Somalia: Islamist insurgents disregarding Islamic teachings?

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The Ramadan season has failed to bring a cease fire in Somalia as government forces, African Union peacekeepers and Islamist insurgents continue to do battle over Somalia. Over 20 civilians and Islamist fighters were killed in the weekend clashes.

While Somali Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds, al-Shabab, the radical Islamist insurgent group, viewed by some as al-Qaeda’s proxy in the Horn of Africa, would rather attack government forces, African Union forces and civilians in a bid to overthrow the UN backed Somalia government of president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad.

President Ahmad called on the Islamist rebels to respect the Ramadan season, reminding them that the fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramadan is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. The government’s military position was weakened in May 2009, following series of attacks from Islamist radical militia prompting President Ahmad to appeal for help from abroad.

In the weekend, the rebels attacked government forces close to a refugee camp where tens of thousands of displaced people are living. There was also fighting around the presidential palace, however, it is unclear which side began the attacks. Nonetheless, the average Somalian Muslim amidst the fighting is refraining from eating, drinking, smoking and indulging in anything that is in excess, unclean, or unholy.

The horn of Africa country has been without a functioning central government since 1991. Years of fighting between rival groups, famine and disease have led to the deaths of up to one million people according to human rights watch. Relations with neighbors have been soured by its territorial claims on Somali-inhabited areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Somalia is Africa’s worst case of humanitarian crisis: a third of the population is dependent on food aid.

Muslim observers claim Ramadan is a time of reflecting and worshiping God when believers are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy for those who are less fortunate, thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity. But such is not the case in the predominantly Muslim nation of Somalia.

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