Sheikh Sherif Sheikh Ahmed, Chairman of the Somali Islamic Courts Union, a hardline Islamist group that seized control of Mogadishu recently after months of fighting with American-backed warlords, has welcomed a dialogue with the United States, describing the Bush administration's willingness to talk to them as Washington's "first step towards the right direction".
"We know that a lot of wrong information has been given to the US. They have been fed with lies and Somalia has been portrayed to them as a threat, which is baseless," he said.
In an exclusive telephone interview Sheikh Sherif also explained that what happened in Mogadishu was a popular uprising and not an Islamic Courts' conquest of the capital, noting that all fighters on the Islamic Courts side were natives of Mogadishu, and there were rarely any other Somalis among their ranks, let alone foreign elements.
He denied having called for the establishment of an Islamic State in Somalia and said that the Islamic Courts had no intention of forcing women to adhere to strict Islamic dress code.
"People are Muslims but no one forces them to do anything. It is a personal obligation and the person has to adhere to it by his own," he said.
He expressed his delight at the achievements of the people of Somaliland, saying that their secession was due to mistakes committed against them in the past.
"I congratulate the Somaliland people, they have worked hard. They are people we love; they are Somali people. Somaliland's secession was due to mistakes that happened in the past. For our part, we would like these mistakes to be addressed. We believe they are the first people concerned with this issue because their property, their wealth and their blood are in the soil," Sheikh Sherif said.
He expressed the Islamic court’s willingness to hold talks with Abdillahi Yusuf on interests and principles or both.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Sheikh Sherif Sh. Ahmed (Sh.Sherif): … What happened is a public uprising. It belongs to the people. We are ready to handover the issue to the people as soon as they are ready. There is no problem at the present time.
Awdalnews (ANN): how much land is now in your hands? Are you planning to reach the whole country and bring the whole nation under your control?
Sh. Sherif: Land is not our priority. Our priority is the people's peace, dignity and that they could live in liberty, that they could decide their own fate. That is our priority. Our priority is not land: the people are important to us.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
13 posts so far.