Sunday, November 14, 2004

Somalis Infuriated By Religious Persecution Claims

A file photo of the Mosque of Mogadishu

By Ali Halni, IOL Correspondent

MOGADISHU, December 27 ( – Somalis reacted angry to a claim by a British Christian organization that there is a Christian minority in the East African country and that they are being religiously persecuted.

The Barnabas Fund – a charity concerned about Christian minorities across the world – alleged on December 18 that 50,000 – or 5.% - of Somalia’s 10-million population are Christians, and that several cases of violent attacks against them took place during 2003.

The two allegations were vehemently repudiated by Somalis.

“These are baseless claims because Muslims make up 100 per cent of the Somalia’s population – which means there is Christian minority in the country,” the Somali Ulema Council deputy chairman told

Nur Baroud said there are Christian Somalis in European countries, but they should not be artificially inflated as a minority group.

Somalia’s tribal traditions make it necessary for inhabitants to show loyalty to their all-Muslim tribes, a fact which had ended all Christian missions in failure and made the country declare Islam its official religion.

Baroud also refuted the Fund’s claims that Muslims in Somalia regard Christianity as a foreign religion of their historic enemies in Ethiopia and of their former colonial masters, the Italians and the British. “Somalis do not hate those people for their religion, but rather because they had occupied their country.

The occupation is still there, as Somalis still feel its pinch 40 years since,” he asserted. The fund had alleged that a number of Christians have been imprisoned and killed over the years, churches destroyed and Christians persecuted.

Islamic scholars in the country dismissed the allegations as a new attempt to interfere into the country’s domestic affairs.

“Creating a Christian minority that does not exist here could pave the road for these ambitions to materialise,” said Islamic scholar Youssef Torhami.

He noted that Somalia would not have denied Christian minority if it had really existed.

No problems have sprung up from the presence of Christians in Muslim countries, as the precincts of Islam determine the relation between Muslims and people of other faiths.

He challenged the British charity to come up with a trace of a single Christian citizen in Somalia.

“It is rather a media charade to tarnish the image of the country’s Islamic identity here,” charged the scholar.

The Barnabas Fund said on its website that it would organize a February meeting to hear first hand testimonies of allegedly persecuted Christians from the Muslim world.

Analysts said that religious persecution is a ready-made accusation that could be tailored to chalk up political gains.


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