Somalia: Interview with Somali music shop owner in exile



Somalia / Kenya:
Interview with Somali music shop owner in exile

Fatma Adow is one of 25 women who on November 2008 faced the wrath of Somali militiamen the for taking part in a folklore dance galore in Somalia. She was interviewed in her Kenyan exile by Suleiman Mbatiah for

“How can our own culture be ‘un-Islamic’?“ asks Fatma Adow. The Islamic Courts Union in Somalia accused her and 24 other women of taking part in an ‘un-Islamic event after they had participated in a folklore dance galore in Shabelle zone, Mogadishu, in northern Somalia. Charges were opened against them, but Fatma Adow fled Somalia and is now operating a music shop in Eastleigh, a Nairobi suburb inhabited by Somalis.

An article published by (IOL) describes how Fatma Adow engages a customer in a seemingly funny joke, amplifying the volume of her music player as they talk loudly amid the thundering music from the woofers. “Try this in Somalia, and that will be the end of you. You’ll be lashed, stoned to death, or forever get shunned. Even our customers and spectators have also been punished for ‘wasting’ their time and corrupting morals,” she tells Suleiman Mbatiah.

Suleiman Mbatiah writes that since militants who control large areas of Somalia have banned music in the country, “musical bands are unfastened, their careers discarded, and most of illustrious musicians and artists are now hopeless.”

He also mentions that lists of edicts have been circulated to a number of media houses, warning them to trash all secular songs from their broadcasts. In the end of 2009, Radio Warsame, a local private, commercial FM radio station in Baidoa region in southwestern Somalia, was ordered closed indefinitely by Al-Shabab movement, an Al-Qaeda proxy in Somalia.

“This is unacceptable. We have refused to air their tenets and are now zooming in to media houses from all angles. They have lashed women and imposed ‘fatwa’ on music. This is barbaric,” Abdullah Adan from National Union of Somali Journalists is quoted as saying.

The following is an excerpt from Suleiman Mbatiah’s article:

Lost livelihood
“For the last four years, life has been miserable for Somalia women artists. Some have managed to flee to Europe, while others are still stuck in Somalia,” said a sympathetic Fatma.

Cinema hall owners and event organizers have also lost dollars in the process, Fatma adds. When music was banned in Somalia, people resorted to video, and music halls have been attacked.

“No one can invest in a shaky business,” said Athman Musa, a businessman in Nairobi. “You don’t know when they will strike and bomb your packed hall, killing all your customers.”

In June 2008, one person was killed, and scores were injured at a cinema hall in the capital Mogadishu. As people watched Somalia music videos as grenades were hurled at the building by radical Islamist militias.

Before the collapse of the Siad Barre government and the introduction of the laws, women earned a lot from public performances and many other occasions that required entertainment.

“The general atmosphere of insecurity and extremists taking over the entire region has crippled us. No one will invite you to a wedding or any other celebration to perform,” said Fatma. “People fear to be branded sympathizers. We also lost our equipments worth thousands of dollars.”

Fatma, who has now picked up the shreds, talks of other women who saw their children drop out of school, as they could not keep in track paying their school fees as well as earning daily breads.

The dislocations of music bands lead to disintegration and disarrays.

Somalia women musicians top the list of those who have fallen victims of civil wars and anarchy, which have rendered them entirely hopeless. (…) The Somali music has been banned on the pretext of spreading Western propagandas in a Shari’ah-compliant state, according to Fatma.

“How can our own culture be ‘un-Islamic’?” she asks. “If it’s love songs, they are part and parcel of each and every community. They, Islamist groups, are the ones going against the grains. Islam means love and peace.”

The Somali-Speaking Centre of International PEN (a writers union) strongly condemns the attacks and censorships and calls for groups committing crimes against music to immediately stop.

“This is a gross violation of Somali artists’ rights and freedom of expression as well as Somalia community taste and choice of music,” the group told IOL.

Suleiman Mbatiah is freelance writer, and journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. You may contact him via this email address: artculture AT iolteam DOT com


First publisher: – 26 January 2010:

‘Somalia Women on Music Censorship’


Arts in Islam: (Q & A)
Music: Islamic Viewpoint

In the series ‘Islam and Arts (Q & A)’, the Art & Culture Team of Islam Online intends to find answers to many questions that spark controversy about arts in Islam. For example, “what kind of arts is permitted? And what kinds are not?”

On a weekly basis, they highlight a question from one of their readers along with its answer by Wael Shihab, deputy managing editor of the Shari’ah Department at

Wael Shihab graduated from Al-Azhar University and later received his MA in Islamic Studies, with a major in Islamic jurisprudence and its principles. Now a PhD student, he is working on the principles of Islamic jurisprudence at the same university.

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