June 13, 2006


No music, no dancing, no football as Muslim law takes over from reign of the warlords: The man who drove US-backed warlords out of Mogadishu says he has no desire for an Islamic state (Rob Crilly, 6/13/06, Times of London)

THE man who has just imposed Sharia on one of Africa’s most brutal capitals breezes into the simple villa which serves as his headquarters.

“Please forgive my lateness,” Sheikh Sharif Ahmed says politely. He has spent the morning accepting donations of rice, sugar and cooking oil from local businessmen.

Sheikh Ahmed used to be a teacher until a gang kidnapped one of his students. He began campaigning for Islamic courts, with strict laws and punishments, to counter the chaos of a city run by warlords since the fall of President Siad Barre in 1991. Today his Union of Islamic Courts runs Mogadishu, its militias having expelled the warlords last week, and Sheikh Ahmed is causing consternation in the West.

Washington is widely believed to have been backing the warlords to check the spread of the Sharia courts and the alleged influence of al-Qaeda.

In an interview with The Times Sheikh Ahmed insists the courts have no interest in turning Somalia into an Islamic state or governing like the Taleban in Afghanistan. He claims to have no agenda beyond keeping the warlords from the city.

“We don’t do anything. We will make facilities for the community — whether politicians or intellectuals, women or youths — we make facilities for people to choose what they want,” he says. “We just want to defend our people.”

US trading hostilities for talk in Somalia?: An international meeting Thursday indicates the White House may be willing to work with certain Islamic militants. (Howard LaFranchi, 6/14/06, The Christian Science Monitor)
[T]he US is sending out conciliatory signals to the Islamic Courts Union, which vows to turn Somalia into a religious state under sharia law. In addition to setting up the international contact group, the State Department is issuing cautious, open-minded statements toward the advancing Islamists.

The tone suggests a carefully revised US position on Somalia, analysts say. The broader lesson, they add, may be that instead of rejecting Islamist political groups outright, the US will have to do more to differentiate friend from foe within Islamist political movements.

They're easy enough to dispose of if they turn out to be Talibanic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 13, 2006 6:40 PM
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