Today CNN has an article about an Islamic militia that is taking over from a failed secular coalition in southern Somalia. If I were going to write a one word critique of the article I guess it would be "Duh!".
The United States might be the economic and military center of the world, but we're not the entire world and we're woefully lacking in education on the rest of the planet.
A quick brush up on Islam is in order before we address the overall silliness of this CNN story.
Islam; monotheistic religion founded in 622 by a guy named Mohammed in what is now Saudi Arabia. Allah aka god authored the Qur'an (Koran) directly via Mohammed. Jerusalem is a holy site for Muslims - they believe they're directly connected to the line of Abraham and thusly the Dome of the Rock was built to demonstrate this.
Muslims exploded out of the Arabian peninsula expanding as far as Spain to the west and India to the east. Power shifted from Mesopotamia to the Ottoman Turkish empire later, and remained there until the early 1800s when the disintegration of the Ottoman empire began. Much of the configuration of the Middle East today is a combination of Ottoman administrative units after having been partitioned by the other imperial powers, most notably France and Great Britain.
Given that Islam is truly monotheistic those raised in the religion are primed to accept a single point source of authority. During Islam's expansion and much of the Ottoman centuries the foundation of government was a single leader 'rightly guided' by Allah, adhering to the Sha'ria, or code set down in the Qur'an, and the Hadith, which I think can be best described as 'case law'.
OK, now we're ready to examine this silly CNN article. I suppose the article is factually correct, but the underlying assumptions are faulty.
The Islamic militias are characterized as fundamentalists. I don't know that you can have a believer in a monotheistic religion who isn't a fundamentalist. Here in the U.S. we were wisely guided two hundred years ago into the separation of religion and government, but the lessons of the wars of reformation were still fresh for those folks. One look at our fundamentalist Christian government today shows that we're forgotten the lessons of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe.
The story indicates that a secular coalition is being displaced by the militias. The underlying assumption there is that this secular coalition is the right thing for Somalia and the Islamic militia is intruding. I'd wager that a close examiniation of the situation would show that the U.S. has been meddling with information, weapons, and targeted assassination in order to keep the region off balance so that this 'coalition' remains viable; recall that a single leader abiding by Sha'ria and Hadith is acceptable to most Muslims.
The story also fails to note that these events do not affect all of Somalia. The far north west part of the country now calls itself Somaliland, has a functioning government, and would like to be recognized by the rest of the world. The far north east of the country calls itself Puntland and has been semiautonomous since 1969. This region doesn't want independence but would very much like to see the south stabilized.
There is, of course, much more to be said about U.S. support of various regimes in Africa during the cold war and the effects of our disinterest in the region after the fall of the Soviet Union. I hope someone better educated than I can continue the lesson, but I need to get to work this fine Monday morning.