• August 14, 2006
  • 14 minutes read

Interview With Deputy Chairman of Al-Islah Movement in Somalia

Somalia is considered one of the hottest trouble spots in the world. Since 1991, there have been continuous battles which led to many humanitarian problems. In addition, the quick and huge victory of the Islamic Courts raised many eyebrows around the future of Somalia as nation.

Al-Islah Movement in Somalia (Muslim Brotherhood) is considered the oldest movements and has been an eye-witness to what happened in Somalia. We interviewed Mr. Abdol-Rahman Malam Abdalla (Badiu), vice chairman of Al-Islah movement in Somalia and chairman of the Islah movement for reconciliation to understand the status quo in Somalia and the stance of Muslim Brotherhood towards the Islamic Courts.

Ikhwanweb: Would you tell us when Al-Islah movement was founded, its background, and its objectives?

In the name of Allah and prayers and peace be upon the Messenger Mohamed, his family and companions.
Firstly, many thanks to our brothers who work in Ikhwanweb.com for their interest in the causes of the Islamic Nation and specially those of the Somali people, who are part of this nation which is suffering of many successive disasters.

As for the Al-Islah movement in Somalia, it is a part of the Islamic movement and was founded on 6th Shaban 1398 (Hijri), 11th July 1978. It aims to reform society in all aspects of life, and to raise the level of individual and collective commitment based on Islamic principles and values and according to the method of moderation as stated in the aims of the Islamic law,

Its objectives include reforming the individual, the family and the society in all aspects of life to reach a well-guided rule based on Islam as a method of life. They include raising people’s awareness and deepening national and Islamic values like brotherhood, freedom, justice and the rule of law. They include also struggling to eliminate tribal conflicts and separatist inclinations through strengthening social ties and ending injustices and strengthening brotherhood and fighting causes of schism among people who are affiliated to the same nation. Add to this, eliminating all aspects of colonization, social injustices and monopolizing wealth and protecting environment and defending human rights, peoples’ freedom and countries’ sovereignty.

Ikhwanweb: What are the most important political and ideological foundations of the movement?

The movement’s politics and ideology stem from Islam and according to the methods of the Muslim Brotherhood group which was founded by martyr Imam Hassn Al-Banna, taking into consideration the national heritage and traditions of the Somali people.

Ikhwanweb: What is the movement’s vision for reform and solving the Somali crisis? 

The movement’s vision of reform is based on peaceful means and persuasion to reach cultural change and not to be drawn to side skirmishes and providing positive beneficial work, and activating the role of the civil society and guaranteeing its participation in peace and development. In addition, the movement seeks to restore the identity of Somalia to restore its status in the international map. It also calls for respecting the unity of the Somalia as a land and people and protecting its sovereignty and reject foreign interference to achieve reform.

Ikhwanweb: How does the movement work amid this recurrent infighting in Somalia?

The movement considers what is happening in Somalia an extension of the civil war which continued for more than two decades and led to the destruction of Somalia centuries-old cultural heritage and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions. What happens between Somali parties is a conflict between Muslim brothers although their actions and commitment to Islam differ. Reconciliation and dialogue are the best way for solving the Somali problem to get out of the dark tunnel; using force to solve disagreements among brothers led to outright failure in previous experiences through the history of our country. Islam doesn’t accept this infighting ” If a man kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell to abide therein (for ever): and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him and a dreadful penalty is prepared for him. Qur’an 4: 93″

Therefore, after the fall of the central government in 1991, the movement raised a slogan based on three pivots: firstly, providing relief and aid to the afflicted people, secondly, Dawa and education to achieve awareness of the society and educating young people, and thirdly, promoting dialogue and reconciliation to achieve harmony.

Ikhwanweb: are there any institutions under the movement’s control in the political or humanitarian aspects?

The movement has well known and pioneering institutions in various fields; it offers key services to the Somali people, foremost among which are: education, health, providing clean water and educating young men and achieving reconciliation.

As for the political field and due to the current conditions and the absence of political institutions like political parties; the Somali people depend on tribal gatherings. The movement adopted a policy of tackling this issue by allowing its members to take part in politics as independents chosen by their tribes. Consequently, the movement has a considerable participation in parliament, government and local administrations, contributing to bringing closer viewpoints of differing parties and practically achieving reconciliation and national harmony in the society.

Ikhwanweb: what is the stance of Mr. Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, former leader of the Islah Movement, and his current role inside the movement if any?

Dr. Mohamed Ali Ibrahim assumed responsibility of the movement for about ten years, mostly outside Somalia; when someone else took the leadership post, he began gradually to abandon the movement’s activities, and began to act contrary to the movement’s policies and methods; he confronted the movement through adopting policies contradicting the movement’s; since then, his brothers spared no opportunity to advice him; at last, the movement considered him breaching the membership terms for years, but it stopped short of announcing this due to his historical position in the movement, hoping that he may return back to the movement. However, the movement was obliged to announce this officially when he headed the delegation of the Islamic Courts which the movement is not part of.

Ikhwanweb: what is really happening on Somali lands?

The country is at odds as much as the political, security and economic aspects are concerned; since the fall of the central government in 1991, it remained in a continuous state of chaos and boiling due to failing to form a central government and differences of the political stances due to sectarian alliances, personal interests and world powers’ rallies and the conflicting interests of the regional powers; these things hurdled all reconciliations, 14 reconciliations up till now; the most well known was Arta reconciliation led by Djibouti’s president, Ismail Umar Guelleh; Al-Islah movement and both the traditional and modern civil society had a great role in making this reconciliation succeed.
As for the status quo in Mogadishu, it can be described as witnessing states which have been changing more rapidly than all anticipated; the biggest incident since 1991 is the sudden shift in its military and security status; it shifted from a state of divisions and multiple loyalties to a city dominated by one alliance, the council of the Islamic Courts.
Nowadays, the Council of the Islamic Courts fully dominates Mogadishu and neighboring governorates.

Ikhwanweb: did the movement have a role in ending the previous state of war and establishing government?

The movement has had, since eruption of the civil war in Somalia in 1990, a vital role in achieving reconciliation among tribes and political armed groups; for this, it established the Somali Council for Reconciliation in 1994; this council played an important role in ending conflicts in many areas in southern Somalia; it took part in paving the way for the national reconciliation in Djibouti in 2000; the movement participated effectively in the national reconciliations that took place both in Djibouti in 2000 and in Kenya in 2004; some of the movement members have become members in the interim parliament and interim government.
When rows erupted in the country’s key institutions, especially between the president and the parliament speaker, the movement worked on bringing closer the viewpoints to end these rows and rescue the country; also, the movement approved the harmony among the country leaders in Eden meeting under sponsorship of Yemeni president brother Ali Abdallah Saleh.
Lately, the movement offered a reconciliation initiative between the government and the Islamic Courts when rows and tensions marred atmospheres and Khartoum agreement between the interim government and the Islamic Courts Council was near collapse; a committee was formed for this purpose.

Ikhwanweb: How the Islamic Courts were established?

The Islamic Courts were established in response to southern Somali tribal security demands; this idea ahs begun since the Somali entity collapsed in 1991; these courts gained fame in some areas in the capital; the main tasks of these courts were ending conflicts and controlling security and rehabilitating youth inside every clan; they developed and formed a council among them; its success was due to providing security.
The courts has had an increasing role in and effect on the political arena, triggering fears from this influence from foreign powers specially the United States that backed the warlords who formed later an alliance called “restoration of peace and counterterrorism”; the capital witnessed increasing tensions that developed to a violent military confrontation in 2006; when battles erupted between both sides, people backed the Islamic Courts; a popular uprising  took place to reject the warlords and support the forces of the Islamic Courts, leading finally to driving them out of the capital and neighboring governorates.

Ikhwanweb: but their wins were surprising, why?

The latest developments in the Somali arena stunned the international powers because of their rapidness and quality; it wasn’t wholly surprising, but it was unexpected as much as some aspects are concerned, because no one expected that the warlords will be defeated so easily and that the street and city fights will be won so rapidly.

Ikhwanweb: what is the movement’s stance towards the Islamic Courts, is there any coordination between both of you?

Al-Islah movement is a peaceful not armed movement; it believes that the force of relationship and brotherhood is prior to the force of weapons and arms. This policy stems from its method which is based on deepening Islamic values and principles in gradual and cultural methods in the Somali Muslim society. The second point is that the movement believes that shedding the Somali Muslim blood is illegal and that it is illegal that Muslim brothers fight each others to achieve political aims or to solve their conflicts; the best way to solve disagreements is holding dialogue and reconciliation and through giving priority to public interests over  sectarian ones; hence, the movement didn’t participate with the Islamic Courts in their armed fight against the warlords, but it spared no opportunity to give advice and recommendations to the leaders of the Council of Islamic Courts in Somalia so as to guard the current gains and to push ahead the national reconciliation process and establish a national unity government with the participation of all parties.

Ikhwanweb: why there is no real effect or voice heard from the movement regarding what is currently happening; does this reflect weakness of the movement’s presence in the Somali arena?

Al-Islah is a pioneering movement which is well-known among Somali society for its roles in development and social services to relieve burdens on the society and activate the civil society, and for its continuous calls for national reconciliation, restoring the effective Somali state and arranging the Somali home; however, the media focus always on wars and conflicts which the movement isn’t part of; also, the movement gives priority to the practical side over propaganda and advertising, specially amid the critical and difficult conditions.

Ikhwanweb: What about the human rights and humanitarian status in Somalia?

Somalia is full of natural catastrophes including floods, draught, famines, conflicts and civil wars among its citizens. This humanitarian state exacerbates due to the lack of effective regional administrations or a national government to take care of the country’s affairs; thanks to Allah, the Somali people are distinguished by social solidarity traditions stemming from their Islamic values; these catastrophes are hugely addressed in the regional level; also, the International, Islamic and Arabic institutions give a good aid to the Somali people. In this regard, the movement is interested in running voluntary institutions to afford the social services of the society amid the absence of the state institutions till they gained fame among the Somali society.

Ikhwanweb: What is your explanation for the US insistence on interfering in Somali affairs and trying to send foreign troops to Somalia?

The United States has an actual presence in the African Horn, and it hasn’t been far from the Somali affairs; it has a military presence in the international water near Somalia; also, it has a quasi-permanent air surveillance over Mogadishu and the surrounding areas; add to this that the Somali street believes that the United States was giving a spiritual and material support to the warlords who have been recently defeated in Mogadishu; also, its stance towards the interim government is mysterious; it hadn’t given a clear-cut stance towards it before the recent incidents. The United States considers Somalia a safe haven for Islamic figures whom it considers members in the so called (terrorism); it considers this a danger to its national security; it is worth mentioning that the US record in tackling the Somali state wasn’t to the benefit of the Somali cause; no big change regarding these stances is expected.