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In Somalia, An Inter-Religious Aspect to the Fighting?

May 24, 2009

A story from the New York Times describes traditionally non-violent Sufi Muslims in Somalia fighting against the more militant Shabab Muslim group there. This depiction of inter-religious fighting is a new facet of the media’s narrative about this county-without-a-government. An excerpt:

Many Somalis say that the Sufi version of Islam, which stresses tolerance, mysticism and a personal relationship with God, is more congruent with their traditions than the Wahhabi Islam espoused by the Shabab, which calls for strict separation of the sexes and harsh punishments like amputations and stonings.

“We see the Sufis as part of us,” said Elmi Hersi Arab, an elder in the battered central Somalia town of Dusa Marreb. “They grew up here.”

The Sufis also tapped into an anti-Shabab backlash. The Shabab, who recruit from all clans, and, according to American officials, are linked to Al Qaeda, controlled Dusa Marreb for the better part of last year. Residents described that period as a reign of terror, with the Shabab assassinating more than a dozen village elders and even beheading two women selling tea.

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