|Somalia’s Minister of Information has backed up the radical Islamists’ music ban in Mogadishu and in this way countermanded a government order to radio stations to play music or face closure. This turnaround expose a difference of religious opinion in the government, writes Freemuse’s Somalia analyst Abdulkadir M. Wa’ays
By Abdulkadir M. Wa’ays
Three of the radio stations – Tusmo, Xurmo, and Voice of Peace – had followed the government’s order to play music, but the manager of Radio Somaliweyn which is also based in the government-controlled territory argued that the lack of security and the loss of advertising income forced him to comply with the ban, and the National Security Agency then demanded his station to close its broadcast. But, just a few hours later, the Minister of Information backed up the radical Islamists’ music ban, citing “freedom of the press” and countermanding the orders — a quick and anticipated turnaround that exposed a difference of religious opinion within the government.
Associated Press reported that Sheikh Dahir had suggested that the National Security Agency may have acted independently when it issued the order to the four radio stations in the government-controlled area to play music.
“The Somali government is not happy with the oppression of the media and will always work toward creating an enabling environment where it can operate freely,” Sheikh Dahir was quoted as saying.
Union of the Islamic Courts
In 2006, Sheikh Dahir Mohamud Gelle was a senior official in the Union of the Islamic Courts, UIC, whose militiamen seized and ruled large parts of the country including the capital Mogadishu for six months, and imposed a strict form of Islamic law, notably banning music, cinemas, and all music-related events. Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces ejected them from power in December the following year. The current President of Somalia was then the leader of the Union of the Islamic Courts.
Holy Koran Radio
According to the BBC Monitoring Africa’s Somalia Media Guide 2007, some owners of Mogadishu-based media outlets were allies of the Union of the Islamic Courts administration: “One of these was the former director of Holy Koran Radio, Sheikh Dahir Mohamud Gelle [the current Minister of Information], who vanished at the same time as other Islamic leaders at the end of 2006.”
Established in Mogadishu in 1990s as the first music-free Islamic radio station in Somalia, the Holy Koran Radio is located in the midst of the areas in Mogadishu which are controlled by al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist group with ties with al-Qaeda.
“The President of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, his Minister of Information, Sheikh Dahir Mohamud Gelle, the top commanders for Hisbul Islam and al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, Ma’allin Hashi Mohamed Farah and Sheikh Ali Mohamed Hussein — they are all members of the Abgaal clan — a main support base of the Somalia’s two major Islamists groups.”
The two major radical Islamist groups, al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam, now control most of the south and central regions of Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu.
The music ban
Odd sounds like the roar of an engine, a car horn, animal noises and the sound of water flowing are used instead of music to introduce radio programmes.
“We have replaced the music of the early morning program with the sound of the rooster, replaced the news music with the sound of the firing bullet and the music of the night program with the sound of running horses,” told Osman Abdullahi Gure, the director of Radio Shabelle, which is one of the most influential stations in Mogadishu.
The Islamist group also banned Mogadishu’s radio stations from using the word ‘foreigners’ to refer to “their Muslim brothers who came from outside the country to help them fight against the enemy of Allah.”
Sheikh Dahir Mohamud Gelle, Minister of Information of the Somali government
Presenter and producer Sahra Mohamud Ali reads news at Radio Shabelle in Mogadishu in mid-2009. Before Sahra fled Somalia, she was one of Freemuse’s contacts in Mogadishu.Photo
Somalia: Government minister backs up radical Islamists’ music ban
5 May 2010