Friday, July 02, 2004

The Somali Concept of Gaalo!

By Cali Nuur

Growing up as a lad in the Somali inhabited area of "NFD" I remember the term "gaalo" being used to differentiate Somali Muslims from their animists, Christians and pagan neighbours. The occasional white man who visted that peripheral region was referred to as "fariinji" or "cadaan". In essence, a white man who is born or converted to the Islamic faith was addressed as "Fariinji", a black borana who practised paganism with gods such as Waaq were referred to "gaal".

However, coming to Somalia as a young man and later, in a life marked by exile I interacted with many of my Somali brethren. To my dismay, these Somalis defined the concept of gaalosim using ethnicity. In many instances, a black pagan is not called a "gaal" but "madow" while a white Muslim would always be a gaal. But that is not the aim of this article. My aim with this short article is to highlight the double standards that my people, Somalis, Practice.

In the later part of the fifties, when independence was knocking on our doorsteps, many of our parents and grandparents lived in the countryside pursuing nomadic life. The British and Italian colonists were anxious to leave power to a few greedy henchmen who would enhance the cultural and intellectual colonisation of our people. Many older and wiser men that I have spoken to have revealed that the words "alore, governo" etc was enough to acquire a political position. In the northern part, things were different. The British were reported to have invested in Institutions of higher education. Instead of scholars Somaliland also sent brutish lackeys to Xamar!. One common feature, however, was these new leaders were secularists; latent gaalos who smoked pipes, talked and walked like gaalos- Almost a half-century later, in the diasporas from London to Toronto, we are witnessing how Somalis are marginalized. On a recent visit to London which is reportedly to be home over 200 000 Somalis, I was surprised to learn of the modern day exodus of Somalis from continental Europe. This new wave of Somalis did not escape from the persecution of warlords, civil war or from dictatorship. They fled "GAALO". Apparently, many European countries have devised laws that specifically aim to target Somalis; FGM debate in Scandinavia, daily racist remarks by politicians who see Somalis as a threat to democracy, hard to integrate (in actual sense they mean assimilation) or in some cases equating Somalis with primitivism- not fit to live among the human race.

In towns such as Toronto, Birmingham, Ohio, London and Minneapolis, you have certainly seen Somali women who wear the "Xijaab" or girls who wear jeans, revealing pants, -shirts but with a "xijaab"! Equally, you might have visited the many arenas including qaad houses, coffee houses, street parliaments where men discuss "GAALO". The same "gaalo" haters could sometimes be overheard supporting a certain warlord, or tribe. In the same token you might be aware that many Somalis in welfare states are over represented in the welfare beneficiary statistics; not to mention the many separation or marriage of conveniences that aim at increasing the GAALO income!

In my layman view, we have Somali "gaalos" whose features are: · They play the blame game when discussing Somali issues; you would meet them everywhere uttering words such as "Gaalada allaha ha naga qabto; waxaan gaalada ayaa ka dambeeysa". In most cases these Somali Gaalos slander the hand that feeds them by on the one hand living on social security, while on the other hand they have the time to sit/stand idly in the "street" parliaments and condemning the white Gaalo.

Warlords and their supporters. According to the Islamic faith to which many of us subscribe to Islam is a complete submission to Allah; including refraining from murdering women, children and men. Most of the Somali warlords are involved in massacres and only GAALOS are capable of some of the atrocities.


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