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Somali Council of Ministers to Discuss Implementing Sharia Law

By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C
10 March 2009

Somalia's council of ministers is expected to be meeting Prime Minster Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke today to discuss ways of implementing Sharia law. The move is expected to weaken Islamic hard-liner insurgent groups, including al-Shabab. Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaeda, al-Shabab has refused to recognize the new unity government, threatening to take control of the country and fully implement Sharia. President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed recently agreed to institute Sharia in response to rebel demands. The fundamentalist code generally demands a separation of unrelated men and women, bans music, requires women to envelop themselves in public and demands that men wear beards. Council of ministers member Abdirashid Irro Mohammed tells reporter Peter Clottey that the application of Sharia will take the country a long way toward ending ongoing bloodshed.

"Today we have a meeting with the prime minister as council of ministers, and I think the agenda will be the performance of the 90 days of our government. And we will also discuss how we will apply the sharia law," Mohammed pointed out.

He said discussing the implementation of Sharia law is new to most of the members of the council of ministers.

"Hopefully, this is new for us, although we are Islamists. But we need to discuss seriously as council of ministers the way that we can apply the Sharia law. We will discuss the modalities we can use, whether in the stricter sense or the way it has been implemented in other Islamic worlds. But if we will accept as council of ministers the ways to implement the Sharia law, then we will send it to parliament. Then parliament will also have it take on discussions and deliberations to either accept or reject our proposal. But hopefully parliament will approve of the proposal to implement the Sharia," he said.

Mohammed said the discussion on ways to implement the law aims to end escalated insurgent attacks.

"The reasons why we are going to apply the Sharia law are two things. First of all, the Somalis have been fighting for a long time, and we will like to stop the bloodshed because our opposition from the Somali community in and outside Somalia are requesting for the implementation of the Sharia law. And that we will hope as soon as we approve of it, the opposition will join the government, and the bloodshed will be over," Mohammed noted.

He said the government is also taking a cue from average Somalis who have been appealing for the implementation of Sharia.

"The other reason why we are going to apply the Sharia law is that you know as we are all Somalis and our community is requesting and asking the government leaders every time that one day there will be an application of the Sharia law. So we have to work with the demands and request of our people and that is the second idea that we are going to apply. And it is a demand of our people," he said.

Mohammed said there is an agreement between the government and the opposition that once Sharia is implemented, the other opposition forces will team up with the government in its effort to ensure a stable Somalia after at least 18 years of ineffective rule.

"I think most of our opposition forces, especially the hard-line one, have an agreement with our leaders like the president and prime minister that they will join the peace process as soon as the government implements the Sharia law, except al-Shabab. For us, we are thinking about local issues, but al-Shabab is always connected with the international Islamic policy and I think most of the group's leadership are not Somalis and are from outside," Mohammed noted.

He said the new Somali administration will take full liability for the implementation of Sharia law.

"The Sharia law and the implementation of our religion is the responsibility of our government, and the government will take the responsibility of the Sharia law. And the government will also take responsibility of the whole Islamic religion and for the Somali religion," he said.

In February, Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed accepted a proposal by local and foreign religious leaders for a truce with hard-line Islamists and the implementation of Sharia. The religious leaders mediated between the government and its foes that escalated their onslaught against the new president, who was elected on January 31.

The hard-line al-Shabab militia and other Islamist fighters have waged battles against the government and its allies and vows to fight on until all foreign forces in Somalia withdraw and Sharia is imposed.

So far, African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) whom insurgents also repeatedly attack are the only foreign troops in the country since Ethiopian soldiers pulled out last month.

Meanwhile, an opposition leader has accused President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as an "Ethiopian stooge, a traitor to Islamists."




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