Raging and Braying, Identity politics around the world

Somalia Town Threatens to Behead People Who Don’t Pray 5 Times Daily

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Residents of a southern Somalia town who do not pray five times a day will be beheaded, an official said Wednesday, adding the edict will be implemented in three days.

Shops, tea houses and other public places in Bulo Burto, about 124 miles northeast of the capital, Mogadishu, should be closed during prayer time and no one should be on the streets, said Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, the chairman of the town’s Islamic court. His court is part of a network backed by armed militiamen that has taken control of much of southern Somalia in recent months, bringing a strict interpretation of Islam that is alien to many Somalis.

This story has connections closer to home. For example, if the edict had been in effect in Minnesota in the last few weeks we might have observed the following:

1) The Minnesota imams could have claimed they were praying loudly at the airport so that the many Somali cabdrivers there could be sure that the imams had fulfilled their religious duties. It obviously can be dangerous not to pray 5 times daily around certain Somalis.

1a) If we had already had this version of sharia in place in Minnesota, it would have been beneficial for the passengers the imams set out to intimidate. The need to shout “Allahu Akbar” at the boarding gate wouldn’t have arisen, because the airport would have been closed.

1b) If the airport had been closed, Muslim American Society Executive Director Mahdi Bray would not feel empowered to shake down US Airways:

He wants to “hit [US Airways] where it hurts, the pocketbook,” and, joined by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), will seek compensation for the imams, civil and federal monetary sanctions, and new, sweeping legislation that will extract even bigger penalties for airlines that engage in “racial and religious profiling.” An investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is under way. Not incidentally, it is the “fatwa department” of MAS that pushed for segregated taxi lines that would permit Muslim cab drivers at the Minneapolis airport to reject passengers carrying alcohol.

2) If MAS Executive Director Bray hadn’t been braying, a cable news network would have been spared the intellectual embarrassment of equating what happened to the imams with Rosa Parks arrest for refusing to give up her seat on the bus.

To make this analogy tenable, a couple of dozen black women would have had to have boarded half-a-dozen buses wearing backpacks filled with explosives, and commandeered the buses in order to ram them into the WTC, Pentagon and White House. There would have been several attacks on US interests abroad in the years preceding and following – all by black women from the United States.

Years, and several public transit bombings later, Rosa Parks would have been wearing a similar backpack and shouting “Burn, Baby, Burn!,” as she boarded the bus. The bus passengers would be expected to accept it without comment. If there were any protest, Walter Cronkite would have been compelled to make an analogy with Crispus Attucks.

3) Maybe if this silliness weren’t going on in Minnesota, closer to home we would not have The Gym Jihad, where impeding others is now a Muslim cause célèbre:

A Muslim woman in Dearborn, Mich., lodged a complaint Tuesday against Fitness USA for an alleged civil rights violation involving a fellow gym patron. According to Jodi Berry, executive director of Fitness USA, Wardeh Sultan was praying in front of another member’s locker when the member wanted access to her belongings inside the locker. The inconvenienced patron tried to interrupt Ms. Sultan, but she remained prostrate in front of the locker and an altercation ensued. A manager was called into the locker room to intervene.

How does someone end up having to pray in the aisle of a locker room? Either she can’t plan her life any better than to be caught unaware by the requirement, or it’s about something else.

4) Yet still closer to home, there is a definite parallel with East Lansing’s Nazra Quraishi’s July-06 letter to the editor of the Lansing State Journal.

For that, we’ll circle back to Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, with whose “strict interpretation of Islam that is alien to many Somalis” we began.

The Sheik raged on: “Those who do not follow the prayer edict after three days have elapsed, “will definitely be beheaded according to Islamic law,” Rage told The Associated Press by phone. “As Muslims we should practice Islam fully, not in part, and that is what our religion enjoins us to do.”

Nazra Quraishi agrees: “It is forbidden in Islam to convert to any other religion. The penalty is death. There is no disagreement about it… Please do not ask us Muslims to pick some rules and disregard other[s]. Muslims are supposed to embrace Islam in its totality.”

It’s all in the interpretation… Or maybe the interpreter.