Still She Rises

Still She Rises

Wed 09 May

In January 2018 Somalis were banned from entering America, because Somali is considered an Islamic extremist hotspot, whose people harbour animosity towards Western countries. The stark paradox is that Somalia was the first nation in the world to fight against Islamic Extremism. Almost two decades prior to 9/11, and well before the rest of the world had  become familiar with Al-Qaeda. So how did Somalia, which is an African country with over a million of its citizens finding sanctuary in the West be a terror hotspot? This is the story of what happened to my country, and what happened to my country could happen to every other country.

Somalia has been a Muslim country for over 1400 hundred; but it  practises a moderate version of Islam. Furthermore, after embracing communism in 1969, Somalia started enhancing and promoting more liberalism and secularist ideology. In 1979 the Somali constitution was written taking into account modern socialism and gender equality.

A group of religious clergymen challenged the government, asserting that women and men can’t be equal according to Sharia Law. The Somali communist government executed the clergymen, who had tried to stand against their authority. This of course infuriated the Middle Eastern countries. But there was nothing they could do about it because  Somalia was a member of the Eastern bloc. 

In the late 1980s after the collapse of communism, Somalia found itself like a newborn baby left alone to fend for itself. Our currency became useless. Inflation had gone through the roof and bread and milk which one could only obtain on the black market became more expensive than gold and diamonds. Famine and abject poverty spread throughout the country. Thousands of desperate Somalis started pouring ino Saudi Arabia on the pretext of going for Haj as pilgrims. When they got there, they would melt away into the country in the hope of finding employment, without having neither work permits nor skills.   

Islamic Extremism is like a vulture hovering over a giant elephant trapped in quicksand, dying slowly. Three or four times a week the Somali airline would fly to Saudi Arabia to bring back hundreds of Somali deportees. They were chained  by their ankles, having served lengthy prison sentence for overstaying in the country illegally.

In contrast to this, there were other groups of Somali men, who were also returning from Saudi Arabia with large fortunes; new ideology and a new appearance. Osama bin Laden had given sacks of money to these Somali men. He trained them and sent them back to Somalia to spread his ideology. These men bought luxury villas in the trendiest district of Mogadishu and turned them into underground schools and  social centres for their ever-growing members and missionaries. They claimed that Somalis were not practicing proper Islam, and that having been to the Holy Land they had discovered the true version of Islam. They preached that this was what they wanted to introduce to the country.  

At first, Al-Qaeda preachers started targeting young people. As the students attended their first classes they were told that they had just stepped into  God’s right path. They had become good Muslims and true believers. Before they were blind kafirs. Their families and friends weren’t proper Muslims, and therefore it was their duty to guide them to God’s right path and save them from being infidels. But if their families rejected their guidance, they should denounce them. They should leave their parents’ homes and live with their new “Brothers in Faith”. 

There are no blood relatives, only brothers in faith. It is forbidden for a true believer to live with, befriend or to be in peace with kafirs, according to the teaching of this new faith. Thus, for fear of being denounced by their families and loved ones, when someone joined the group they forced their families and friends to follow them. And so, people began converting to the new faith in their thousands. 

Within a few months after opening these underground schools one could see a sudden transformation inpeople’s appearances and behaviour. Bizarrely dressed women were seen on the streets of Mogadishu for the first time in Somali history. These women called each other "Sisters in Faith". They dedicated their lives to attending religious classes and reading newly printed books or listening to  audio tapes at home, for those who couldn’t read or write. At first, people would stop on the street and stare at them. Their mothers exclaimed, "Why are you wrapped up like a dead person? How are you going to find a husband if you hide your face?"  Frightened children threw stones at them.

To impose their schemes more quickly onto the country, Islamic extremists started to deploy cunning tricks. They secretly hired young street boys to attack smartly dressed professional women on their way to work and strip their clothes off.  The victim would be left lying on the street naked and beaten. This terror and public humiliation was to spread fear into women's hearts so that they would adopt the Jilbabs as their ordinary outfits. And so, it spread outwards within months.

Having attracted many followers, the leaders of this extremist movement became confident and started speaking freely in public places such as universities, assemblies, and mosques. They laid out their manifesto: women should hide the shape of their bodies and shouldn’t go out without a man escorting them. They should stay home and look after their husbands. The government should be overthrown and replaced with an Islamic state, governed by Sharia law.

After this, the leaders were rounded up and arrested, their schools were closed and their activities watched. The government sent undercover officers to the mosque to monitor the preachers’ activities, which made the public disgusted with the authorities.  For mosques were considered as sacred places, where evil deeds can’t be conducted. But people had no idea about the political agenda masquerading as religion and who was behind it.

The spread of this religious movement coincided with the Somali civil war, which started in the early 1990s. Al-Qaeda was in the right place at the right time. Somalia had beena failed state for the past 30 years. The Islamic Extremists availed themselves of this opportunity and turned Somalia into an Islamic extremist state.

After the war Al-Qaeda preachers disguised themselves as refugees travelling to the West to spread their teachings. Capitalizing on parents' fears of the modern world, they distributed powerful propaganda materials to Somali immigrants which said if they didn't raise their children in this strict version of Islam, they were going to be homosexuals and addicts, like the infidels’ children. So the indoctrination of children started when they were still toddlers.  According to this new Islam a woman can’t be a good Muslim unless she covers herself from head to toe. And in order for girls to adapt to wearing the Hijab as part of their everyday life, parents would introduce girls to the veil before they reached their first year.  

Trousers are only for men, and thus God has forbidden women to wear them. A girl who wears trousers is a girl who wants to grow testicles and a moustache – meaning she is a lesbian. Likewise, a boy who imitates the infidel's lifestyle will become a woman and develop a vagina and start menstruating – this is how Islamic extremists portray gay men. The preaching materials drilled these hideous notions into children’s heads. And when Somali children came across a Somali woman wearing trousers, their jaws would drop, and they would be frozen on the spot as their eyes would automatically begin sifting through her body imaging her testicles. 

I was lucky enough to flee with my three children and a niece just a couple of weeks prior to an orgy of cannibalism started in the capital. Destiny deposited us in Scarborough. My mother, her disabled son and his two boys were stranded in a squalid refugee camp in Kenya. 

In order to keep my children and myself alive I had to work 14 hours a day. I would leave home at six and come back at eight. After I put the children to bed, I would start cleaning the house, washing their clothes and cooking tomorrow’s meal. My 16-year-old niece would prepare and drop the children at school before she went to school. It was now 1994, my younger sister, whom I helped get to Canada, began sending me extremely disturbing letters and preaching cassettes.

"Be warned, don't use any forms of soaps made by the infidels, for it's made from pigs' fat thus it's haram. Don't take any medication prescribed for you by infidel doctors, it's made with chemicals harmful to Muslim people. As a Muslim person, you should never befriend the infidel. The infidels have no empathy for us. The only reason they are welcoming us to their country is to turn you into infidels." 

One day I read her letter on a bus as I was going to work. It was so devastating that I became distraught and nearly got run over when I got off the bus. I stopped reading her letters after that. Just recalling the contents would send a chill down to my spine. I thought she has gone mad. One in four people I knew had lost their minds after the war. Without opening her letters, I would burn then as soon as I received them. And the cassettes I would smash and throw in a rubbish bin away from my area. I also stopped talking with her on the phone because without asking how me and the children were, she would attack me straight away, accusing me that I was no longer a proper Muslim.

One day I came home earlier than usual and found my niece had cramped the children onto the two-seat sofa, and was stood in front of them with a belt in her right hand cracking it on the floor as she said: "Who created you? Allah. Why he created you?  Solely to be his obedient slave and worship Him. Repeat after me."  As soon as I opened the door the children jumped to their feet and rushed towards me. They were weeping inconsolablu.

"What’s got into you? Where do you get this cruelty?" I asked her.

"They should be taught the Qur’an, or else they are going to be spoiled and corrupted like the infidels’ children," she said. I could hardly recognise her. My niece wasn’t the sweet and kind girl I had raised since she was five years old. She looked at me with contemptuous eyes.

"You are a kafir, you don’t pray, you don’t fast, you don’t wear Hijab, you don’t take us to a mosque or send us to Islamic school.  Everybody knows that you are an infidel," she said. After this she started cooking her food separately, and washing her clothes separately.  She also started wearing Jilbabs and people I didn’t know started calling her. When I was at home, she would communicate with them cryptically: "Yes aunt, okay aunt, praise be to God aunt." On Fridays she would skip school and go to what she called Islamic forum gatherings.

She soon left, and months later I found letters sent by my sister to her that she had hidden. My sister had bombarded her with brainwashing material until she turned her into a monster. She sent the preaching materials and Jilbabs via the address of a woman to whom she referred as her "Sister in Faith". This woman, who was living in the UK, would bring the materials to my niece while I was at work.

I never saw my sister or my niece again. But from time to time I would receive letters from my sister vowing, as a true believer, she was obliged to kill me so as to save her niece and nephews. And so, until my children became adult, I kept my home line secret so she wouldn't have a chance to contact them when I was not at home. When my children became teenagers, I would be constantly on the lookout for Somali preachers who might snatch them from school in the same way that western parents worry about paedophiles and drug dealers.

Around 2003, after the outbreak of the Afghan and Iraq wars I awoke to a nightmare as I realised that every Somali person I knew had changed and adapted to this new Islam. By then Somalia has been in thrall to Islamic extremism for a decade and a half, and the next generation of Somalis, who grew up knowing nothing but Al-Qaeda teachings descended from the sky like a plague of locus with the supposition that it is their religious obligation to save mankind from secularism and they should spread the only One True Faith to the World. Gradually, more and more Somali women began wearing the Barka and face veil. Next one-year-old Somali girls in prams were wearing Hijabs on the streets of London. It was like watching a tsunami advancing towards me with nowhere to escape and knowing that the world around me was oblivious to its existence.


"Have you lost your senses?" I asked my female friends. "Over fourteen centuries, we have been Muslims, still our women never cover themselves. We didn’t even know what Hijab and Jilbab meant prior to a couple of years ago. When we came to Europe, there was not a single Somali women wearing a Hijab. We were all dressed the way I am dressed now. How can I offend my Muslim brothers if I don’t wear Jilbabs? How short-sighted are your memories?" 

But my friends had converted to the "One True Faith" and started preaching to others that they should not associate with me because I was an infidel. And as more and more people adopted the new faith, they created the perception that unveiled Somali women were whores and prostitutes.  ou should not allow unveiled woman to come to your house, should not be friends with her and you should not walk with her on the street. Today a Somali woman who isn’t wearing Hijab can’t be part of the Somali community. I can’t go to the Somali community centre, I can’t go to Somali gatherings, I can’t go to Somali shops and restaurants in London. So many times, I have been spat at by angry Somalis on the street of London. Children born and bred in Europe freeze to the spot as they see me and exclaim: "Mummy look at her, what is she, the Somali woman with naked hair, where is her Hijab?  Why she should not be stoned?"  Their mothers shove them off, and say, "Waryaah, don’t look at her, she is a defiled infidelized one."

Islamic Extremism hasn't only damaged future generations of Somalis, it has obliterated thousands of years of tradition, culture, a way of life and history. Even greeting in Somali has been prohibited. Somali people do not greet in their mother tongue anymore, but in Arabic. Anyone younger than thirty years, today identifies themselves not as an African or as a Somali but as a good Muslim. Islam has become their identity. All the young people born after the civil war have Saudi names such as, bin, Abu and Ibnu. Somali children are being bred in the belief that they are the chosen ones who will defend Islam.

Article by Hawo Taako, from North Kensington Library's Creative Writing Group

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