Qays Arthur: are they really Sunnis?

Qays Arthur on the recent rise of the Islamic Courts in Somalia, which prompted him to find out if the people behind them are really practising traditional Sunni jurisprudence or something else - the answer is, as you might expect in this day and age, a disappointing no:

After some amount of searching I found this July 2005 report [PDF] from an organization called the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. On page 40 of the report it states that, “The courts generally lack support from a clan’s religious leaders.They generally believe that the shari’a judges,while devout,are uneducated and often illiterate individuals.In fact,none of Somalia’s shari’a courts appear to follow a specific madhab or school of Islamic jurisprudence - they simply apply their personal reading according to their existing knowledge of the Qu’ran and Islam. Due to the judges’ lack of formal training,the shari’a courts do not operate according to any formal procedure.Judges hear cases by asking questions of the claimant and defendant,calling any witnesses that the judges themselves deem necessary,and then pass their decision.Professional Somali lawyers who have appeared before the courts argue that rules of evidence and procedure are the most required form of development and training that is required to prevent the shari’a courts from causing harm.”

Br Qays then discusses the common phenomenon of Wahhabis being mistaken for Sunnis, to the extent that Wahhabi-Salafis are commonly seen as fundamentalist or hardline Sunnis (as we saw in the UK with Michael Ancram’s comments this April in which he referred to a civil war between “Sunnis”, identified as those who bomb mosques, and Shi’ites), partly due to the fact that “Sunni Muslims have, in the name of unity, surrendered their religion to heretical madmen”. In this case it seems that the ICU have allowed this Hassan Dahir Aweys, wanted (rightly or otherwise) as an al-Qa’ida suspect, a say in their affairs when he should really have stepped aside for the good of the community, to avoid another meltdown as happened in Chechenia and Afghanistan.

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