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A jihad against Somali music in the land of freedom

By Bashir Goth - posted Wednesday, 18 February 2015

While Daesh was burning the Jordanian pilot alive, Boko Haram creating killing fields in the villages and towns of Nigeria and neighboring countries, and Al Shabab was executing Somali women by firing squads for committing no other crime than being the weakest and most defenseless members of society, a group of Somali Mullahs itched to do something equally dramatic but fortunately less earthshaking due to circumstances could find no better cause than waging a jihad against Somali music in North America and Europe.

It seems these Mullahs, most of whom live in the West and enjoy the freedoms guaranteed to them by the secular laws of their adopted countries could not see the barbaric and heinous crimes committed in the name of Islam by the terrorist groups as repulsive actions that deserve their wrath and condemnation but instead found their noble duty in strangulating Somali music. In what seems to be a well defined plan of division of labor, they assumed the role of the fifth column of Al Shabab by carrying out covert operations of spiritual purification while the terrorist militias were doing the physical slaughtering. Their aim is to obliterate the collective memory of the Somali people and the most treasured common heritage of all Somalis and indeed humanity at large; their voice.

The sinister campaign of these Mullahs came to light when the legendary singer Hibo Mohamed Nuura announced in an interview with the BBC (Somali Section) that she had decided to quit music as she was convinced by Somali Ulema that music was haram (prohibited) in Islam. She declared that she disowned her musical heritage and career that spanned nearly 50 years during which she had become one of the most respected and most admired female singers of the Somali people. She also made an appeal to her fans not to listen to her music; seemingly oblivious to the fact that her music as a national heritage, was the collective product of song writers, musicians, public resources, and the audience who engaged with it and endowed it with its real value and longevity.


Shocked by this incident of tragic proportions, I started my own investigation to find out how this could have happened. I came to learn that a group of Somali Mullahs from around the world but mostly living in North America meet periodically in a teleconference to launch a war on Somali music through a concerted and well coordinated effort aimed at locating and targeting Somali artists and inviting them to their clandestine sessions. The Mullahs who mostly use pseudonyms during the call to hide their identities from authorities select their victims with precision by starting with the celebrated singers, musicians, and artists who are in the twilight days of their careers. Once these unsuspecting victims come to their orbit, the Mullahs grip them with their fangs and bombard these mostly unlettered poor souls with horror stories about the hellfire waiting to roast their bodies and souls if they do not repent and disown their past and their indulgence with music. Overwhelmed by the severity of the attack and being elderly individuals with one foot in the grave, these vulnerable victims quickly succumb to the deadly venom of the Mullahs.

This is what happened recently when a group of Mullahs, many of them well known religious figures including a celebrated Sheikh from my hometown Borama, and paradoxically the birth  place of the Somali music over 70 years ago, met in their scheduled global teleconference to grill several icons of Somali music, arts and broadcasting. They included Hibo, Cabdi Cali “Bacalwaan”,Faadumo Haldhaa, Cadar Kaahin, Luul Cali Xasan and others.

Under controlled conditions and being put on the spot, the artists found themselves in a state of inquisition, they had no other option but to relent and fulfill the wishes of the Mullahs who they thought were genuine scholars of Islam, not aware that these clerics where only pushing their own narrow interpretation of Islam down their throats. The artists were too intimidated to ask questions such as that if music was Haram why such a ban was not applied to the 1.6 billion Muslim living in the world. Why Al Azhar Sheikhs had to listen and even praise Umm Al Kalthoum, why music of Muslims from Sudan, Mali, Senegal and other West African countries is one of the most popular in the world. Why countries ruled by regimes bearing the Islamic banner such as Wahhabist Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Islamic Republic of Iran, and Pakistan did not prohibit music. Without even going to the fruitless debate over the different interpretations of what Islam says about music which usually ends up in my Islam against yours, it would have at least shown the Mullahs that out of 1.6 billion people they were definitely not the only learned men who had the absolute truth in their hand.  

Whereas these Mullahs usually like to quote Wahhabi and Salafist Sheikhs with narrow interpretations, one can also quote hundreds of eminent Islamic scholars such as Imam Al Ghazali, Ibn Hazm Al Andalusi, and contemporary scholars such as Sheikh Khalid Al Jundi, Sheikh Muhammad al-Shawkani and many others who could not find any Islamic text prohibiting music. One would have thought these Mullahs would have learned enough to heed the words of the Prophet (PUH) who said:

إن هذا الدين متين فأوغلوا فيه برفق ولا تكرهوا عبادة الله إلى عباد الله، فتكونوا كالراكب المنبت الذي لا سفرا قطع ولا ظهرا أبقى.

(Indeed this religion is strong so delve deeper into it but gently. And do not make Allah’s worship to be repulsive to his worshippers. For the one who portrays it (religion) harshly will be like a traveler who did not spare any effort but reached nowhere)


But obviously taking this soft approach would have deprived them of the personal power they have in using religion as a cover for controlling people’s lives. Remember those who burned the Jordanian pilot alive were quoting religious sources, Al Shabab and Boko Haram also regurgitates Quranic verses and Islamic traditions to justify their heinous crimes. So anyone can use the holy text according to their wishes which makes the Quran, the most abused holy book in modern times. This was prophetically seen by Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Caliph of Islam, when he advised Ibn Abbas, member of his negotiating team with Muawiya Ibn Abi Sufyan, not to debate with the enemy on Quranic verses, underling that the Quran was liable to different interpretations (حمّال أوجه).

The fact that the Prophet (PUH) said: “Deeds will be judged according to intentions, and everyone will get what he intended,” has also been conveniently ignored by the Mullahs because for them people’s intentions don’t count; what counts for them is what they tell you to do.

What made their action even more painful was the timing. They timed their action to coincide with a period when most of the cultured Somali people were mourning the death of two cultural and music icons, Mohamed Ahmed Kulluc, a veteran and renowned singer whose songs have inflamed Somali nationalistic feelings during the struggle for independence, and Hussein Sheikh Ahmed Kadare, a cultural scholar, dramatist, poet, and a man remembered for his pivotal role in the writing of the Somali script and Somalization of scientific and cultural foreign words.

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This article was first published on Horn of Africa News Update and Analysis.

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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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