Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Outdated Somali Cultural Practices

How can a nation so often mentioned as sharing the same religion, the same culture, and the same language espouse outdated cultural practices in this 21st century? To begin with, anyone with an iota of mercy in his/her heart will be perplexed at how erroneously the current Somali federal constitution was drafted. This is a constitution based on what the drafters refer to as 4.5 with the 4 digit implying a lion's share of the political process for the four major tribes while .5 being the share reserved for all minority tribes combined. The four major tribes of Somalia comprise of the Darod, Isaaq, Hawiye, and Digil/Mirifle. However, if each and every minority tribe represented by this accursed .5 digit was to be counted in a census as one big community, they would undoubtedly exceed in number any of the major tribes. In essence, if all of Somalia's minority tribes were statistically placed in par with one majority Somali tribe, the figures representing the combined minority tribes would be enormous and a big show of force. For a long time, Somalia's majority tribes have enjoyed leverage over all other minority tribes for centuries either through the use of force and coercion or through other unconstitutionally dehumanizing applications.

From the time Somalia attained independence in 1960 up to this day of lawlessness, these four major tribes dominated major government sectors like the military, economy, education, agricultural and the fisheries sectors without giving minority tribes a share of the national cake. These four major tribes have placed permanent restraining orders on these industrious minority tribes in all aspects of their lives with intent to cause political, social, and economic degradations such that all of Somalia's minority tribes have been denied the right to exercise their inalienable rights as enshrined in the Qur'an, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and as depicted in Somalia's traditional, customary, and constitutional laws.

From time immemorial, Somalia's minority tribes spearheaded the advancement and manufacture of all material goods that pertained to agricultural production, herbal medications, farming implements, war gear, other important arts and crafts and all other important household goods demanded by the pitiless, green-eyed, uncivilized, war mongering, malnourished, and livestock rearing nomad whose life entirely depended on the consumption of milk and meat 365 days a year.

Ironically, outdated Somali cultural practices exist to this day even in major cities of the western hemisphere. For example, the prohibition of intermarriages between Somalia's ostracized minority groups and majority tribes remain in effect despite acculturation of either party in to new western ideals and manners. Going by the adage "old habits die hard", cultural transformations remain impossible especially among old folks despite exposure to new western ways of life. No wonder many love affairs between majority and minority clan lovers ended in disarray after their efforts to tie the knot got scuttled due to disapproval by majority clan elders entrusted with final jurisdiction over such matters.

Somalia's ostracized minority clans are pejoratively referred to as Midgo', Tumaal, Yibir, Caadaqaate, Rer Baxar, Gabooye etc. Technically, these names may be translated to mean untouchables, blacksmiths, archers, technicians, and things of like nature. What may sound as important trade names to the western mind may appear repugnant to Somalia's aristocratic cum autocratic tribal mindset. The irony is that, Somalia's existing outdated cultural practices and observances have no place in Islamic teachings. These are cultural malpractices that have been passed on from generation to generation, from father to son, from mother to daughter and so on.

The desire to preserve clean tribal heritage and unblemished genealogical lineage is what majority aristocratic clan members wish to see when marrying off their children. Fear of being associated with despised minority clan members seeking marriage to partners of the opposite sex from majority clans created the old Somali tradition of arranged marriages. On the other hand, to control the free movement of ostracized families, Somalia's hard-nosed majority clans observe centuries-old segregation techniques akin to the forgone practices applied by the architects of apartheid.

No comments: