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Questioning Bashir Goth, Editor of Awdal News
February 12, 2007
There are two very interesting yet different sides in your writing. In one, it is an internal struggle, where you become the voice of the worsening situation in Somalia and other parts of Africa/Middle East and use your writing to fight against the government. The other seems to be to fight the portrayal of a stereotypical view of the Middle East/Islam/Africa globally (and especially in the West). Comment and explain this dual role.
If there is any duality in my writing it could be due to the nature of the issues I try to deal with. On one hand I try to tackle the onslaught of Islamic extremism, which I see as a malignant outgrowth on the healthy body of the Muslim nation, while on the other hand I try to engage the West which loses sight of the real causes of militant Islam and wavers between self flagellation and confusion. At certain times the pundits blame the west for unleashing this evil through their military and political involvement in the Muslim world and at others vacillate and shift the blame onto Islam, seeing it as an inherently erroneous religion, the antithesis to modernity and market-led liberal values.
Although I agree with the West on the need to root out Islamic extremism and fight it with vehemence, I see as counterproductive to think ill of Islam as a religion. Islam is a great divine religion, which contains a message of peace, tolerance and great respect for human life. The protracted plight of the Palestinian people and Western involvement in other political hotspots, may have contributed to the growth of the ideology of violence in the Muslim world. But Islamic extremism, in my view, is a homegrown phenomenon whose main targets are Islam and Muslim people before anyone else. My battle therefore starts at home. I speak plainly when I say, let us stop seeing the world as enemies, let us stop gloating about having the only correct path to divine truth and let us stop dividing the world into House of Islam and House of War.
What is your conception of the West, religion and the “clash of civilizations”?
This is not a question to be answered in few words but I think the question should be reframed with “religion and civilization”. For me, it is religious fanaticism that ripples through societies everywhere in the world. What we need is an international agreement on the secularization of the world. If people learn to leave their religion at home and deal with the outside world on the basis of the UN charter, the world would be a better place to live.
However, a war is already raging between the West and Islam. It is not a war of liberation, as many Islamist supporters would like to call it. It is a war between stagnation and development, a war between progress and retrogression. A war between people who see the 14th century as the pinnacle of human civilization and people who live in the computer age of the 21st century; Principally, it is a war between people who see human intelligence, science and progress as a curse and affront to divine power that has to be subdued and those who see the human brain as the only legitimate vehicle for the betterment of man’s life and world.
I believe that the West has through its preoccupation with the Middle East, lost the opportunity of conducting trade with Africa and investing in its infrastructure and developmental projects. Instead the west uses Africa as a confessional where they cleanse their guilt through alms giving and dumping their excess harvest. Africa has become known for the Live8 music charity festivals, HIV/AIDS, malaria, droughts, fratricidal civil wars and celebrity child adoptions.
What has been the cost of conflict in Somalia?
The cost of conflict in Somalia can be summed up in one word; the death of a country. Somalia doesn’t exist as a nation state. Its name is found in the ledgers of the United Nations, it is mentioned in UN resolutions once in a while, but the country literally does not exist. It is like a fairy tale that everybody knows that happened sometime, somewhere but does not have a physical existence. Somalia is the story of a nation at war with itself for at least the past 15 years, a nation that has committed suicide. But there is that part of former Somalia which has spared itself of the lawlessness and mayhem taking place in Somalia. It is Somaliland, the former British Protectorate, which united with the Italian South after independence in 1960. Somaliland has restored its sovereignty after the collapse of the central government and has since then enjoyed peace and stability and established a democratic state to the admiration of the international community. It only lacks world recognition for its hard won achievements.
How do you view Somalia’s membership in regional institutions like the Arab League?
The Arabs play a problematic role in Somalia. As they always look at every issue through the prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they try to make sure that any force that comes to power in Somalia should fall into and within this strategy. In the past, the Arabs had propped up the dictatorial regime of Siyad Barre. In the aftermath of the civil war, they contributed to prolonging the conflict by busting the UN imposed arms embargo and supporting pro-Arab groups against others. Perhaps the most disastrous Arab influence in Somalia is the ideological and financial support many of the Arab governments and communities provide to the Islamist groups in Somalia. The Union of Islamic Courts, UIC, which until recently dominated large swathes of the country would never have come to prominence without Arab help.
If you had to ask one serious question to the policymakers and heads of state what would it be?
Why don’t you listen to the cries of the man on the street? Stop living in ivory towers and come down to the ranks of the people who put you up there.
How can the gap between real people's hopes and aspirations and governments'/regime’s mandates be bridged?
By returning power to the people; making them a part of the decision making; whether it is digging water wells, building hospitals and factories or constructing roads. The local community must have their say. They know what is good for them. Listen to them.
What do you think about a new movement, a Renaissance in science, technology and education?
There is a great knowledge explosion in the world today and all we need is to embrace it, guide it and adorn it with some ethical values. But ethical values in my view should come from common human values and not from narrow religious canonizations.
How do see your role as part of a global blogging community?
Blogging gives me the opportunity to scream out, to make my voice count, to reject when my rights are being hijacked by a vocal extremist minority or by the hapless silent majority.
A parting message of peace or a piece of advice for the world?
Embrace common human values and fight poverty as the number one enemy of humanity and the mother of all evil; make sure that every mother can afford decent food, decent clothing, decent shelter and decent schooling for her children.