[dehai-news] (Reuters): Somali clerics call for rule of Islamic law

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Feb 19 2009 - 15:31:18 EST

Somali clerics call for rule of Islamic law

Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:30am EST


By Abdi Guled

MOGADISHU, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Somali religious leaders have given the new
government 120 days to declare that the Horn of Africa country will be ruled
according to Islamic law, a cleric said on Thursday.

A meeting of more than 100 mainly moderate clerics in the battle scarred
capital also said African Union (AU) troops in Mogadishu should be withdrawn
by the same deadline and no other foreign troops brought in.

It was not clear what actions they would take if the deadlines were not met.

Somalia's new president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, faces the herculean task of
bringing peace to Somalia for the first time in 18 years after being elected
by parliament last month.

The main threat to stability comes from al Shabaab, which is on Washington's
list of foreign terrorists. The hardline Islamists and allied groups control
much of southern and central Somalia and want to impose their strict version
of Islamic law.

Diplomats in the region hope that Ahmed, Somalia's first Islamist president,
will be able to bring moderate Islamists on board and marginalise al
Shabaab, which is known to have foreign fighters within its ranks.

"Within 120 days the Somali parliament must convene and announce that the
country will be ruled according to Islamic law," said Sheikh Bashir Ahmed
Salad, head of Somali Uluma Council for Correction and Reconciliation.

But he said it should be the more moderate Islamic law -- not the strict
version that al Shabaab fighters want to impose throughout the country.
Nearly all Somalis are Sunni Muslims.

The council is made up of former clerics of the Islamic Courts -- once
chaired by Ahmed. The Islamic Courts controlled the capital briefly in 2006
but were routed by government forces with help from Ethiopian military

"The parliament must make amendments to the current constitution, especially
the parts which go against Islamic law," Salad said.

Ahmed said in a speech the day before his election that he wanted religion
to be the foundation for the country, but rejected al Shabaab's views as
having nothing to do with Islam.

"Looking after religion is the job of the government and the government
should look after the way it is implemented and the people would have to
agree this," Ahmed said last month.

Al Shabaab did not attend the clerics' meeting. A witness, however, told
Reuters that some pro-al Shabaab clerics were there, but sat quietly till
the end.

Two years of Islamist insurgency in Somalia have created one of the world's
worst humanitarian crises with 1 million internal refugees, and others
fleeing across borders to Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. (Additional
reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Wangui Kanina)


C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved



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