Former Muslims speak on social exclusion of those who leave Islam

Following the example of similar platforms in Great Britain, a blog called “Ex-Muslims in Finland” (Suomen Ex-Muslimit) has been running since 2015 providing information and experiences on leaving faith as a Muslim. The National Broadcasting Company YLE published a report on the two female founders of the blog and their accounts about social problems (former) Muslims face in their communities in Finland when they want to leave the Islamic faith.

The report accounts the women’s experiences as they struggle to tell their families about their choice while still “pretending to be a Muslim” by continuing some of the Islamic practices such as wearing the headscarf. The women report how especially in the Somali community, to which both belong, the social pressure from families, friends and the community restricts the freedom to make such independent choices. They note that sometimes as a preventive measure families have sent their children abroad to learn intensively about Islam if they notice that the child might be turning away from the Islamic lifestyle and religious practices.

Unlike in other countries such as Great-Britain, the women say that former Muslims in Finland tend to stay away from publicity to avoid negative reactions from their social environment. Another former Muslim of Middle-Eastern origin (male), accounts that in his home country the punishment for apostasy according to the Sharia law is death. The two women maintain that especially the situation of women is difficult in religious communities in Finland, as many rules such as dress codes restrict their lives. They additionally argue that the Qur’an does not acknowledge women as individuals with an agency but as bound to their functions in relation to their male family members.

The report unfortunately gives little space to other perspectives on the issue. One of them is a comment of a prominent journalist of Somalian origin Abdirahim Hussein. He notes that during his 22 years of stay in Finland he has not heard of any instances where a person who has declared leaving the Islamic faith would have treated badly by other Muslims. The report also included a short comment from the imam Anas Hajjar emphasizing that death threats and social exclusion are not accepted forms of behavior when a Muslim is having doubts in his faith but rather encourages to dialogue about the issue with the person in question.

A report launched on ethnic and religious discrimination against Somalis in Finland

The mission of Finnish Somali League held a press conference on May 27th to launch their newly published report on discrimination. The report is based on a survey directed at residents and citizens of Finland of Somali origin and tackled issues of verbal harassment, violent attacks and discrimination in the public sector. The aim of the survey was not to offer generalizing figures but to identify and investigate diverse discrimination experiences.

The report shows that out of 105 participants 80% had experienced discrimination and 80% reported having witnessed discriminating behavior towards other individuals of Somali origin. Moreover, 61% reported that the discrimination had been due to their Islamic religion and 31% reported their clothing to be the cause of discrimination. The survey’s narratives in open-end questions provide accounts of everyday struggles that residents and citizens of Finland with Somali origin experience. Especially racist accusations and verbal harassment were frequently reported. Yet, accounts on discrimination in public spaces such as denying access to services, being barred from entry to supermarkets and explicitly rejecting a job application due to the applicants head cover depict a detrimental picture of the current situation.

The full report in Finnish language can be downloaded here on the official website of the League.

A report launched on ethnic and religious discrimination against Somalis in Finland

The mission of Finnish Somali League held a press conference on May 27th to launch their newly published report on discrimination. The report is based on a survey directed at residents and citizens of Finland of Somali origin and tackled issues of verbal harassment, violent attacks and discrimination in the public sector. The aim of the survey was not to offer generalizing figures but to identify and investigate diverse discrimination experiences.

Out of 105 participants 80% had experienced discrimination and 80% reported having witnessed discriminative behavior towards other individuals of Somali origin. Moreover, 61% reported that the discrimination had been due to their Islamic religion and 31% reported their clothing to be the cause of discrimination. The survey’s narratives in open-end questions provide accounts of everyday struggles that residents and citizens of Finland with Somali origin experience. Especially racist accusations and verbal harassment were frequently reported. Yet, accounts on discrimination in public spaces such as denying access to services, being barred from entry to supermarkets and explicitly rejecting a job application due to the applicants head cover depict a detrimental picture of the current situation.

The full report in Finnish language can be downloaded from the official website of the League:

http://somaliliitto.fi/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Selvitysraportti.pdf

American Jihadist Is Believed to Have Been Killed by His Former Allies in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya — A young man from Alabama who traveled to Somalia and became an infamous Islamist militant, commanding guerrilla forces and earning a $5 million American bounty on his head, was believed to have been killed by his former extremist allies on Thursday, according to news reports and Islamist Web sites.

The jihadist, Omar Hammami, known for his rap-infused propaganda videos for the Shabab, a brutal Islamist group in Somalia, was reported killed in an ambush on Thursday morning. If true, his death would bring to a close one of the more unusual chapters in more than two decades of fighting in the Horn of Africa.

 

But Mr. Hammami, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, “the American,” has been declared dead before, only to resurface alive.

There is little question that Mr. Hammami has been on the run from his former comrades. His recent troubles brought to the surface rifts within militant circles in Somalia, particularly between foreign fighters and Somalis. In a Twitter message in April, Mr. Hammami said the group’s leader had “gone mad” and was “starting a civil war.”

J. M. Berger, the editor of the Web site Intelwire.com and author of the book “Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam,” said that it appeared this time that Mr. Hammami had indeed been killed.

Mr. Berger, who has been monitoring hundreds of Shabab-related social media accounts for over a year, cited a death notice on a Jihadi Web site that had supported the American militant and posted interviews with him in the past.

 

The son of a Southern Baptist mother and a Syrian Muslim father, Mr. Hammami was raised in Daphne, Ala., where he was a gifted student and high school class president. He later embraced the ultraconservative form of Islam known as Salafism before ultimately moving to Somalia in 2006 to fight for the Shabab.

 

The charismatic American fighter was a propaganda coup for the Somali militants. He worked on recruitment and handled financial affairs for the group. But Mr. Hammami was more than just a YouTube sensation and back-office militant. He is believed to have personally commanded forces in the field and organized guerrilla attacks.

 

He did not consider his native land off limits. “It’s quite obvious that I believe America is a target,” he wrote in an e-mail to The New York Times in 2010.

 

Growing up in Daphne, a city of 23,000 on Mobile Bay, Mr. Hammami loved Kurt Cobain and Nintendo and dabbled in drugs. But he also attended Bible camp. His decision to join a violent group responsible for beheadings and forced amputations was especially bewildering to family and friends.

 

Moving in the right direction on Somalia

David Cameron, speaking to the BBC Breakfast show, described the reason for sending aid to countries like Somalia, was essentially to keep Somalis out of Britain. By investing, the Prime Minister claimed, “we can stop them ending up on our shores”.

However as the author critiques the prime minister he highlights that there are many better reasons for investing in Somalia than preventing immigration. We might start in 2010, when the failure of rains, coming on top of two decades of absent government, lead to a famine that over the next two years would kill 258,000 people, roughly 5 per cent of the population. Or you might instead emphasise the need to build security and quell Islamic jihadist group Al-Shabaab, who have issued threats against Britain in the past. Then again, though Mr Cameron would be loath to admit it, you could argue that the main reason we invest in Somalia is in fact to fund Islamic extremism. It was revealed this weekend that £500,000 worth of supplies from the Department for International Development has been stolen by Al-Shabaab. We’ve been here before. In 1993, so much aid was ending up in the hands of Somali militants that it contributed to the US-led ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the country, a disastrous failure which ended after Black Hawk Down.

That DfID have owned up to this latest loss, albeit quietly, is a fine thing. They must learn from it. Mo Farah (a Somali-born distance runner for great Britain recently took the 5,000m and 10,000m world title in Moscow – and is seen by some as the greatest British athlete of all time) is currently campaigning to stop Barclays shutting down its money-transfer services to Somalia, a service upon which 40 per cent of the country is said to rely and through which £100m is sent from Britain every year. Since the UK government is not perfect at helping Somalia, closing a route through which Somalis can help themselves seems crazy. Farah’s campaign should be backed to the hilt.

Minnesota Somalis react to sentences in al-Shabab case with mix of outrage, relief

MINNEAPOLIS — Wide-ranging sentences handed down in the yearslong federal investigation into recruiting and financing for the terrorist group al-Shabab have kindled a mix of outrage, confusion and relief among members of Minnesota’s large Somali community.

Some say the 10- and 20-year prison sentences for two Minnesota women who sent money to the group were too harsh, especially since two men who traveled to Somalia and joined al-Shabab got three years. The attorney for one man sentenced to 20 years in prison has already filed a notice of appeal; more are expected.

Prosecutors have said the men and women were part of a “deadly pipeline,” sending money and men to al-Shabab, which the U.S. government has designated a terrorist organization for its links to al-Qaida and its tactics that include suicide bombings and assassinations. At least 22 men left Minnesota for Somalia since 2007 in what has been called one of the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters for a foreign terrorist organization.

Last week’s sentences are in line with other al-Shabab-related cases. In New Jersey, two men arrested while trying to board flights to Somalia for a jihad were sentenced to 22 and 20 years in prison. A southern California woman received eight years for sending money to Minnesota men in Somalia, while a Missouri man received more than 11 years for funding al-Shabab.

The British Dream by David Goodhart – review

A disingenuous approach is all too common in Goodhart’s disappointing book on immigration and diversity, which is strewn with similar straw-man arguments such as the idea that Britain’s civil servants care more about people in Burundi than those living in Birmingham. “To put it bluntly – most of us prefer our own kind.” remains the core of his argument – that human beings favour their own sort and are suspicious of outsiders, so mass immigration fragments society, strains the welfare state and loosens the ties of the nation. He makes a few fair although far from original points, about the weakening of communal links and the way our nervous multiculturalism ignored Islamic extremism and overlooked intolerable practices. But essentially the British Dream is just the stale suspicion of foreigners dressed up in intellectual clothing and given a slight twist to the left. Goodhart picks on the usual soft targets, such as recently arrived Somalis; perhaps he should visit Somaliland before saying “their particular brand of Islam” and “notorious” clan systems are not suited to modern democracy. Indeed, this insular book shows surprising ignorance of overseas development, with its claims that migration damages poor countries despite so many recent studies to the contrary, while also disgracefully downplaying the impact of racism. For all the optimism of the title, this books drips with misplaced pessimism. By the conclusion, its author is still alleging his opponents see immigrants as morally superior people, placing their interests above those of existing citizens. Yet so contorted are his arguments he ends up happily seeking restrictions on Britons bringing in family members, higher costs of care for old people and religious quotas in schools, together with an ill-defined “integration index” for the nation.

Young Somali Muslims in Toronto drawn to activism

The Globe and Mail – September 23, 2011

 

Famine in their homeland has brought 20 young Canadian-Somalis together to walk 350 kilometres to reach the nation’s capital. They’re bonded by a common goal: to raise money and awareness for a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations estimates has killed tens of thousands of people and threatens, over the next four months, to starve to death 750,000 Somalis.

Walk for Somalia is one of several youth-driven groups that has formed in Toronto in response to the drought, violence and famine ravaging the African country. Long-time community leaders say they’re seeing an unprecedented level of engagement among young Canadian-Somalis, a spirit they hope will eventually be channelled into challenges facing other Somali youth in Toronto.

The UN has declared famine in six regions of south Somalia, which is mainly controlled by Islamist militants known as al-Shabaab. Toronto houses one of the largest Somali populations in North America and Europe. Canada’s official census pegs the Somali population at nearly 38,000, but the Canadian Somali Congress believes the figure actually stands around 200,000, with the majority residing in Toronto.

U of T graduate’s arrest on terror charges alarms Toronto Somalis

News Agencies – March 31, 2011

25-year-old Mohamed Hersi who was born in Somalia but moved to Canada as a child, was trying to turn his life around. Despite having a science degree and a job as a security guard, Hersi had grown frustrated with life. He was tired of living in a dilapidated public housing unit near Markham Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E. and of watching his mother, a widow who had raised four children alone, struggling to make ends meet. Hersi wanted to go to Egypt to “get the morals I’ve lost.”
Police arrested Hersi without incident Tuesday night at Pearson airport before boarding a plane for London, where he was to catch a connecting flight to the Cairo airport. He had a one-way ticket. His final destination would have been Somalia where Hersi allegedly planned to join Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-inspired movement designated as a terrorist group in the U.S. and Canada.
Hersi’s arrest has sparked fears within the local Somali community that Al Shabaab, an Islamist youth militia, is still recruiting young men. In 2009, six Somali-Canadian men disappeared from the Toronto area and were believed to have joined the group. One died in battle about a year ago.

Somalia’s Religious Extremism Emerges in Canada

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Somalia’s independence, but there is little to celebrate.
Al-Shabab, which means The Youth, emerged from this bleak chaos in 2006. Human Rights
Watch says Somalis living under Al-Shabab control are subjected to grinding repression. The
impact of the conflict is felt in Canada, home to between 150,000 and 200,000 ethnic Somalis.
While extremist Islam has little appeal to most Somali-Canadians, some support Al-Shabab.
But Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, said while there was
once “quiet support” for Al-Shabab, that has evaporated due to the group’s conduct in Somalia
and the news reports, that young Canadians had been recruited.