thursday they are responding to the concerns of St. Cloud Technical High School students who walked out of classes Wednesday to protest discrimination against Somali students.District officials said staff have been meeting in small groups with students and parents. The school's principal, Adam Holm, also addressed the student body Thursday.The walkout Wednesday followed a posting on Snapchat that showed a Somali student in a wheelchair. A caption on the photo suggested she belonged to ISIS, the Iraq-based terror group."Yesterday, during lunch, I had someone take a picture of me, and write a comment saying 'Disabled ISIS' on it," Hodo Nour, a young woman speaking outside Tech High School in a video posted on YouTube. "It was not asked for. Nobody asked to take a picture of me. It's very rude. And when the guy was confronted, he played it off like he didn't do anything at all."Other video footage of the protest showed students complaining of repeated insults based on their faith and race, telling school officials that they didn't feel they were being protected or heard when they complained of their treatment by fellow students.St. Cloud Technical High School students gather outside the school Wednesday. More than 100 students and a few parents protested racially charged social media posts and other incidents. Dave Schwarz | St. Cloud Times via APTami DeLand, a district spokesperson, said that the protest prompted school officials to put Tech High School in "containment" briefly on Wednesday. She said it involved enhanced security, but that classes continued during the containment.She also said that school officials are addressing students' concerns. DeLand said that the district has a strong policy for dealing with bullying among students, and that the policy might apply in this case."It's very clear-cut that the administration takes this seriously," DeLand said. "There is a systematic way, a procedure to go through, to do this, and that's how this will be handled and it's how all incidents like this will be handled."Abdul Kulane, a Somali community leader and one-time St. Cloud City Council candidate, said district officials didn't have an immediate plan of action when he met with them Thursday, but that he hoped they would have a better response by next week."We want the students to be welcome in the school district... and we want this to happen to all the students, regardless of where they are from, their religion, regardless of how they appear and dress," Kulane said in an interview on MPR News. "Students are feeling that they do not belong to the school when they are bullied, and they were mocked and they were harassed on social media."The district also put St. Cloud's Apollo High School in "containment" today, in response to the incident at Tech High. Both schools have about 1,400 students. The district has about a 40 percent minority student population.The Minnesota Department of Education said it was reaching out to the St. Cloud district "to see what resources we can offer to ensure this is propertly addressed," said department spokesperson Josh Collins.Source: http://www.mprnews.org/
Lido Beach in the Abdul-Aziz district of the Somali capital Mogadishu (Photo: UN)BARKHAD Abdi, the Somali-American actor who won a BAFTA and Oscar nomination for his role in “Captain Phillips”, is on a mission to change the war-torn and famine afflicted image that Somalia has.In a recent interview, shortly after returning from a visit to Somalia, he described the country as “in the process of being rebuilt”, that “there is more there than war, drought, and hunger.” He told AFP that he now dreams a film that shows a different side of Somalia. We thought we would help him out.
Here are 10 things you didn’t know about beautiful Somalia:1. Somalia was the first country in Africa to have a peaceful handover of power after a Presidential election. Aden Abdulle Osman Daar, the first president of Somalia (1960 - 1967), was defeated by Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, his former Prime Minister in a democratic election. Daar graciously accepted the loss and peacefully handed power over.2. Mogadishu, the ocean-front capital of Somalia, was founded and populated by Arab, Persian, and Indian sea merchants in the 10th century. Mogadishu quickly became heavily populated and was so well protected that it was the only town on the Swahili Coast that successfully avoided Portuguese occupation, even at the height of Portuguese influence in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today there is are no verified population figures for Mogadishu although Warsame Mohamed Hassan, a former deputy mayor, said the population in Mogadishu may be close to 3 million people.3. Mogadishu is the only capital city in the world where arms are being sold openly in markets. Guns sold at markets, including the city’s famous Bakara market, have been identified as a variety of assault rifles. This particular market is known to sell to all comers and is routinely resupplied by Yemeni smuggling networks.4. Pasta is the de facto national dish of Somalia. Known locally as baasto, the Italians introduced pasta to Somalia in 1889 when they colonised the country - but it has changed a great deal since the Italians brought it over.Somalis often add spices to the pasta sauce, such as coriander, cinnamon and cumin. They also have their own original takes to pasta al forno (baasto forno) and marinara sauce - a particular favourite.5. Somalis love their mobile money! It is reported that 34% of adults in Somalia use mobile money and Somalia’s online “Dahabshiil” is one of the largest money transfer companies in Africa, operating in 155 countries6. At 3,025 km, Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa and some of those beaches are breath-taking! Lido Beach is Mogadishu’s most popular stretch of coast, with pure white sands that host beach scenes that you’d see in many other parts of the world. There’s another popular beach near Merca, an ancient port city, known as Sinbusi beach - a stunning place with good snorkelling.7. Somalia was the first country in East Africa to establish diplomatic ties with China. Ties were established in 1960 when Somalia granted China diplomatic recognition and lobbied for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to replace the Republic of China as the only lawful representative of China to the UN.8. The stunning architecture of Shanghai Old City. Located in Mogadishu, the namesake of China’s huge city of Shanghai is an area of architectural beauty, popular as a location for wealthy tourists and largely controlled by warlords. This area is home to the Mogadishu cathedral and the Fakr ad-Din Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the region.9. Somalia has the cheapest cellular calling rates on the continent. Some companies charge less than a cent per minute! Currently, there are about 11 licensed local operators whose networks cover the whole nation, but the biggest name is Somali Telecom - the country’s first private telecommunication company that opened in 199410. Somalia is the first country on the African continent to have introduced the e-passport - intially deployed in 2007. In 2014, the federal government took this a step further by launching new e-passports, compliant with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards, to ensure that Somali citizens are carrying a fraud-resistant identity document.Source: http://mgafrica.com
The EU Naval Force flagship, HNLMS Johan de Witt, this month delivered four board motors to the Bosasso port police.The delivery was conducted in co-operation with EICAP Nestor and is part of a co-ordinated programme to train and equip local maritime police and coastguards in Somalia. The programme aims to develop and enhance maritime capabilities with a view to ultimately achieving self-sustainability in terms of maritime security.Basic motor maintenance and handling of equipment, as well as navigation skills are integral parts of the EUCAP Nestor capacity building programme and the outboard motors will be used to support on-going training activities.Following a request from EUCAP Nestor for logistical assistance, and in accordance with Operation Atalanta’s mandate, the four outboard motors were loaded on to HNLMS Johan de Witt in Djibouti and transferred by sea, before being handed over to the port police.At the same time as its flagship was assisting Somali port police, EUNavFor, welcomed the Spanish warship, ESPS Infanta Cristina to the multi-national fleet tasked with counter-piracy operations off the Somali coast.ESPS Infanta Cristina departed her home port of Cartagena in Spain on February 18.Commanded by Lieutenant Commander David Duran Mayoral, the ship and her crew conducted operational sea training in preparation for joining the EU Naval Force and she is now fully ready to take part in counter-piracy patrols and escort vulnerable shipping in the area of operations.ESPS Infanta Cristina was originally a Descubierta class corvette, but was later converted to a patrol craft. With a length of 89 metres, a displacement of 1,495 tonnes and a crew of 106, her specifications make her well-suited for missions such as Operation Atalanta.The ship will be deployed to the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden until mid-July.EU Naval Force Somalia – Operation Atalanta’s main tasks are to escort and protect vulnerable vessels and deter and disrupt piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. EU Naval Force warships also monitor fishing activity off the coast of Somalia and can provide assistance to EU missions and other organisations working to strengthen maritime security in the region.Source: http://eunavfor.eu
When Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were murdered last month by their neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, my skin crawled as I watched the public reaction. First, there was silence. Then, major outlets framed the incident to be about a parking dispute instead of calling it what it was: a hate crime. Then, slowly, a dominant trend began to emerge, both in mainstream and social media. At local vigils in Toronto, through my networks of the Muslim social media community, and in my own family, I kept hearing about how sad it was for these beautiful, educated people—a future dentist, his wife, and his sister-in-law—to be killed in a senseless act.There is no doubt that Shaddy Barakat and the Mohammad Abu-Salhas were admirable individuals, and that their deaths were indeed a tragedy. But this kind of repeated focus on the victims’ academic and volunteering achievements reflects a narrative that Muslims in the West like myself have been taught from a young age: that we must become role models in our community to have value as humans.This pressure to conform to an ideal was, for me, a direct consequence of coming of age in a post-9/11 world. Ever since September 11, the fear of being a “useless Muslim,” as the xenophobic, colonialist public stereotype went, has been integral to my existence on an individual and community level. In response to this damaging prejudice, older Muslims push a notion of the “perfect Muslim”: someone who excels in as many arenas as possible, achieves merit and wealth, and fulfills the American Dream they crossed oceans for. My parents, both explicitly and implicitly, illustrated to me from a young age that Muslims and non-Muslims allocate love and respect to only certain people who have succeeded academically and professionally. Other influential people in my life fed me this narrative, too, including community leaders and teachers. Even my non-Muslim teachers throughout primary and secondary school encouraged me to be a certain way: a contributing member of society, an overachieving brown kid who could be a token in diversity brochures.I listened. I entered university a model of what so many hands had molded me into, having won multiple awards and racked up thousands of volunteer hours at the local hospital alone. People constantly used microagressions coded in praise to let me know I was doing well, “good for my community,” “a good kind of Muslim,” “a moderate progressive Muslim.” I was a version of myself I did not entirely understand, nor did I know why I hardly slept and worked so hard. It broke me, fragmented me into pieces. I sacrificed my own mental health and well-being to be the type of Muslim that would attain this romanticized public assimilation—and by extension, the approval of others in my community. I have splintered myself over and over into slivers to have some type of value in a Western society that will never return my love.And it still wasn’t enough. I couldn’t keep up with that kind of life, not while watching non-Muslim white peers get to take a different path with the support of their families, communities, and strangers. Upon closer examination, my transcript has blemishes. I didn’t do well the first time I took the MCAT. I took a semester off of school. I volunteer, but it may not be at the “right” places—I’ve concentrated on feminist causes rather than continuing to spend time at the “honorable” hospital. I take controversial stances as part of my existence. I am human and filled with contradictions. My story is not perfect. So if I were killed in a hate crime, would there be such an outcry as there was with the three Chapel Hill victims? Am I impressive enough to be worthy to my community? Furthermore, am I valuable as a Muslim to the American media?Plus, I am a young Muslim woman. I couldn’t help noticing that Deah Shaddy Barakat specifically seemed to get the most media coverage and space in discussions. His volunteer work and potential future status outweighed the experiences of the two young women killed—Yusor, who had been accepted into law school, and Razan, who was majoring in architecture. Both wore the hijab. I don’t wear the hijab at this point in my life, but I will forever be a defender of the role it plays for Muslim women. Many Muslim women have been targeted for violence and abuse while wearing the hijab; in a post-9/11 world, the symbol has even been reclaimed by many young Muslim women as a form of resistance, of resolve not to waver to appease the Western gaze. Its very existence is an unmistakable sign of anti-colonial solidarity and the Muslim identity. So I do not think it is a coincidence that the stories of two visibly Muslim women who wore the hijab were pushed to the margins, while that of Shaddy Barakat—a clean-shaven, light-skinned, basketball fan who fit the all-American “bootstrap” narrative—moved to the forefront.These three people in Chapel Hill were special, yes. But what made them more special than my people killed during a drone strike? My people raped and killed during the invasion and occupation of countries?A growing number of Muslims are dying without names or significant recognition of their deaths. They, too, have names. Rohingya Muslims are facing an ethnic cleansing in Burma. Many Muslim men have spent the prime of their lives uncharged in Guantanamo Bay Prison. Countless children have also died in Pakistan and Yemen—fellow Muslims, in whose death I am complicit because I live in the West and have paid taxes to a government that has sold us the notion that drones are precise even as we see multiple accounts of weddings and schools being targeted. These people have names. But they are simply labeled “collateral damage,” or maybe given it a brief mention at the bottom of a scrolling news feed.In Canada, where many Somalis live in diaspora, dozens of Somali men have beenmurdered. The same week of the Chapel Hill shootings, a security guard named Mustafa Muttan was shot in Edmonton, Alberta, as he went to answer a knock on the door. In December, a 15-year-old Somali Muslim boy named Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein was killed in a hit-and-run in Kansas; his death was reported as a hate crime. Why was there no broad-ranging outpouring of rage and grief for them? Was it the fact that they did not have an impressive enough résumé? The darker color of their skin? I believe it was a combination of both.All heinous and egregious deaths should matter, apart from this forced meritocracy. And it must be noted that being “respectable” requires privilege, too: Getting an education and having the time, energy, and opportunity to volunteer and “give back” does often require a socioeconomic level that some people cannot achieve, and that does not make them less worthy. Status and mobility play a pivotal role in the lives we are all able to lead—subsequently, it is erasure of context to only mourn and highlight those who “contributed” to a society, when some of us are set up for failure from birth.These observations will continue to disturb me. These days, even as I try to fight the forced “good young Muslim” trope, I still find myself performing respectability to access privilege, spaces, and survival in North America. I do this by sometimes distancing myself from being “the other,” trying to draw on strategies like volunteering, participating excessively in the community, seeking approval, dragging myself through academic spaces that often aren’t safe spaces for identities on the margins. I would like to resist doing so, but this is the only way I know I will be acknowledged in both dominant Muslim and non-Muslim spaces. The coverage of the Chapel Hill shootings only further solidified my apprehensions about failing as a young Muslim.I often find myself choosing between fear of rejection and working within this safer, “model minority” framework. Others don’t have the privilege to make this decision at all, even within our own communities. Colonialism has truly limited our ability to appreciate nuances and different forms of labor and contributions to society. Those who are not able to pursue academia, professional studies, monetary success—to navigate the Western and non-Western world as acceptable and approachable Muslims—remain expendable and unnoticed. They receive no name, no hashtag, no public outcry, no national vigils; their stories are untold.This is the only strategy we are given. It means survival for those of us who can afford it, and erasure for those who cannot.Nashwa Khan is currently living and learning in the Greater Toronto Area. Over her undergraduate career in Hamilton, she served on a number of councils including the City’s Status of Women Committee, was Space Allocation Chair of McMaster’s Women and Gender Equity Network, and currently chairs the city’s Youth Advisory Council. Her work has been published in a variety of places including Guerilla Feminism, LoveInshAllah, Coming of Faith, and the HuffingtonPostBlog. She is an avid storyteller, and lover of narrative medicine and public health education. Feel free to tweet her @nashwakay.
The Decolonising Our Minds Society in collaboration with the SOAS Somali Society present an evening of discussion. #CadaanStudies