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Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama (ASWJ)

Somalia was once majority Sufi but all that changed in the past two and a half decades. Sufis were almost wiped out from Somalia: in the early 1990s, by warlords and their marauding militias, and, in the last decade, by the hardline al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab. Most Somalis wre at least nominal members of a Sufi order or "identify" with Sufism. According to a 2016 report commissioned by the UNHCR, the practice of Islam has traditionally been influenced by Sufism in Somalia, particularly in the countryside, and within the central areas of Somalia, Sufi Islam is still strong. Sources indicate that Sufism is experiencing a revival across Somalia (Al Jazeera 29 Mar. 2016; CGTN 17 May 2015). However, Al Jazeera characterizes the revival as "slow" and "precarious" (Al Jazeera 29 Mar. 2016).

According to sources, two of the main Sufi orders in Somalia are the Axmadiyah [or Ahmadiyyah] and the Qaadiriyah [or Qadiriyyah], which each have their local offshoots. In a book titled The Islamic Movement in Somalia, Doctor Abdurahman Abdullahi Baadiyow, a professor of Islamic Studies at Mogadishu University, states that the Axmadiyah has three offshoots in Somalia: "Raxmaaniyah, Saalixiyah, and Dandaraawiyah" (Abdullahi Baadiyow 2015, 41-42). According to the same source, the Qaadiriyah has two offshoots: "Zayli'iyah and Uweysiyah" (Abdullahi Baadiyow 2015, 41). According to The Religious Literacy Project of the Harvard Divinity School, "members of the same Sufi order may come from opposing-even warring-clans".

In order to combat the rising influence of militancy in Somalia, ASWJ was founded in 1991, when representatives from Sufi orders joined togethe. Some sources describe ASWJ as a Sufi militia. Others sources indicate that it is a moderate Islamist group. Sources indicate that ASWJ opposes Al-Shabaab. Doctor Abdullahi Baadiyow indicated that Al-Shabaab has been "fighting against [ASWJ] in the middle regions of Somalia". Horseed Media similarly reports that ASWJ "became prominent in 2008 when it took up arms against al-Shabaab after the radical group began destroying the tombs of the country's Sufi saints" (10 June 2015). According to the Political Advisor, ASWJ has been able to defeat Al-Shabaab in "many localities in South Central Somalia, particularly in Galmudug and Hiraan," for example "in 2007/8, when Al-Shabaab attacked many Sufi practitioners and desecrated Sufi tombs/shrines in many towns across Somalia".

ASWJ controled parts of Galgadud [Galgaduud] region. Human Rights Watch specified that ASWJ controls the town of Guri'el and Dhusamareb [Dhuusamarreb] (Human Rights Watch May 2016, 32). According to the US Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report for 2016, ASWJ controls "Dhusamareb, a small town in central Somalia". The joint report by the UNSOM HRPG and OHCHR states that ASWJ "has no specific clan identity," and acts "as a de facto administration in the Galgaduud region in Guriceel town and Dhuusamarreb district. It claims Hiraan, Galgaduud, and Mudug as its territory, and has been opposing security forces and state authorities in areas under its control" (UN Dec. 2017, para. 50). In contrast, Reporters Without Borders states that ASWJ "supports the national government" (Reporters Without Borders 20 Jan. 2016). It also reported that the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama'a (ASWJ) militia recruited children. Children were also used by Somalia's numerous clan and other militias.

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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:24:06 ZULU