Don't like to do copy and paste, but I find this guy says almost everything I'd like to share with my fellow countrymen ..and women ofcourse in a more eloquent way.
Have a nice read.
Saturday, April 03, 2010
In response to a recent article that I have posted at Hiiraan.com commenting on President Sharif‘s visit in Britain, some readers who contacted via email, were critical of my proposition that rather than supporting extremism in Somalia those Somalis in the Diaspora particularly in the West should learn more about secularism and its benefits in order to help Somalia gear towards a more secular state. They felt that it would be foolish to advocate secularism in Somalia, a Muslim country, and any event it would be up to the Somali people to decide on a secular or Islamic state. Also, some argued that because of the civil war, which has destroyed the very fabric of the Somali society, where a mixture of customary laws, Islamic faith teachings and Western secular thoughts seem not to have worked, that Islam is the only common identity and denominator that could be used to remould the broken foundation. And therefore in order to do that one needs an Islamic republic.
However, others were supportive of my suggestion, and were happy with the idea of secularism in Somalia. The views of the last group are probably rare because of the current madness and hype around religion created by political Islam and the atmosphere of intolerance that it has created in our country where different groups are vying for power in order to implement their different versions of Islam.
Secular Somalia forever
Before I proceed with the rest of my article, including explaining the concept of secularism and its benefits, it would only be fair to remind the readers of the proposition that I put forward so that those who have not read the previous article can reflect and ponder on the question. The proposition is as following:
“Another appoint that kept me wonder was if President Sharif was welcomed by the government of a secular state which is now providing sanctuaries for hundreds of thousands of Muslim Somalis – whose religious rights are protected by the state – rather than supporting extremism, why we Somalis can’t learn from our experiences in this country and other western countries in order to learn more about secularism and its benefits? So that we can try to help our country gear towards a more secular state similar to what we had before the collapse of the central government in 1991? Imagine what the situation of thousands of Somalis in this country would be if the UK was a fundamentalist Christian state where its citizens and residents were obliged and expected to adhere to its Christian faith? And those who fail to conform would be subjected to severe punishments”
Indeed it is a reality that Britain is among many other secular states worldwide that provide sanctuaries to hundreds of thousands of Muslim Somalis. Regardless of their religious or ethnicity Somalis, like many other ethnic groups, have equal obligations and rights to state protection, access to social services, economic and even political opportunities. And in addition to that, their religious rights are being protected by the state. This is thanks to secularism in these countries. So the question is why support a fundamentalist state or even a theocracy state in Somalia when you can see and are still enjoying benefits of secularism in this country. One can understand those back home, who have not experienced secularism and its benefits, but how can one understand those in the Diaspora enjoying the benefits of secularism but only to advocate extremism and religious intolerance in Somalia?
Although this writer does not pretend to be an expert on secularism, it would only be fair to highlight some aspects of the concept and its benefits in this article, particularly to show how it would be wise to encourage and advocate the concept in Somalia at this particular moment in history where religious intolerance and extremism are rife and are dismantling the very social and cultural fabric of our beloved country. The following is what experts say about the concept of secularism, which has its intellectual and philosophical origins in Roman, Greek philosophers and even in medieval Muslim scholars:
Secularism is the concept that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs. In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief. In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact unbiased by religious influence. The purposes and arguments in support of secularism vary widely. On one hand, it has been argued that secularism is a movement toward modernization, and away from traditional religious values. This type of secularism, on a social or philosophical level, has often occurred while maintaining an official state church or other state support of religion. Others argue that state secularism has served to a greater extent to protect religion from governmental interference, while secularism on a social level is less prevalent. Within countries as well, differing political movements support secularism for varying reasons.
In other words, separation of power of the church, mosque or theological doctrine from the state so that religious considerations do not hold much weight on political decisions, and that state institutions, and economic, social and educational policies are not influenced by religious grounds/considerations. For example, teaching the theory of creationism in schools would not be allowed to overtake the theory of evolution, two different concepts in explaining origins of species. In a fundamentalist Christian or Islamic state there would probably be more emphasis on creationism on the expenses of evolution but in a secular state it would be possible to teach both concepts on equal terms. This would be a good start for young enquiring minds, who, if given a well-researched information and balanced curriculum can make up their minds about these huge philosophical concepts. In a democratic secular state, such as Canada etc. people will still have their religious rights, and should be able to practise their faith but religion will only be in the private sphere and not in the public domain.
The following are some examples that illustrate benefits of secularism in today’s world. The vast majority of the 192 UN member states (probably 90%) are secular states with different reasons, practices and stages in implementing the concept of secularism, except very few states, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan (former secular states), and now some parts in southern Somalia where “Islamist” and extremists are planning to introduce a fundamentalist Islamic state similar to that of Saudi Arabia or Iran.
France: A country with a population of 65,447,374 is secular state with religious freedom guaranteed by its constitution. Catholics 51%, agnostics or atheists 31%, 10% from other religions or being without opinion, Muslims 4%, Protestant 3%, Budhist 1%, Jewish 1%.
India: A country with a population of 1,178,900,000 and with many different ethnic and religious groups, including Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism etc. Although communal and religious violence have been an issue since independence, it is probably the state of secularism that is helping these different ethnic and religious groups, though not perfect, to co-exist in harmony and peace, and also to practise their faith as much as they like.
Ethiopia: A neighbouring country with a population of 79,221,000 with different ethnic and religious groups (Christians 62.8%, Muslims 33.9% and 2.6% traditional, 0.6 other) is a living good example of a tolerant state-nation. Although not perfect and there is much work to be done different ethnic and religious groups live side by side in peace and harmony, as they practise their faith as much as they like. Churches are being built alongside mosques. Imagine if the state were a fundamentalist Christian or Islamic?
The writer can go on listing many more secular states with different experiences and stages in the implementation of secularism but above examples are more than enough to make the point.
Although there is a good point about using Islam as a common identity and denominator and therefore an Islamic state would be the logical conclusion of any political settlement, however, because of the current atmosphere of intolerance and religious bigotry that has divided the country into opposing religious fiefdoms, it is indeed questionable, whether such arguments could be sustained, or indeed are desirable. There you have a country – particularly the south – where people are being persecuted or killed for their religious beliefs, or are being ostracised for heresy etc. So the question is given the current bad atmosphere would you encourage or discourage religion? In my view, what Somalis need to do right now is to de-sensitize religion and use secularism as a base for reconstituting a united secular Somali state. After all Somalia has been a secular state since independence in which religion belonged to the private sphere. Current stable regions, such as “Somaliland” and “Puntland” seem to be going towards secularism and that should be supported.
For those who advocate for an Islamic state in Somalia which, according to their views, would create a tolerant, stable and progressive society, need only to look at the state of affairs in Saudi Arabia and Iran where tolerance is out of question and religious minorities are being persecuted; where theocracy is being used to repress dissent and different political opinions, and to muzzle creative, questioning and enquiring minds.
I appreciate that I am probably a lone voice for many of voiceless secular Somalis with untold stories, who if given a choice between a secular or theological state, provided they are given correct and balanced information and without coercion or intimidation, would probably vote for secularism for Somalia.
PS. Courtesy of HOL.