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Silencing the watchdog

By Bashir Goth - posted Friday, 20 October 2006


After banning music, concerts, cinemas, home videos, mixed gender singing in wedding ceremonies and even watching international sports on satellite television, the Islamist clerics in Mogadishu have now decided to deprive the Somali people of their last window of freedom, the free press.

In an attempt to create a supine media that applauds their onslaught on the freedoms of the people, the Wahhabist-oriented Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) have proposed draconian regulations aimed at purging the press of telling the truth.

The war-weary and famine ravaged Somali people could not help but to turn a blind eye to the Islamists initial encroachments on their personal freedoms. Well, yes, singing is the nemesis of hunger in Africa, it allays fear in times of war and entertains the hungry in times of famine, but the Somali people may have thought that relinquishing their right to sing might not be that disastrous if the Islamists were going to bring them real peace and real food.

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Real peace, however, is hard to come by through coercion and draconian rules. Soon after their first jubilation for liberation from the warlords, the people have realised that they have traded one fear for another. Only this time, the fear bears Allah's seal. Under the warlords, people had a clear picture of their intentions and their motives. They were thugs propelled by greed for power and money. But they never claimed to be vice-regents of God on earth and never had claimed monopoly over people's personal lives and individual freedoms.

Under the warlords, people were free to worship, free to listen and dance to music, go to cinemas and theatres, enjoy wedding ceremonies, wear what they wanted and accompany whom they wanted. Yes, people lived in various enclaves and had to avoid crossing red lines, but business thrived in each enclave and among the various clan-ruled cantons. The opening of the coca-cola factory, the boom of the telecommunications business and the vigorous, free and mushrooming press were a testimony that things were not as bleak as the Islamists and their cohorts wanted us to believe.

The warlords were at least honest about their objectives. They never hid their greed for power and personal gain. They admitted that they used their guns and battlewagons to achieve their goals. Their message was simple and clear, stay out of my way and do whatever you want to do in your life.

On the contrary, the Islamists claim that they have come to restore peace but they fight day and night; they say they are not interested in power but they appoint themselves to supreme councils and adorn themselves with grand titles and alien jihadist noms de guerre; they say grabbing more land is not a priority to them but they never miss an opportunity to widen the enclaves under their control; they claim that they have come through popular uprising but they subdue towns and villages with their battlewagons, rockets launchers and machine guns; they say people love them and welcome them everywhere but the UN Refugee Agency reports an overwhelming exodus of Somali people to neighbouring countries since the arrival of the Islamists.

The tragedy is that the Islamists want us to believe that they are not doing this in the name of a worldly glory, but in the name of Allah. They have direct communication with God and he sanctions all their actions. Poor guys, it must be difficult for them to impose all these unpopular rules, without being able to use their free will. It is only to God's will they have to surrender.

The Islamists, however, forget that we ordinary people see their ploy. We know that God doesn't speak to them anymore than he speaks to us. We know that they deprive people of their freedoms because they cannot suffer alone from their self-imposed piety rules; people have to suffer with them. If they themselves cannot exercise their own free will how could they allow others to indulge in such a blasphemous privilege?

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This is why they want to gag the free press; simply because the press people cannot keep silent. If they come to know that God doesn't speak to someone they will say so and say it loudly. They have the innocence of children and when they see the Emperor is naked they don't hesitate to point the finger at his nakedness.

They know that the Islamist clerics want absolute power and they expose it. They know their conspiracies, their connections, their sources of funding and weapons, their little dirty secrets in their closets and above all they know they are not at all honest about their rejection of modernity as they claim because they don't hesitate to respond to the musical ring tones of their mobile phones and use the infidel's invention for executing Allah's austere anti-modern injunctions.

This is why the Islamists see the press as the last frontier that they have to conquer so that they can enjoy their hypocritical trivialities without anyone pointing a finger at them. They know that in the absence of the other three estates of government, the ubiquitous Fourth Estate is the only remaining watch dog that can warn the people against impending dangers including vested interests coated in Koranic verses.

The Islamists are, however, forgetting that due to the existence of the blessed Internet the age of silencing the media is gone and that our news websites and blogs would still be watching and reporting their transgressions without any fear.

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First published in Awdal News on October 14, 2006.



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About the Author

Bashir Goth is a Somali poet, journalist, professional translator, freelance writer and the first Somali blogger. Bashir is the author of numerous cultural, religious and political articles and advocate of community-development projects, particularly in the fields of education and culture. He is also a social activist and staunch supporter of women’s rights. He is currently working as an editor in a reputable corporation in the UAE. You can find his blog here.

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