On 26 November 2018, an Islamic cleric and 17 of his followers were killed for playing music during their sermon. The killing was conducted by fundamentalists in the northern city of Galkayo, where two suicide bombers activated their explosive devices outside the preacher’s residence, which is also a Sufi religious center, according to the Washington Post. Following the explosion, four gunmen opened fire inside the building and injured a further 20 individuals.
“Freemuse stands with those who were killed for their religious and artistic expressions in Somalia. No one should ever be killed or feel threatened for their creative expression or their enjoyment of creative expression. We call on the authorities in Somalia to conduct a transparent and comprehensive investigation into the killings and urge them to facilitate a tolerant environment for those who wish to create and enjoy artistic expressions,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.
The cleric, Sheikh Abdiweli Ali Elmi, gained attention from fundamentalists through the popular videos he frequently posted online showing him and his followers combining religious poems with music in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. Sheikh Elmi’s religious centre also functions as a space for youths to play music and dance and has hence been criticised widely by fundamentalists as un-Islamic.
Alongside the 18 worshipers, three attackers were killed during their battle with Somali security forces and one attacker was captured alive. The armed group, al-Shabab, had previously threatened the cleric multiple times for his work with music and religion, with their military operation spokesperson calling the cleric “the man who abused the prophet”.