“I would prefer death to seeking alms from any country”
– Imran Khan
What happens when mosques are funded with mysterious financing, Imams are trained and loaned by foreign countries, and ablution donation cans are funded with the vast wealth of the dictators of the Gulf oil rich states? The mosques and religious organizations become ammunition stores, shelters for fugitive jihadists escaping from justice and function as suicidal training hubs akin to the infamous Red Mosques of Pakistan. Somali clerics regularly go to the Gulf to collect alms in the form of dates and second hand clothes to resell in Africa. Most often, they are financed by dubious and often harmful institutions with pretty but misleading names of caliphates and companions of the prophet Muhammad. The unregulated system of alms functions without monitors and has negatively effected the way Somalis live and the functioning of local law-enforcement agencies.
The post conflict Somalia mosques outnumber the mosques Somali traders and mosque lovers built over the long centuries of Somalia’s existence as a Muslim nation. It is common to hear that Somaliland and Somalia together compose the “country of the highest recipient of charity mosques”. The impoverished country is inundated with unedited religious textbooks whose publishers can be anyone from Arab Christians to twisted fanatics glorifying violence and belittling mutual love of humanity.
Many local analysts explain the mosque’s hyper growth as driven by ulterior motives. This doubt and suspicion only intensified as people questioned why the mainly Arab donors only invested in the form of mosques and Madrasa instead of essential infrastructure such as libraries, and health centers while the majority of Somalis are dying of curable diseases and basic hunger. Though beggars have no choice as the saying goes, many Somalilanders are wondering why mosques thrive in the nadir and famine era but, not in heyday of Somalia!
Many Arabs may give alms with good intentions without knowing the consequences of their acts and of how the money is spent. But as it stands a few immoral mullahs profit from the system and, above all, it is fueling displacement of Somali masses. You can kill someone in so many ways. If charities are without monitors of any kind, they can easily fall into the wrong hands and become weapons. Many charities have argued they were made scapegoats for wider and deeper failures but the truth of the matter is that the massive alms given in secret to build mosques for mosque-less communities has not prevented the country from crumbling into the present situation.
Control over who is qualified to run a mosque and who is not even in stable parts of Somalia like Somaliland is a also kept in secret. Mosques are unchecked by relevant authorities or the public. It is widely believed foreign jihadists dodge the existing hotel registration identification policy through use of the bountiful foreign-backed mosques. In addition, mosques are a meeting ground for clandestine conferences by Somali militants such as Il-Itihad and its byproducts.
Many alms-financed mosques come with pretty names such as Al-Rahma (Mercifulness) and Al-Huda (Guidance) but are more dangerous than the Red Mosque in Pakistan which became an ammunition warehouse and resort of terrorists led by a warlord who tried, unsuccessfully, to topple Pakistan’s government. When the Red Mosque militants clashed with the Pakistan police, people wondered how the situation had gotten so out of control even though the Pakistani government was monitoring the mosque for years.
Dubious alms in Somalia
But imagine this situation repeated in a country where there has been no law and order in decades and these so called clerics in disguise of Holy Religion dominate every aspect of life from private to public, from Hawala, money transferred from other countries, to the Western “infidel’s” latest gadgets including the system of telecoms facilitating the money fueling the leaderless jihad. The irony is not lost as militants coordinate bombings using the telecoms system built with Zakat aid and other unregulated alms. Therefore, the coming Ramadan requires renewed vigilance concerning alms, charity and dates to ensure that donations of dates to Somalia are not sold in Djibouti for profit, like before, adding fuel to the fire.
Raageh Omaar, Somali-born British journalist and writer, recorded a podcast in advocacy for a fund-raising event for Somaliland First National, a state-of-the art library. He described the act as a “legacy” for the future generations. It is the time to rebuild these types of useful institutions which were destroyed by the civil war instead of spending money of what prophet Mohamed (pbuh) described as “Dirar Mosque”, the harmful mosques where sermons of hate against fellow Muslims were waged with character assassination and stereotyping of fearful Sufi clerics whose worship of Allah was apolitical and purely spiritual.
Commercialization of religion
However, as the US government has gradually made money transfers stricter, these types of alms are getting shrunk but not yet dried up as already massive amounts of unregulated alms are funding an empire of Madrasa. This has produced thousands of youthful adherents who were kindling to the worldwide jihad games. Often these militants do not need payments because of religious indoctrination. Heaven is on offer for those who murder innocents, blow up enemy tanks, and generate revenues by charging other kids of non-Jihadi wealthy families twenty-five dollars for Quran teaching, prayer performance instruction methods for 15 USD, and Arab Anashids (revolutionary songs) calling for liberating Palestine from Jews for 10 USD! The wealthy customers are mostly Western returnees who want to de-westernize their children or “make rehab” as they like to call it. Using these new tools, Somali militants seem self-sufficient in funding.
Mosques are Islamic-complaint only when in charge of faithful Imams who do not want to distort the Islamic values of peace and co-existence of fellow Muslims as well as Non-Muslims. Instead man mosques in Somailia describe ex-Somalia’s mullahs as “ heretics and less than Muslim”. The few Somali individuals who sought asylum in the Saudi Kingdom after collapse of the Somali government in 1991 have been converted to Wahabi dogma after watching soap operas and immersion in Saudi Arabia’s cultural brainwashing media programs. Many Somali intellectuals dismiss the teachings of Al-Akhwan or Ictisam or any other sect with labels similar to those of Bako Haram and Al-Shabab but today such intellectuals remain in hiding to survive.
Likelihood of ceasing the dubious alms addiction
There has been a rush of oil companies to Somaliland in recent times. Many people thought Somaliland clerics would think to spend charity locally but, on the contrary, the scope of local charities only expanded when Turkish aid is considered. It no wonder that in the sixties Somalia was known as the “graveyard of the foreign aid” because its reliance of handouts from the outside world. Somaliland and Somalia simply cannot control alms whose source is a mystery and often dubious. The impact of these inflows of cash on national security is devastating. The world has to make concerted effort to regulate the tsunami of alms and Zakat that fuel instability from Pakistan to Somalia preying on regions with a desperate shortage of basic necessities.