Entertainment Somalia: Reviving culture to fight radicalization

Somalia: Reviving culture to fight radicalization

Mohamed Abdi Hayir
Somali Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Mohammed Abdi Hayir

(AA) – The Somali government believes that reviving the country’s culture can help tackle radicalization among its youth, a view shared by the European Union.

“We are called a nation of poets,” Somali Information, Culture and Tourism Minister Mohammed Abdi Hayir told Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of a cultural event organized by the EU’s delegation to Somalia.

Government officials, artists, authors, professionals and members of civil society on Thursday joined Kenyan-Somalis and Somalis living in Nairobi to celebrate Somali culture.

“Somalia has been infighting for 25 years. During this period, we have seen a decline in Somali culture, which has created space for youth radicalization,” Hayir admitted.

The fractious Horn of Africa country has remained in relative turmoil since the 1991 ouster of Siad Barre, a military dictator who had ruled the country since 1969.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group continues to wage a years-long insurgency against the Somali government. For years, the group had controlled much of central and southern Somalia.

Recently, however, it has lost ground to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), working in coordination with Somali army troops.

Nevertheless, Al-Shabaab has continued to carry out attacks on government officials and security personnel.

-Fighting radicalization-

Hayir stressed that his ministry knew the importance of Somali culture.

“We are reviving Somali culture because we know it will play a vital role in bringing peace, stability, reconciliation and cohesion to Somalia,” he told Anadolu Agency.

The minister said it was time for Somali youth to stop hearing the sound of gunfire after a quarter century of violent factionalism and get used to the sound of drums and dancing instead.

“My ministry has begun to reengage Somali youths into bands to promote our culture,” he added.

“We continue to promote the culture with singing, dancing and poetry, which in return provides jobs for our youth,” said the minister.

“In these days of radicalization that threatens Somalia, the region, and the international community, the promotion of Somali culture provides a powerful alternative,” he asserted.

Hayir called on the international community to help his country during its transition until it was able to stand on its own.

He said Al-Shabaab militants had only made progress harder to achieve.

“In order to counter terrorist narratives of destruction and violence, we must revive our culture. The terrorists understand the importance of culture, which is why they are against our culture and traditions,” said the minister.

EU Ambassador to Somalia Michele Cervone d’Urso, for his part, said it was vital for people from different walks of life to meet and discuss Somali culture.

“There is a desire to revive the broad spectrum of Somali culture and transcend nitty-gritty politically correct clan discussions,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“It brings joy to the people of Somalia to share their culture and traditions with a foreigner like me,” said the diplomat.

Attending the event were government officials, artists, authors, analysts, doctors, members of civil society, and others from all walks of life.

Also present was Kenyan parliament majority leader Aden Bare Duale, who is himself of Somali origin.

Many participants in the cultural event came clad in traditional regalia.

Ambassador Cervone said Somalia needed “time to heal” after decades of conflict had taken its toll on Somalia’s national identity and its rich cultural heritage.

“Literature, architecture and language play a key role in the cohesion of every society,” he said. “Culture will break the cycle of conflict and allow the people of Somalia to heal their scars.”

Nuruddin Farah, a prominent Somali writer and philosophy professor, was keen to explain the importance of culture to Somali youth.

“I was born at a time when the power of speech lay in other people’s tongues. My mother and father were not literate,” Farah told Anadolu Agency.

“As a boy, I could not even read the Koran. But later on, after joining school, I became literate,” he recalled.

“I earned the honorific ‘Haafizul Quaran,’ a title given to those who knew the scriptures by memory,” Farah said.

“Nowadays there are young Somalis who go through the same things that I went through. I am here to motivate them and share my culture and tradition with them,” he asserted.

Farah said part of what motivated him to write was the fact that he was tired of seeing the names of western authors on every book.

“I became a writer to promote our own culture,” he told Anadolu Agency. “I want Somali children to open a book and read about ‘Juma, Ali and Mohammed,’ who have names just like them.”

Salma Mohamed, a student from Nairobi’s Eastleigh district, which is known as “Little Mogadishu,” said the event had given her an opportunity to learn about her culture.

“I am a Kenyan Somali; I was born in Kenya,” she told Anadolu Agency.

“I’ve always wanted to know about my culture and our traditions,” she said. “I’ve learnt so much from this event.”

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