As a Somali artist in the Diaspora, I follow Somali news quite closely. Following the recent Westgate Mall, terror attack in Nairobi most Somalis were shocked and saddened, they do not agree nor condone such actions after all Somali people have been the victims of most of Al-Shabaab’s indiscriminate actions.
Asking Somali people to condemn the actions of Al-Shabaab is like asking a crime victim to condemn the actions of the criminal. Somali people have been suffering at the hands of Al-Shabaab since late 2006, when Islamic Courts Union (ICU) were disseminated by US backed Ethiopian invasion of Southern Somalia.
The ICU were a collective of Sharia-based courts who brought relative stability and justice to Southern Somalia after decades of civil war and injustice at the hands of ruthless warlords. In a nutshell Al Shabaab was born as a result of George W Bush’s war on terror during the infamous “you’re with us or against us” era.
It is unfortunate that the mainstream media tends ignore the history behind today’s stories. It was behind this backdrop of speculation and finger pointing reporting that I agreed to an interview with SKY news. Their questions were predictable ‘’why young Somali men and women from the United Kingdom join Al-Shabaab ” and ‘’how can I as an artist influence them not to do so?’’
I am not going to deny there have been established reports of young Somali men from the UK joining Al Shabaab in Somalia, however I do feel the figures have been exaggerated. Just like gangs in UK’s inner cities, terror organisations will continue to thrive in areas where there are no aspirations, no future prospects and where there are feelings of isolation. In other words, there will always be opportunities for terror groups to prey on the young and vulnerable.
Somalis are traditionally liberal people, they enjoy artistic expressions such as poetry, music and mix folk dance. Having just returned from the Somali region of Ethiopia where there has been a revival of the arts, thanks to improve security in the area. I found Somalis of that region to enjoy their art far more openly and were more receptive to music than my previous other Somali audiences including those in the western world.
As an artist I try and reach out to my people to make a positive contribution, it is my belief that the Somali community needs to do more to connect with the younger generation to channel their energy into more positive pursuits that will build their self esteem, confidence and most importantly give them a sense of cultural identity and belonging.