Guest Post from Hablayo Cabdi

**Guest posts reflect the opinion of the writer only. It is meant to offer another perspective on the situation. Regardless, the MM staff does not condone taking innocent people as hostages.**

Somalia is a nation of 9.5 million people. Its location on the eastern shore of Africa has made it a strategic location for commerce and travel. The beauty of its coastline, beaches, rivers and forests has been overshadowed by images of poverty, war and strife. Somalia is now synonymous with hunger and famine. The last famine brought on by drought occurred in 1994; despite this the country has been unable to shake this image. By and large people survive well through trade and animal husbandry. Northern Somalia (aka Somaliland) is a principle source of livestock for the Middle East. There are pockets of stability and safety throughout the nation, however south-central Somalia, particularly areas surrounding the capital city of Mogadishu, have been no-go zones for the past few decades.

The nation has strong religious roots, and Islam has flourished in this land since the first Hijra. Many Somalis believe that the first Hijra brought Islam to eastern Africa through Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia) and subsequently the word of Allah also spread to its neighbour Somalia. Unlike its Ethiopian neighbour however, Islam is the only religion in this country-it is believed that 99% of the population is Muslim, prompting many Somalis to ask what the other 1% are!

In recent times the strength and resilience of Somalia and its people have been tested by international pressures, coups, and piracy.  Press coverage of “Piracy” off the coast of Somalia has taken on a life of its own-prompting satirical parodies on late night talk shows and incredulous reporting on news channels. Despite the almost comical initial reports, pressure has been growing to curtail what some have termed marine-terrorism.

As a Somali-Canadian I have a unique perspective on the issue. For one, I'm not American and therefore I take a more analytical stance on the media coverage in America. And secondly, as a Somali I would hazard to say that I have somewhat of an insider's view. Now that my respective biases have been explored, I invite you all to ask some important questions-lets problematize the issue of Somali piracy together and unpack some of the details that have gone unnoticed.

As Muslims you're all probably thinking “astagfirullah-Muslim thieves! Somebody do something!” I would argue that piracy is a crime of opportunity – one that requires convenience and an abundance of targets. Maybe we should ask the question what are these ships doing there? What could possibly entice these people to be out there despite the danger and volatility? After all, any thinking intelligent person would put safety above all else… right?

Take for example the Playa de Bakio, a Spanish fishing trawler which by all accounts (including Spanish officials) was fishing in Somali waters. Illegal fishing is a crime, one that European and Asian nations have ignored for the last twenty years off the coast of Somalia, it is essentially the procurement of property that is not one's own. They practice fishing techniques that are illegal in their own countries by employing outdated and environmentally damaging equipment to trawl the ocean water around Somalia. Their actions destroy the ecological balance and make environmental sustainability next to impossible (Greenpeace). They benefit from the sale of Somali fish all over the world and reap the profits, yet the Muslim world and the international community have said little about this issue which costs the Somali people upwards of an estimated 94 million dollars annually (a modest estimate) and jeopardizes the economic and environmental viability of fisheries for future generations of Somali children. Who are the pirates? The Somalis who boarded a ship in their own waters or the Spaniards of the Playa de Bakio which by their own admission were involved in illegal fishing?

Lack of governmental oversight in the nation is a motivating factor in the presence of international ships along the Somali coast. Technically, ships can do anything they want in Somali waters since there is no one to stop them. Many nations have taken this opportunity to dump illegal waste. These nations tell their constituents that they are becoming “greener” and they are embracing the philosophy of environmental responsibility while in reality they take advantage of vulnerable populations and poison millions. The 2004 Tsunami revealed what Somalis have been saying for years-the sea activity unearthed thousands of waste canisters as they washed ashore. And yet no one said anything. No one decried such a heinous crime.

Perhaps it is the strategic location of Somalia that influences the international outrage-with waterways such as the Gulf of Aden to the north which is a key shipping lane for Middle Eastern oil and the Indian Ocean to the east which is commonly used by Asian and European ships for commercial purposes. These routes are a lifeline for the Somali people as well since they use the ports of Berbera (along the Gulf of Aden) and Mogadishu (Indian Ocean) to bring much needed supplies into the country – yet these supply ships are never in danger of piracy. They come from as far as Singapore without encountering interference. This indicates that pirates discriminate in their choice of ships, perhaps choosing to ransom those that are detrimental to the well-being of their nation.

This brings us to the Maersk-Alabama, which is understandably a touchy topic because as I type this entry, a American man is being held hostage, and this as we know has the potential to be a very dangerous situation. I asked myself the same thing I always ask when I hear of a ship boarded off the coast of Somalia – What was it doing there? You will probably start asking yourself this every time you hear it too, so I decided to do some digging and check other sources of information. European media outlets have been reporting that the Maersk-Alabama carries an American flag and is owned by Denmark and it is a part of what is known as the U.S. Maritime Security Program. The program is a collaborative effort between the departments of defense and transportation. The goal of the program is to provide cargo-carrying capability to the American military as a part of the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement or VISA as it is known. VISA allows commercial ships to carry military cargo along with its own hold (or sometimes in place of its own cargo) as a way to support U.S. military missions and also to increase the presence of American flagged ships in international waters. A report prepared for congress cited “projecting visibility” of American flagged ships worldwide as a key objective of the Maritime Security Program. Well, it doesn't get more visible than this. British media are reporting that the Maersk-Alabama is carrying military weapons and that it is unlikely that the pirates are aware of this which explains the sensitivity of this case and the media coverage it has been receiving.

If indeed the reports are true it explains what a ship based in Mississippi is doing in Somalia. If this ship is operating with the help of the U.S. government as a part of the MSP then they should be prepared for all contingencies including piracy.

The obvious high profiles of these cases creates the impression that piracy is rampant off the coast of Somalia. This impression is false, an estimated 160,000 ships come through this area annually and in the last year it is believed that 15 ships were held for ransom – which corresponds to a 0.009% probability of being hijacked off the Gulf of Aden by Somali pirates. The fact remains that the magnitude of damage caused by illegal fishing and dumping far surpasses anything that a crew of 10 pirates could ever do. The pirates have demonstrated an ability to negotiate and avoid casualties – the same cannot be said for the shoot first ask questions later mentality of the maritime community. Ironically the nations that are the most eager to police Somali waters with arms (Japan has sent naval ships to the region) are also those that are on environmental blacklists for their exploitation of the Somali people.

I implore everyone to ask the questions that no one is asking-rather than publicizing the stories of the rich and powerful, give the voiceless an opportunity to be heard. Piracy is not the problem; it is merely a symptom of the true disease of international exploitation. Piracy is a temporary solution to a lack of resources, resources that are unjustly usurped by others. Clearly Somali pirates take their cue from their international counterparts! Somali pirates recognize the hypocrisy that is fueling international efforts and are unlikely to cease their activities so long as ample opportunities exist. Neutral countries especially Muslim nations should take a stance against all illegal activities off the coast of Somalia. After all, justice is only justice if it applies to everyone equally. Until that happens, no one can argue from a position of moral supremacy.

See Also:

60 Responses

  1. ALGEBRA

    Aslamu-alaikum:
    This was an informative post. Nice to know the other side.
    thank you
    salam

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  2. someone

    i saw a documentary a while ago on Somali pirates on tv5 journal. A french journalist went to somalia to learn more about the whole fiasco and get an exclusive interview with a real life pirate. In short, the whole issue you brought up was there in the documentary but it was more on a passing note. the Somali pirates ended up giving a small interview to the journalist. Luckily i knew how to speak Somalian and at that point i was on guard for any fishy translation. They were fairly nice pirates. They mostly tried to clean up their image and give a solid reason for the world not to hate them but that was completely lost on the journalist.

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  3. Marya

    SubhanAllah. That’s a really interesting perspective that puts things in a much clearer perspective. Will share this article. :)

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  4. AnonyMouse

    JazaakumAllahu khairan for this post. SubhanAllah, we get so caught up in condemning ‘terrorism’ and ‘highway robbery’ that few of us stop to remember and realize that there is a loooooooooooot more background to the situations than the majority of us are aware of.
    May Allah strengthen the Muslims of Somalia and grant them victory over their oppressors, ameen.

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  5. ilmsummitee

    Barakah Allahu feekum for this very informative article. This issue has always puzzled me when I read about its constant coverage and I was not keen to trust the media. But now, I feel as though I know what is happening and have a good idea on the background of this matter.

    May Allah bring justice to those oppressed and bring light to the truth, and strengthen the Muslimeen worldwide. Ameen.

    (By the way I think this article should be published in a newspaper as an opinion ed, it would make for a GREAT piece!)

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  6. Yus from the Nati

    Classic misinformation and misdirection.

    Similar to the plight of minorities in urban areas. Instead of attacking the system and causes for recidivism, they attack the superficial aspects for temporary fix.

    Yusuf

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  7. J

    Hmm, I read the article, but I still think there are many unanswered questions.

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  8. Ghareebah

    -salaams-

    WHOA! that caught me off-guard…. I did come to ask the question of ‘Why?’ a few times….but no-body has ever answered it for me….
    This piece is absolutely marvelous… I was disappointed when i reached the last paragraph….
    And as a Somali-Danish-British… We ought to have more going on in the real world than just reading what’s on the headline for CNN and BBC and what-not…..

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  9. Jan

    So since there is a low percentage (and statistics can be made to lie) of ransoms (not piracy attempts) this is not a problem?

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  10. everitte

    I would say that this is an extremely biased article. Somalia does have a reletively thriving meat trade as well several other thriving small industries. However piracy generates more revenue than all of these industries combined, and the vast majority of these pirate attacks occur in international and unprotected waters. NOT IN SOMALIAN WATERS! Only fifteen ships are assualted annually in Somali waters (and I’m not sure where you got this number), yet Somalia accounts for 66%-83% (depending on which reports you use) of world piracy (by number of ships assaulted). Somalian pirates are active all around the world. Somalia simply provides a port for which they can unload illegal cargo. The Playa de Bakio is a rare example. I have interviewed many Somalians, a few even involved in the piracy and smuggling trade in Somalia, and I sincerely doubt there was any political or environmental motivation for attacking the Playa de Bakio, and these pirates certainly would not be able to identify that they were using fishing methods which would be illegal in Spain. The ship which assaulted the Playa de Bakio was returning from Indonesia and happened to come across a small fishing boat which they knew they could take advantage of. The simple fact of the matter is that everyone is taking advantage of Somalia’s lack of infrastructure. Foreign ships dump watse there because they can. Pirates use it as a base because they can. And the reason why there is no infrastructure to prevent dumping and piracy is because much of the revenue from piracy is poured into keeping Somalia under the control of warring factions rather than a stable and free government, which would prevent both. It is absurd to say that these pirates are fighting for Somalian rights. This article is only spreading skewed information which will only hurt the Somalian people. Way to go.

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  11. White Male American

    “Piracy is a temporary solution to a lack of resources, resources that are unjustly usurped by others.” A solution? really? Do you wonder why whites in the US have trouble with these sympathetic views, whether piracy or those at the mosque like in MN who went back to fight?

    I identify myself as from the US first, not German or English, and proud of it. It seems that some like yourself want it both ways—you want to raise your kids and write your stories from the safety and comfort of a developed nation (Canada), but you deplore the actions of the very country that provides your safety and standard of life (Canada) and at the same time, lay no blame on your own people and government from which you fled (Somalia). Instead you justify their actions, even against a United States citizen who was peacefully in international waters. Seriously, wake up!! There are many progressive, left leaning people in the US that would agree with me, who supported Obama and hate to watch fox, but have no patience for those who craft arguments for lawlessness and terrorism (aka piracy). Your journalism efforts are applauded, just not your misguided words. If you want to make the illegal fishing argument, OK, but how many of these cargo ships appear to be fishing that are providing international trade–so you can buy those items from overseas you purchase every day.

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  12. Faiez

    JazaakumAllahu khairan for this post. SubhanAllah, we get so caught up in condemning ‘terrorism’ and ‘highway robbery’ that few of us stop to remember and realize that there is a loooooooooooot more background to the situations than the majority of us are aware of.
    May Allah strengthen the Muslims of Somalia and grant them victory over their oppressors, ameen.

    Well put.

    Ameen to the dua’

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  13. Nimo

    I totally disagree with you everitte…. Most of these ships are in Somali waters.. Why? because there is no government to stop them from doing whatever they like. Somalia is a lawless country and all these ships and vessels have no business being in that area. I think you should check your facts because I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. The pirates are doing the right thing because they are protecting our ocean.

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  14. ibnabeeomar

    white male american – your comment sounds eerily like the 1:00 – 1:25 mark of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hopNAI8Pefg [and in case you havent seen the movie, it didnt end well for that guy]

    btw i think the issue is more about laws being broken in their waters (illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping). if mexico came and started stealing fish from american fishers off the texas coast, and started dumping their toxic waste there – what do you deem would be an appropriate response to it? would you agree that for the piracy to end, you must fix the CAUSE of the piracy?

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  15. Abu Maryam

    The important point is that this vessel is an american flagship possibly carrying military hardware for ‘terrorism’ operations. Looks like Robin Hood: robbing the robbers

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  16. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    MashaAllah, a balanced article. Not the first one on MM that discussed the situation in Somalia with truth and fairness. The (other) MM Associate writer probably just missed the discussion of illegal fishing in dumping in that one. A good reason not to give away his/her identity. ;)

    America’s navy was branded pirates by the British during the revolutionary war, and we were actually a band of rebel colonies of Great Britain at the time. Yet our government treats these pirates — fishermen mostly — whose fish stocks have been so abused by marauding fleets from other countries, and whose children have suffered diseases from the dangerous wastes dumped at the command of white-collared criminals in the West — as though they had less right to ward off evil.

    We should all be ashamed of America’s involvement in Somalia, from the destruction of the Islamic Courts, to the encouragement of Ethiopia to invade for that purpose, to giving cover to all the illegal fishing, dumping, and arms trade. SubhanAllah, those three are just the known crimes of the non-Somalis.

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  17. rifa

    And the reason why there is no infrastructure to prevent dumping and piracy is because much of the revenue from piracy is poured into keeping Somalia under the control of warring factions rather than a stable and free government, which would prevent both.

    It would surely help if , every time there is a serious attempt to form a stable govt. -supported by the ppl no less , they arent bombed into the ground , or have a nieghbouring country invade them in the name of a war on terror, or be declared as terrorists because they might have someone in their midst who the US suspects of something.

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  18. Asmaa

    I have to say this is one of the first times I have seen a Muslim try to justify criminal actions by crying for the environment. That’s something we really don’t give a hang about most of the time. Which, we can argue, is evidenced by the fact that not a single Muslim country is crying for the Somali environment in order to defend maritime piracy. Which, by the way, has been defined as an act of terror since the days of yore. The problem is that it doesn’t matter, in the end, if a Japanese fishing vessel is fishing illegally in Somali waters when it comes to attacking ships. The American captain of the Maersk Alabama can’t be held responsible for the sins of fishing vessels or anyone else. The insinuation that because the ship *may* have been carrying weapons somehow makes it okay to attack the ship and take anyone hostage is a worrying leap of logic and moral equivalency that I seem to hear a lot among the brothers and sisters – that it is okay, at all and any times, to attack Western military installations or personnel or affiliated institutions.

    I’m as sorry as anyone else that people in Somalia are suffering poverty and lawlessness, and am dismayed by reports that illegal fishing in Somali waters is depriving Somalia of legitimate income. But that doesn’t mean that piracy is okay, or that this is an appropriate response to those crimes, or that it’s an eye for an eye, or that “they” deserve it, which seems to be the gist of this article. I would guess that the crew of the M. Alabama was prepared for any and all emergencies, but that doesn’t make it no big deal that the pirates did hijack the ship and that the captain offered himself up as a hostage in place of other crew members.

    Piracy is not going to solve the problems Somalia is facing, and in any case, I really have strong doubts that the pirates – who are probably as much common criminals as predecessors like Blackbeard and Henry Morgan – are out there doing what they’re doing for socio-political and environmental reasons.

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  19. Amad

    I would like to thank the author for bringing the “dirty” side (from the Western perspective) of this entire Somali piracy issue. I agree with the author that there is a larger problem at hand, and how important it is to cure the root-cause of the issue, rather than attack its symptoms.

    However, I cannot bring myself to accept that the general injustice in the region against the Somali people (I accept that) should be a sufficient excuse to make all ships that pass through Somali water a justifiable target of being looted or hijacked for ransoms. This may be an unpopular opinion here since human tendency is to cheer-lead the underdog, but really how can one injustice be dealt by another? If some ships are dumping or there is overfishing by others, why would that make it halal for ships unrelated to the dumping to be attacked and their crew kidnapped. Let me make it personal. If some of you were on a ship transporting say, general merchandise, and you had never participated in any of the dumping or over-fishing actions against the Somalis, would you be equally generous if you were kidnapped and a ransom sought on your head?

    I would argue that piracy is a crime of opportunity – one that requires convenience and an abundance of targets.

    Again, I agree with a lot of what the author said, but I think just because there is convenience and abundance of targets, it doesn’t make it justifiable.

    As Johann Hari writes, in the linked article on the post,

    No, this doesn’t make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies.

    BUT,

    Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn’t act on those crimes – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, we begin to shriek about “evil.” If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause – our crimes – before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia’s criminals.

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  20. ibn_Rushd

    An entirely appropriate quote from Lew Rockwell:

    In the “City of God,” St. Augustine tells the story of a pirate captured by Alexander the Great. The Emperor angrily demanded of him, “How dare you molest the seas?” To which the pirate replied, “How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a small boat, I am called a pirate and a thief. You, with a great navy, molest the world and are called an emperor.” St. Augustine thought the pirate’s answer was “elegant and excellent.”

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  21. Hablayo Cabdi

    In my opinion piracy is the smallest problem facing the country and not worthy of the attention it has been receiving. But that is not to say that piracy is the best thing since sliced bread either. Clearly piracy is negative no one is saying that it isn’t, it’s just that there are far worse things going on. And none of those issues have been given precedence. I only discussed marine/port issues, but perhaps you’ll be interested in researching the ongoing civil war and unrest, warlord control, drought, poverty, the childhood mortality rate, etc, etc, etc.

    I know I seem very skeptical but perhaps I can put my skepticism in context for you. In 2004 a coalition of nations including the United States decided to install an unelected Somali government led by Abdullahi Yusuf, which struck me as hypocritical since it completely went against the principles of democracy that America stands for, and it failed miserably. The influence of the transitional government was extremely limited and soon after the union of Islamic courts took over parts of the south in 2006. In order to stamp out the only government that brought peace to the capital of Mogadishu, the U.S. and others ordered military action against the Islamic government which they quickly linked to terrorism—needless to say this also failed. The Ethiopian army was the last to pull out amidst rising casualties and opposition at home. Recently, after the Western backed leader Abdullahi Yusuf quit, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was named President with the help of the same backers including the U.S. For those of you who don’t know– this is the same man who was the leader of the Union of Islamic Courts and who was on the U.S. most wanted list for terrorism. The point of all this is to say that today you call them pirates tomorrow your government will christen them the navy.

    Obviously, American foreign policy in this region is unpredictable and has a spotty record at best. There’s no way of knowing exactly what will happen in this case. The point of this article was to talk about things that are not necessarily heard in the mainstream—if you learned about the 92 million dollar non-Somali pirate industry then the objective was met. Check the hyperlinks for what other media outlets are reporting on the scope of the issue if you’re curious.

    The latest news is that the American flagged ship has made it to port in neighbouring Kenya minus its captain. Negotiations are underway with the FBI but whether payment will be made remains to be seen. The shipping company spokesman has said that the ship was commissioned by the UN to carry food aid to neighbouring Kenya, Uganda and Somalia itself(http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/africa/04/09/ship.hijacked/index.html) which conflicts with what the Brits reported earlier. Nonetheless the precious cargo has made its way to port with the help of a security detail and the FBI. Now we can only hope that the captain is released as well. This all begs the question does the story begin and end with the Maersk-Alabama? Only time will tell.

    I would like to add that when you’re a refugee there is no position of relative safety from which to view the events that unfold daily in your homeland. While you have an opportunity to live and thrive your fear for those you left behind always remains. When will I be reunited with my family? How much money can I send this month? Will a random car bomb kill them?…the worry never ceases. The point was to give a little insight on what else is happening beyond piracy, some of you seriously believe that piracy is a major issue and I respectfully disagree but no doubt others will agree with you and pour millions into stopping pirates, meanwhile everything that caused it remains the same, and to them I say good luck with your band-aid solutions.

    apologies for the lengthy post! its the last. All the best,

    Hablayo Cabdi

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  22. Anonymous

    A major point that is pointed out is that the ship is part of the MSP. I knew of airlines which participate in a similar program here in the US, providing the government with cargo operations when needed. But it doesn’t justify hijacking or destroying a plane because that particular plane or company is part of the program. Every country in the modern world sells weapons or buys them, so you can’t justify hijacking a ship because it may have weapons. If a ship is dumping or fishing off the coast of Somali, then the Somalis should do what ever other country does, confiscate the ship and bring those involved to trial. What kind of “cause” is it when a Somali group takes a weapons ship and then ransoms it back to it’s owners. You are essentially allowing the injustice to continue to happen, plus your allowing the weapons to go back to their destination. So to portray this as a way to stop military cargo from hitting it’s destination is invalid. They’re just profiteering.

    As for the waste dumped off the coast, maybe it’s in the Somalis best interest to TRY to STOP IT from happening. Same with the fishing. The North African countries had the same problem, and what did they do….they started to patrol their waters and enacted strict penalites. Maybe if Somalia stopped fighting within it’s country and tried to come together, they’d be able to stop any injustices. But this is no different then the whole blood diamond situation hurting other parts of Africa. What’s next, your going to tell me that those emails being sent to me from Nigeria asking me to send money in order to release millions from a bank are justified and halal. The Somali group of “Pirates” have an oportunity and an excellent location to do what they are doing, thats all. It’s no different then the Egyptian Suez Canal Control Staff shaking down vessels and asking for payoffs when the ships try to use the Suez Canal (And yes this is cited from the UN, as many companies make a nice living brokering Suez Canal passage in order to prevent bribes being paid to Suez Canal Control Staff).

    How unjust would it be if a group of Palestinians intercepted a cache of weapons from Israel and then ransomed it back to Israel? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

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  23. C L O S E R » Blog Archive » Closing the week 15

    […] Somali Pirates: The Side You Won’t Hear in the News | MuslimMatters.org Piracy is not the problem; it is merely a symptom of the true disease of international exploitation. Piracy is a temporary solution to a lack of resources, resources that are unjustly usurped by others. Clearly Somali pirates take their cue from their international counterparts! Somali pirates recognize the hypocrisy that is fueling international efforts and are unlikely to cease their activities so long as ample opportunities exist. Neutral countries especially Muslim nations should take a stance against all illegal activities off the coast of Somalia. After all, justice is only justice if it applies to everyone equally. Until that happens, no one can argue from a position of moral supremacy. […]

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  24. ef em

    Salam. thank you for your information and your perspective. i appreciate your effort and honesty.
    Alhamdullilah.

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  25. Mustafaa

    May Allaah have mercy upon those murdered yesterday by the Navy Seals and give the Muslims victory

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  26. yasmin

    Salam,
    just have to say this is a good report
    its so sad how Somalia is the way it is, on somali tv I get to how somali once looked and look at it now!
    The western media forget how these ship …why are they there btw??…throw away their nuclear waste and have the urge to show somali in a negative light!
    Of course what they are doing isn’t right, but neither is what the western, saudi et al ships doing too!

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  27. Sakina

    the spring of 2004, fishermen spotted two large containers floating in the water near Bosaso. Whether they were deliberately tossed

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  28. Sakina

    ^ Sorry for the part above, I wrote a response but dissapeared, anyway I’ll summarize what I wrote before.
    Firstly Hablayo JazakhAllah Khair for the post it put alot of perspective on this issue in Somalia and made me want to research more about the situation going on in my country as a Somali who has been born and raised in Canada. I hope you can write more about Somalia and issues facing the Somali people in and outside the country. I have always read the MM blog but have never written a comment but here goes nothing;

    Anonymous-Your suggestions are good mashAllah but the only thing in their way is the lack of a government which is functioning as was shown in Hablayo’s post above. Piracy is a small issue, the overall issue is the fact that the average Somali people have been suffering for years. Since I was born in 1991 there hasn’t been a functioning Somali government and we can only pray to Allah S.W.T that it changes soon. Its sad that is takes the hijacking of one American to make us (including myself) want to know more about the issues going on in Somalia.

    ” The Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, which also reached the African coast, unearthed dozens of containers of toxic waste and deposited the waste along the Somali coast. According to a United Nations report, many coastal residents suffered “acute respiratory infections, heavy coughing, bleeding gums and mouth, abdominal haemorrhages, unusual skin rashes, and even death”

    SubhanAllah if this happened in a European or North American country there would be outrage!

    The solution to piracy is a functioning government in Somalia, that serves the interests of the Somali people. There are too many foreign countries with their hands in Somali poltics. Its the story of Africa, they pay tribes and warlords to fight eachother and put criminals in power. A government is the only way out.

    ” Piracy has been a problem in Somali waters for at least ten years. However, the number of attempted and successful attacks has risen over the last three years. … The only period during which piracy virtually vanished around Somalia was during the six months of rule by the Islamic Courts Union in the second half of 2006. This indicates that a functioning government in Somalia is capable of controlling piracy. After the removal of the courts piracy re-emerged. (p3)

    http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/12203…racysomalia.pdf

    The criminals and warlords who are profitting off Somalia’s instability do not want a functioning government. They are profitting off of the despair of others. Without a government they can continue to make millions of dollars without being put in check. As said by other posters the issue of piracy is just an effect of not having a government.

    I

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  29. Taha A.

    At what point do we as muslims stop compromising our values when faced with harships. I understand that these individuals are facing many problems back in Somalia but does this justify raiding foreign ships , even those that havent done any wrong to the Somalians. To those that support these individuals, my question is for you.. Is it ok for muslims to steal from their own muslim brothers (the Saudi oil tanker held for 25 million dollars and many other boats from places like yemen, oman etc)?

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  30. Abdullah Brown

    Taha A. gets it exactly right. I am deeply disappointed to see these apologetics and tortured rationalizations still around and am saddened to see people I greatly respect signing on to them. This is not the moral equivalent of rocket science. This is ethical basic arithmetic. The disclaimers accompanying this article are insufficient. The article should never have been run.

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    • Amad

      Respected Dr. Abdullah Brown, thank you for your comment. While I too appreciate Taha’s concerns, which were similar to the sentiments I expressed in an earlier comment, I don’t know if censorship of opinions should be an option, esp. when there is a large chunk of people, who are not extremist by any stretch, who have concerns about this matter? The author provided some insights that I would not have gotten otherwise, even if I don’t agree with any implied or non-implied justification. I would also add that the disclaimer was not a formality, considering my own comment as a MM staffer. And I think that the comments section is probably a more appropriate location (relative to a disclaimer) for adding any responses, as that would help prevent prejudicing a story before it had a chance to be told.

      A blog provides an opportunity for expression. This itself is a healthy outlet, allowing the author to defend viewpoints (no matter how controversial) against readers from all over the globe. In similar vein, would you disagree with HuffingtonPost providing an opportunity to Johann Hari to express his viewpoint, which is perhaps even more defensive of the pirates than this article? I think you’ll agree with me that Johann provides a useful pause for thought. Thus, I also hope that you will argue against the author’s points, not her right to make those points.

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  31. Taha A.

    Lets also not forget that most of the attacks happen way outside of Somali waters. The Alabama Mearsk was 350 miles away from Somalia, and the Saudi oil tanker was 550 miles from Somalia. Keep in mind that most of the money from these ransoms go to drug and gang lords, not the people of Somalia.

    May allah protect the people of Somalia and make them prosper inshallah. Ameen

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  32. Abdullah Brown

    Yes, I agree with a good portion of what you say, Amad. And Taha A. makes my points in a cooler, more concise manner. At the same time, I am hopeful there is value in some expressing frustration with the sadly enduring tendency toward self-righteous apologetics and erroneous justifications for obvious ethical misconduct on the part of some of our brethren. Muslims suffer as a result. Big time. This has got to stop. Tolerance is not always a virtue when the moral calculus is clear to the average fifth grader. We need to move on to facing up to and rectifying our failures. And I appreciate the fact that MM emphasizes so strongly this very point.

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  33. Amad

    Tolerance is not always a virtue when the moral calculus is clear to the average fifth grader.

    Well-put.

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  34. Touhid

    Assalamu alaykum

    Democracy Now!, a daily independent radio and TV news program:

    President Obama vowed an international crackdown to halt piracy off the coast of Somalia Monday soon after the freeing of US cargo ship captain Richard Phillips, who had been held hostage by Somali pirates since last Wednesday. While the pirates story has dominated the corporate media, there has been little to no discussion of the root causes driving piracy. We speak with consultant and analyst Mohamed Abshir Waldo. In January, he wrote a paper titled “The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other?” [includes rush transcript]

    To read, listen to, or watch the whole story:
    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/4/14/analysis_somalia_piracy_began_in_response

    Salam

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  35. bintwadee3

    Whether or not we have the full story, though I suppose we may never get it – I can think of only one thing that has yet to be said. The point about the major loss of revenue because of the illegal fishing automatically brings to mind the words of the Rasool (sal Allaahu 3Alayhi wa sallam) told the Muslims with regards to the caravan of Abu Sufyan: that that was their wealth and they could take it.

    WAllaahu A3lam if that action would be halaal for them to take in this situation.

    [QUOTE] Keep in mind that most of the money from these ransoms go to drug and gang lords, not the people of Somalia. [QUOTE/]

    Is this factual or just an (informed/misinformed) opinion?

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  36. Andy

    Thanks for this great article. All context and dissenting voices are missing, as usual, from the main news reports on this.

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  37. mike

    Maybe if Somalia could form a government and stop fighting amongst themselves they would be able to police their waters and bring attention to illegal fishing and dumping of waste. Nobody listens to bandits.

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  38. Ali

    This article tries to minimize the brutal crimes committed by these criminals. It DOES NOT MATTER that they are muslim. What matters is that they are thieves, plain and simple.
    No more excuses just because they are muslim. there are a lot more destitute people in other parts of muslim world like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, pakistan, Palestine, India. They are not going around robbing ships and being pirates.

    I want to hear NO MORE EXCUSES for crimes, no matter if they are Muslim or not. NO MORE EXCUSES.

    And as far as a ship based out of Mississippi in Somali waters, well, the author forgets that big freighter ships are designed to go in high seas, NOT LAND> So what is so confusing about a Ship going through one of the busiest throughfares of open seas in the world???
    The author seemed to have an absolute bias against the US actions against the criminal pirates and he set out right from the begining to minimize the severity of the piracy problem right from the beginning.

    We as muslims need to stop making excuses every time some Muslim commits a crime. Criticize the terrorists alqaida openly, criticize the Taliban criminals openly, criticize the somali pirates OPENLY and withour reservations!!!

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  39. Fadumo

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    I am a British Somali and I would like to say that whilst I share the authors concerns about toxic dumping in our coast and illegal shipping and that this major problem has come to public attention because of the piracy, I’m rather confused as to why Allah fearing Muslims would go out of their way defend these men and justify their actions.

    These thugs are greedy thieves who are only in it for themselves, they boast to the media about their cars, their villas and their women. They’re the same people who used to kidnap Diaspora Somalis when they visit Somalia and hold them for ransom, the same people who made deals with the Italian Mafia and made it possible for them to dump toxic waste in our shores. Perhaps not the same individuals but their actions share a common motivation- greed! In short, haraam. No amount of sugar coating will make it morally justifiable. I’ll say it again, their actions are criminal and haraam. And speak the truth, even if it’s against yourself / brother. Hadith.

    Secondly, dispite all the wrongs in Somalia, we have a fairly healthy economy, peace and local governance in most parts. Allah did not forsake our people, Alhamdulilah!

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  40. Abdullah Brown

    There’s a fairly balanced article on the subject at time.com

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  41. roland

    I live in Costa Rica and I might not see eye to eye with musslin believes but I tell you that we know what is happening with this imperialist and that africa should take pride and be like Chavez Moralez and take their resources and defend them and stop the bullshit brainwashing of so called Develop nations. Viva los piratas

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  42. OttawaBrother

    assalamu ‘alaykum,

    Alhamdulillah – the piece sheds some light on a root cause that has been brushed under the media carpet.

    I’m writing to request permission from Hablayo Cabdi / MM if this article may be reprinted in a local-Ottawa Muslim monthly newspaper.

    Please let me know.

    was’salam

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  43. North Amer Brother

    I think we over analyzed this issue way too much.

    Ships got robbed – people who were robbed tried to get ships back – a few of the robbers got killed.

    The reason ships were getting robbed was probably the same reason why many people in a society turn to armed robbery. Poverty, lack of jobs, lots of western action/gangster movies/music being imported into the country, maybe a little child abuse in early childhood, and oh yes, lots of western GUNS being imported into the country.

    Has piracy every occured in human history before? All the time! If we consider piracy to include non-sea armed robbery, I would consider the invasion of Iraq the biggest Piracy hit of this decade. All that free oil and those government contracts made our Cheney and Bush pirate families rich! I would also consider the loss of civilian life in Iraq to be conisdered as genocide. Especially since the country never once said or implied an invasion of the United States.

    Actually, wait a minute – not only Iraq – how about several countries, states and people around the world being oppressed by more powerful nations and armies that want to steal its resources. Matter of fact, in the past 100 years, this world has witnessed the worst forms of genocide – from Cambodia to Soveit Union to Germany to Rawanda to Darfur etc etc etc. Corrupt governments have robbed other countries of countless resources (the rape of Latin American democracy and resources by the US empire for one) over and over again over the years. How about this whole economic “situation” we are in. In fact it is not a “situation” it is straight ROBBERY of the weatlh of people by the collapse of the value of assets held by many, caused by the schemes and plots of a few who learned how to inflate the value of THEIRS by BILLIONS and somehow, not ONLY get away with it, but convince the governments of the world to give them MORE money to do it all over again in another ten years.

    So why so much focus on the Somali pirates who are making only a small million here and million there for a ship?? I am sorry to say, when you really analyze the situation, write countless articles about it, read twenty books about it, read thirty different news agency reports about it – you come to the same conclusion that my uncle, who was sitting in his living room, sipping on a cup of tea came to: “The media is just fixating its attention on an irrelevant news story with the purpose of diverting the world population’s attention from the real problems of the world to this stupid, small, minute yet cool and rare problem of somalian piracy. If one were to truly analyze the causes of many of the problems in the world, one would come to the realiziation that lack of free education, highly commercialized media outlets, corrupt government structures, capitalistic propoganda and the lack of interest given to the Sacred Law of God and the subsequent moral codes and principles and ways of living extrapolated from that Law is truly the reason behind all of this “piracy” going on.” Now I don’t know about you, but I think my uncle is right.

    This is not a Muslim issue – it really doesn’t matter what those Somalian’s called themselves or what they believed in. They did what they did – they should be prosecuted by international law. And if they got shot whole robbing the ships, oh well, they knew that might happen. They might have been suffering, but to rob other people by threatening their lives with weapons is war, if not close to it. Whether you are robbing your local liquor store or robbing a huge ship – it is considered armed robbery and kidnapping. You should be punished – it doesn’t make any sense for anyone not to punish them. We don’t live on planet Mars.

    It is just a sad world out there these days – but there is still hope. There is always hope – but if we want to stop this oppression in the world (and piracy which will increase more everyday), we need to start in our own homes and local neighborhoods . Are our neighborhoods producing drug pushing thugs and armed robbers or are they producing arrogant, emotionless corporate executives who continue to ruin the world? If that is the case – do something about it.

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  44. Mazhar

    Very interesting article. I had the same view which the author has. Somalians are a great nation. They have the courage to throw the invading western armies out of their country. They are being dubbed as “Pirates” ans “Terrorists” after suffering humilation in their hands. We should have the ability to see through the fog of hate and injustice created by western media.

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  45. Ramine

    Whomever defends these pirates must be severely retarded*. Deflection under the guise of “environmentalism” and “conservation.” A human life used as leverage is always wrong, especially when it is used for monetary gain.

    What if one of these companies couldn’t or didn’t want to pay? The Somali pirates would kill the hostages, would they not? Whose fault would that be? Would you blame it on the people who didn’t enter into negotiations with criminals or would it be the pirates’ fault for killing them?

    These pirates are doing this for the same reason any criminal robs a bank; they want money. How much of their ill-gotten gain has been used in humanist efforts? Why don’t they only attack trawlers fishing illegally in their waters instead of cargo ships destined for other places? You have no argument whatsoever. If you think you do please refer to the aforementioned denoted by *.

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