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Somali Pirates: The Side You Won’t Hear in the News




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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:



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    April 10, 2009 at 6:54 PM

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    MM Associates

    April 10, 2009 at 7:36 PM

    Sad to say this is the first time I’m hearing about the waste dumping and illegal fishing…

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    April 10, 2009 at 8:02 PM

    This was an informative post. Nice to know the other side.
    thank you

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    Syed Arif Ahmad

    April 10, 2009 at 8:10 PM

    very informative report.

  5. Pingback: The media doesn’t know anything about the Somali “Pirates” | MR's Blog

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    April 10, 2009 at 9:48 PM

    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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    April 10, 2009 at 10:04 PM

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

  8. AnonyMouse


    April 10, 2009 at 10:31 PM

    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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    April 10, 2009 at 11:23 PM

    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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    Yus from the Nati

    April 10, 2009 at 11:30 PM

    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.


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    April 11, 2009 at 2:58 AM

    I need the cliffs notes version please!

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    April 11, 2009 at 3:17 AM

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

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    April 11, 2009 at 6:24 AM


    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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    April 11, 2009 at 9:08 AM

    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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    April 11, 2009 at 10:15 AM

    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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    White Male American

    April 11, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    “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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    April 11, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    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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    April 11, 2009 at 1:50 PM

    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.

  19. ibnabeeomar


    April 11, 2009 at 2:15 PM

    white male american – your comment sounds eerily like the 1:00 – 1:25 mark of this: [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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    Abu Maryam

    April 11, 2009 at 2:21 PM

    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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    abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    April 11, 2009 at 4:14 PM

    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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    April 11, 2009 at 7:22 PM

    Just in case you were curious how the pirates look like (no they don’t have a patch over one eye!), this is a good visual link.

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    April 11, 2009 at 7:49 PM

    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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    April 11, 2009 at 8:49 PM

    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.

  25. Amad


    April 11, 2009 at 8:56 PM

    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.


    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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    April 11, 2009 at 11:20 PM

    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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    April 12, 2009 at 1:20 AM

    Very good article.
    Ibn-Rushd above quote sums it all.

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    April 12, 2009 at 2:35 AM


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    Hablayo Cabdi

    April 12, 2009 at 3:03 AM

    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( 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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    April 12, 2009 at 6:29 AM

    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.

  31. Pingback: C L O S E R » Blog Archive » Closing the week 15

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    ef em

    April 12, 2009 at 11:27 PM

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

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    April 13, 2009 at 7:30 AM

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

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    April 13, 2009 at 10:03 AM

    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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    April 13, 2009 at 11:20 AM

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

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    April 13, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    ^ 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)…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.


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    Taha A.

    April 13, 2009 at 7:15 PM

    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)?

  38. Avatar

    Abdullah Brown

    April 14, 2009 at 12:04 AM

    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.

    • Amad


      April 14, 2009 at 10:11 AM

      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.

  39. Avatar

    Taha A.

    April 14, 2009 at 2:43 PM

    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

  40. Avatar

    Abdullah Brown

    April 14, 2009 at 9:11 PM

    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.

  41. Amad


    April 14, 2009 at 9:45 PM

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


  42. Avatar


    April 15, 2009 at 1:14 AM

    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:


  43. Avatar


    April 15, 2009 at 3:25 AM

    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?

  44. Avatar


    April 15, 2009 at 6:59 PM

    Wrong is wrong and will be judged rightly!

  45. Avatar


    April 15, 2009 at 9:02 PM

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

  46. Avatar


    April 15, 2009 at 10:44 PM

    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.

  47. Avatar


    April 16, 2009 at 2:46 AM

    This is also a really good read:

    I’ve blogged about it as well, it’s important to get the other side out there!

  48. Pingback: YARR! The Truth About Pirates «

  49. Avatar


    April 16, 2009 at 12:42 PM

    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!!!

  50. Avatar


    April 16, 2009 at 3:24 PM

    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!

  51. Avatar

    Abdullah Brown

    April 18, 2009 at 9:30 PM

    There’s a fairly balanced article on the subject at

  52. Avatar


    April 19, 2009 at 12:35 PM

    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

  53. Avatar


    April 23, 2009 at 10:59 AM

    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.


  54. Avatar

    North Amer Brother

    April 23, 2009 at 4:58 PM

    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.

  55. Avatar


    September 29, 2009 at 6:56 AM

    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.

  56. Avatar


    November 10, 2009 at 6:25 PM

    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 *.

  57. Avatar


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#Current Affairs

Muslims Leaders Who Are Also Foreign Agents

When American Muslim leaders are also foreign agents, you need to consider FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ahmed Shaikh explores how this law may apply to American Muslim leaders who fall into “Team UAE” and “Team Turkey”




Foreign Agents in the Muslim Community
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Foreign Agents in the US have a meaningful effect on Americans in the United States.  Should Muslims in the United States adopt the foreign policy narrative of the United Arab Emirates?  Should we be against calling the mass killing of Armenians during World War I “genocide?” Can American Muslim leaders and nonprofits be the voice of governments, give them public relations advice and do their bidding?

These questions are largely irrelevant as the American Muslim community already has some activists and Islamic Scholars who are foreign agents.

I am not claiming being a foreign agent is inherently wrong, unethical or somehow prohibited in Islam. In many instances, being a foreign agent is fine, or at least you can find examples where the activity is harmless and maybe even beneficial. Non-Muslims serve as foreign agents, peddling influence and giving advice. Why can’t ordinary Muslims, even Muslim leaders, activists, and Islamic scholars do the same? What we need though is transparency about these relationships, similar to how we keep tabs on people who carry hazardous waste. It’s often a useful and beneficial service, but also, well, hazardous. 

As we have seen from recent cases Imaad Zuberi, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort , it is reasonable to expect more prosecutions of unregistered foreign agents in the coming months and years.

American Team Turkey vs. American Team UAE

My purpose here is not to re-litigate events during the first world war or the UAE’s murderous worldwide batil-slinging foreign policy. It is also not to offer a further critique of American Muslim leaders and scholars who blow smoke for one foreign interest or another. For that, you can read my recent article. Instead, it is to help American Muslims involved with foreign entities to be aware of the law so they can prepare accordingly. 

The “Team Turkey” vs. “Team UAE” saga playing out among the Muslim community’s leadership, including nonprofits and religious leaders, is dangerous, and there is potential legal jeopardy to members of both “teams.” The law in an individual case is often complex, and I am not claiming anyone referenced in this article is a criminal. However, anyone who thinks aspects of this article applies to them should seek legal counsel post haste.

Pariah status may rub off

In the eyes of the US government, the UAE may be up one day, and Turkey may be down. Pakistan is pretty much always “down” no matter who is in power in the United States, so Muslims working with that government and various political parties and institutions in that country should be especially sensitive about being a law enforcement target, even if they believe they are working for a worthy cause. Keep in mind how the Muslim community has been treated historically by the Justice Department. For this or any future US Administration, American Muslim leadership may be low hanging fruit for prosecutors. 

Right now, the UAE, in particular, aggressively buys loyalty, buys people in positions to peddle influence on its behalf. It uses straw donors and funnels its money around the United States through various entities to get what it wants. These tactics work for them now, but it may not work forever. Any Muslim majority country can get “pariah” status and the social and political environment in the United States may turn against that country and its agents.

If the political winds in the United States change against the UAE, their leadership will probably not be affected. Things may be different for their agents in the United States, however. The same may well be true for agents of Turkey. We can learn from their best known non-Muslim foreign agent, former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn

The United States has a long history, going back to its founding, of being suspicious of foreign influence in government and public opinion. Various clauses of the constitution and several laws exist to address this historic concern, though many are quite weak.  The one that Muslim leaders with ties to foreign governments should be most concerned with is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) 

Anyone who closely followed the Mueller investigation into the 2016 Presidential election is likely somewhat familiar with FARA.  However, of more interest should be the prosecution and guilty plea last year of Dr. Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry, who was prosecuted for activities that are remarkably common for Muslim leaders, especially immigrants.

It’s not a crime to be an agent of a foreign government. The crime, as those paying close attention to current events, will understand,  is in not registering with the Justice Department. In short, it’s a federal crime for agents of foreign entities or people engaged in political or other activities in the statute, with some exceptions, to not register under this law. US Law defines the term ” foreign agent”- it is not necessarily pejorative. It does not mean being a spy.

Indeed, foreign influence-peddling is an entire industry. Often, people who engage in “influence peddling” are not especially sophisticated and may not be paid at all. They may simply be immigrant activists who love their homeland.

In the case of Chaudhry, he pleaded guilty to not registering an unincorporated group he created in his home, the “Pakistan American League,” and his work as a “foreign agent.” His crime? He spoke to officials in the Pakistani government, and worked in Pakistan’s interests in D.C. area government and “think tank” circles by organizing “roundtable discussions.” He was not paid for his work as an “agent” by Pakistan.  All of this is legal, except that he failed to register.

A Law About Transparency

Foreign Agents need to report on their activities or risk fine and imprisonment. Every six months, the US Attorney General issues a report on foreign agents who register under this law to Congress. You can find the most recent report here. These reports offer a helpful description of registered foreign agents operating in the United States, but anyone can take a deeper dive into the reporting if they want to. FARA is about transparency.

FARA does not prohibit speech or activities by anyone. The purpose is to inform the public and government about the source of information used to attempt to influence them. FARA is an old law that US Muslims need in our communities right about now. 

Enforcement of this law had been mostly dormant for years, and the Mueller investigation is said to have given it new life. Registrations under the law are up.

FARA is broader than you might think

FARA is not just for agents of foreign governments. Being an agent of a foundation, royal family, oligarch, or any other entity or person can trigger the same requirements and cause criminal liability for those who fail to register. Many registrations under FARA involve agents of entities and people that are not governments. 

As we have seen from Chaudhry’s case, Muslim leaders, activists, and scholars don’t need to be paid to be “foreign agents” under the law. Congress understood foreign agents could work for nonmonetary benefits. A foreign agent does not need to agree with everything the foreign principal does and says. A Muslim leader who gives certain kinds of advice to a foreign entity may need to register to avoid criminal liability. It does not matter if the foreign principal ignores the advice. FARA is not just a law about foreign lobbying, indeed lobbyists have a separate registration system and law.  Virtually any work to influence public opinion or give advice will fall under the law. There are many opportunities for Muslim leaders to get themselves into serious trouble

Religion or university affiliation may not save foreign agents 

There are exceptions to FARA reporting requirements. For example, diplomats, many journalists, and bona fide trade and commercial enterprises do not need to report.  Say Muhammad is the agent of a Turkish exporter of Turkish delight, selling delicious packaged desserts to grocery stores around the Midwest. Muhammad does not need to register under FARA. 

Similarly, those involved in bona fide religious, academic, or fine arts pursuits are exempt. So if Saad, a US Citizen, is hired by the Saudi government to teach Quran recitation to children of employees of the local Saudi consulate, Saad would not need to register. 

 If, however, the Turkish Delight company asked Muhammad to write op-eds and hold meetings to prevent tariffs on Turkey, well, that’s different. If Saad starts to give public relations advice to his Saudi employers, he should call a lawyer. It’s worth noting that FARA is not the only registration and disclosure statute. A lawyer with expertise in this area can help them sort it out. 

Learn from others

Carrying water for a foreign entity’s political agenda, a regular occurrence by some American Muslim leaders is not bona fide religious or academic activity. Such conduct falls squarely into a danger zone under the law. The US Justice Department has confirmed the religious and academic exception’s narrow scope. The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, for example, wanted an opinion they are exempt from registration.   They were working on developing a museum, which is an academic institution. However, the Justice Department advised the foundation must register under FARA. The reasons, among other non-nefarious sounding things, were exhibits on bilateral relations between South Korea and the United States.

In 2017, TV station RT America and news outlet, Sputnik, “both Russian-funded but with production companies in the US, registered as ‘foreign agents’ under pressure from the Justice Department.”

Muslim leaders with ties to foreign entities should also look to the example of the American section of the World Zionist Organization. The WZO has appropriately registered itself as a foreign agent. Its work seems reasonably standard for a Zionist organization, though. WZO “participated in workshops, seminars, and conferences and distributed materials to increase support for the foreign principal’s educational, cultural, and religious goals.” The foreign principal was the World Zionist Organization in Israel, not the government of Israel itself. Still, it needed to register. 

Even if someone falls into an exception to FARA, another related statute may well cause liability. So anyone who has to look around for exceptions should check with an attorney. 

Sunshine in the Muslim community

Much of the work against CVE involved learning what Muslim leaders working with governments were up to. Because of the federal “Freedom of Information Act” and state Public Records Acts, we have a better idea of what Muslim leaders have been collaborating with the war on terrorism against our community. The availability of public records has also kept some Muslims away from unsavory funding opportunities. There is always a risk they will be found out. Who needs that drama? As the late US Supreme Court Justice Luis Brandies famously said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” 

Some in the Countering Violent Extremism space have looked to foreign governments and organizations, particularly in the UAE. Working against the US Muslim community, which includes naming groups such as CAIR and MAS “terrorist organizations,” and investing in anti-Muslim surveillance is fundamental to UAE foreign policy. Foreign entities are not subject to the Federal Freedom of Information Act or state Public Records Acts.

Covertness can be beneficial when prosecuting the war on terrorism in our communities on behalf of a foreign master. However, security-state contractors working with foreign entities are engaged in an inherently political enterprise and should register. Unfortunately, nobody from the Muslim community in the CVE sector has. They should either start or quit foreign-sponsored CVE altogether. 

FARA is your friend

We have a strong need for transparency among Muslim leaders and organizations. Foreign interests have been looking to influence the US Muslim civil society for several years. It may well be that agents of foreign nation-states or entities in them have valuable things to say. The purpose of FARA is not to deny your ability to hear them and learn from them. However, knowing someone is a foreign agent will help us place the information provided by a Muslim leader, activist or scholar in a better context. 

Muslim leaders and organizations should strongly encourage each other to look at FARA when any foreign entity is involved. If for no other reason, to avoid potential criminal liability.

If you are a Muslim leader, activist or scholar working with a foreign principal, retain legal counsel. You need to know if registration is required. If it is necessary, and it often will be, provide a fulsome disclosure and keep updating it. You can be sure there will be at least a few Muslims reading it. 

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#Current Affairs

Allah’s Will and Our Responsibility: Responding To Forest Fires

Abu Ryan Dardir



Forest Fires
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

What do Indonesia, Greenland, Brazil, Siberia, Turkey, Bolivia, The Canary Islands, and The Congo, have in common? They are losing their forests due to wildfires, commonly known as forest fires.

The image above is not an image of city lights at night.

It represents wildfires that happened around the world in July of 2019. The purpose of this article is to clarify misconceptions, provide the facts, and suggest possible solutions. Despite media coverage, forest fires are not typically bad. If you remember back to your Biology class in High School, a forest fire can be part of secondary succession. It plays a role in our environment. Forest fires stimulate new growth, and it opens up the canopy allowing sunlight to hit the forest floor. Forest fires also release nutrients trapped in the forest floor. Currently, we have reached a state of panic and misinformation. High profile social media accounts have been sharing pictures and information that is not accurate in time and location. These only fuels fear and doubt, and like anything on the media, you need to fact check.

While it is true that the Amazon forest is experiencing a more significant number of fires this year than last, the pattern isn’t necessarily abnormal on a global scale. In 2015 we experienced 4.7 million forest fires globally, and that number has been steadily decreasing every year since. To date, we have experienced 2.9 million forest fires in 2019. From 2003 to 2008 we averaged 5 million forest fires annually.

Forest Fires data

Right now, we are at the average number of forest fires we would be experiencing in August, based on 20 years of data. While the media is focusing on Brazil, Brazil ranks number 5 in the number of forest fires in the last year. The Congo has ranked number 1 for several years now in regards to forest fires. The Congo loses about 1% of their forest annually to wildfires, and Brazil about 0.15% of their forest. Either way, these are huge losses. Our brothers and sisters in Indonesia are suffering as well, including some critically endangered species.

What is causing this? Nothing happens without the will of Allah ﷻ. In Surat Yusuf, verse 21 Allah ﷻ says “The Will of God prevails, but most of the people know not”

In a narration, we hear the Prophet subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminding us of the above verse.

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: “كُنْت خَلْفَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم يَوْمًا، فَقَالَ: يَا غُلَامِ! إنِّي أُعَلِّمُك كَلِمَاتٍ: احْفَظْ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْك، احْفَظْ اللَّهَ تَجِدْهُ تُجَاهَك، إذَا سَأَلْت فَاسْأَلْ اللَّهَ، وَإِذَا اسْتَعَنْت فَاسْتَعِنْ بِاَللَّهِ، وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْأُمَّةَ لَوْ اجْتَمَعَتْ عَلَى أَنْ يَنْفَعُوك بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَنْفَعُوك إلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ لَك، وَإِنْ اجْتَمَعُوا عَلَى أَنْ يَضُرُّوك بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَضُرُّوك إلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْك؛ رُفِعَتْ الْأَقْلَامُ، وَجَفَّتْ الصُّحُفُ”. رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ

Abu al-‘Abbas ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reports:

“One day I was riding (a horse/camel) behind the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when he said, ‘Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of God, and He will take care of you. Be mindful of Him, and you shall find Him at your side. If you ask, ask of God. If you need help, seek it from God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together in order to help you, they would not be able to help you except if God had written so. And if the whole world were to gather together in order to harm you, they would not harm you except if God had written so. The pens have been lifted, and the pages are dry.'” Related by Tirmidhi

There is a sense of freedom through the reliance of Allah ﷻ.

But Allah ﷻ has given us a responsibility, an amanah.

وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَائِفَ الْأَرْضِ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَكُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“And it is He (God) who has made you successors (Khalifa) upon the Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’am:165]

I worry the world is neglecting that responsibility, and taking the Earth for granted. Not only are we neglecting this responsibility, but we are also exploiting what Allah ﷻ gave us.

“Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (Qur’an, 2:60)

We are in a state of a “climate crisis,” yet we have not taken the proper steps to address it. We worry about the world that our children will inherit, but lack the passion for doing something about it.

A lot of it is at the government level. The Green New Deal failed and living in a plutocracy, and it may not come to fruition. Capitalism that fuels our consumeristic manners only speed up this destruction we are inflicting on ourselves. The solutions are simple and need to come from the community and work outward. We see the forests of the world burning, are we going to sit and watch the world burn, or will we implement the words of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)? Our Prophet Muhammad said: “There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

عَنْ أَنَسٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ مُسْلِمٍ يَغْرِسُ غَرْسًا أَوْ يَزْرَعُ زَرْعًا فَيَأْكُلُ مِنْهُ إِنْسَانٌ أَوْ طَيْرٌ أَوْ بَهِيمَةٌ إِلاَّ كَانَتْ لَهُ صَدَقَةٌ ‏”

If the Forest Burns, We Plant More Trees

If the forests burn, we plant more trees; this gives us sadaqah jariyah (continous reward), and allows us to fulfill our obligation as stewards of this planet. Countries with much fewer resources are doing it, and so can you. The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Its foundation is in the Sahel the southeastern part of the Sahara. That part of the world is on the frontline of climate change, and the people are changing their ways to address it.

As Brazil loses 0.15% of forest due to fires, India has increased its forestry by 1% in two years. There is no doubt that capitalism plays a role, and we play a role in capitalism, and instead of being blind consumers, we can be informed consumers. Your dollar forces companies to make choices that can be better for the planet. It is essential to be cautious of your purchases and the role that the company plays in our delicate ecosystems. Three significant regions are suffering tremendously due to forest fires. The Congo, Brazil, and Indonesia, each has its unique part in our capitalistic lives.

Cells for Congo

Mining to get rare earth metals comes from the Congo; mining requires deforestation to reach the resources needed. These “rare earth” metals are used by anyone that has a cell phone, laptop, computer, etc. One thing we can do not to be part of the problem is to find more ethical companies in regards to technology usage.

Investigate for Indonesia

Next is Indonesia, and it is notorious for having corporations burn its trees down for palm oil. Palm oil is an ingredient found in many processed foods, cosmetics, and toiletries. It’s said that the equivalent of 300 soccer fields of rainforest is cleared every hour for the production of palm oil worldwide. Palm oil can be produced in a responsible manner that respects the environment and the communities where it is commonly grown. Find no palm oil alternatives here. Look for the RSPO label to ensure you purchase products made with certified sustainable palm oil. This label gives you the confidence that the palm oil was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Beefless for Brazil

Then there is Brazil the largest exporter of beef in the world. Cows are not small or cheap. They use a lot of water and resources to accommodate a growing demand for meat. One pound of beef uses 1800 gallons of water; this includes the water it drinks and the water used for its food. Add the amount of space needed, and one can’t help but think if beef is worth it.

These three very sought out resources and luxuries increase profits for the corporation for companies like Google, Samsung, Sony, Apple, Nestle, Kelloggs, General Mills, Colgate-Palmolive, and the beef industry supported by the populist Brazilian President. One can’t help but think that some of these fires are not naturally occurring. There is enough by the greed and selfishness by those that can impose their power on other people and our planet to fuel these fires. Use your dollar wisely, and voice your concern to any corporation that exploits the resources that Allah ﷻ bestowed upon us.

I want to conclude with a hadith that should make us respond to the loss of our forests. Planting trees and preserving what we have is so crucial that Anas Ibn Malik is said to have reported: that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), said, “If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” [Ahmad]

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ‏:‏ إِنْ قَامَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَفِي يَدِ أَحَدِكُمْ فَسِيلَةٌ، فَإِنِ اسْتَطَاعَ أَنْ لاَ تَقُومَ حَتَّى يَغْرِسَهَا فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا‏.

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#Current Affairs

Malaysians Ask China To Free Uyghurs, Close The Camps

Hena Zuberi



Free Uyghur Malaysia
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By Gulnaz Uighur

Muslims are standing up for Uyghurs, protests held in Malaysia.

5th of July could be just like another day for people but for Uyghurs, it brings back dark memories of a bloody past. This day, in 2009, thousands of Uyghur students were massacred by Chinese police in Urumqi. These young students were demanding an investigation into the rising number of homicides in a toy factory. These people only wanted justice. They were also upset by the ongoing discrimination in the employment sector. Graduates were denied jobs because of their Uyghur ethnicity. After the protests, China started abducting the Uyghur youth and no one knows where the missing went. Its been 10 years since that horrifying incident and the condition of Muslims have devolved in a genocidal nightmare.

Communist Government in China Has over 2 Million Uyghurs in Concentration Camps

Beijing has now locked over 2 million Uyghurs in concentration camps. People in these places are forced to denounce Islam, forget the teachings of Quran, prohibited from praying, asked to learn Xi Jinping’s speech and tortured for not obeying these orders. Sadly, Islam is being treated as a disease in China and most of the Islamic nations are turning a blind eye to it.

So Malaysia came as a breath of fresh air when Muslim NGOs organized an anti-China protest against Uyghur persecution.

On 5th July 2019, a coalition of 34 Malaysian NGOs gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to protest the persecution of Uyghurs. The organizations prepared a memo of protest to be submitted to Chinese officials. In the memo, they demanded Beijing to ‘Respect the human rights of the Uyghur people, in particular, their right to life and freedom of religion and belief.’ , ‘immediately stop the persecution and extreme repression of the Uyghur people.’ and close the camps. They also called upon the International community to increase the voices of protest and disfavour upon the Chinese government and to work together to improve the situation for the Uyghur people through concrete actions.

The protesters shouted slogans like ‘Me Too Uyghur’ and ‘Save Uyghur’. In a media interview, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), Mohamad Raimi Abdul Rahim asked immediate freedom for all those who have been detained in concentration camps.

Malaysians Stand With Uyghurs

Abim secretary Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz accused the Chinese government of concealing the plight of the Uyghurs by offering NGOs and government agencies free trips and painting a rosy picture of the camps. Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council Of Islamic Organizations (Mapim), said the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs could not be denied or disguised. The Group of NGOs also included Ikram Association and the Malaysian Youth Council among others.

Though no Chinese official came out to accept the memo, the message was clear that now people won’t keep quiet about the Uyghur persecution. There is a dire need for Muslim countries to break their silence on this issue. There is enough evidence to prove that something unholy and inhumane is happening with Uyghurs. If these countries consider China their friend then ask it to stop being a Shaitan. The leaders must realize that their first duty is towards the Ummah and not towards China.

Now is the time to stand for Uyghurs before nothing is left to be saved.

This protest in  Malaysia has proved that people in Muslim countries do support Uyghurs even if their governments are silent and are upset with Beijing’s policies. This event proved that governments may fail to fight but people won’t.

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