“There is some level of crises in the Muslim world,” revealed H.E. Abdusalam H. Omer, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion of Somalia in an exclusive interview with The Times during his recent visit to Kuwait to attend the Organisation of Islamic Conference summit.
Speaking candidly on the challenges the minister said “there is a crises in motion and we are losing our young children who have been radicalised and it is very damaging to Islam and to the people of the Muslim faith,” he pointed out. The minister noted that it was clear that this was no longer a local problem or a regional one but a global problem that had to be collectively addressed to be resolved.
Minister Abdusalam Omer has had a distinguished career spanning over 30 years having worked in the World Bank, UNDP and Governor of Somalia Central Bank and Finance minister. He has a Ph.D. in public administration from the University of Tennessee. In his first visit to Kuwait, he appreciated the warm and friendly ties between the two nations and thanked the Kuwait government for their hospitality.
Minister Abdusalam urged Muslim nations to learn from the Somali experience where they suffered for more than two decades as people watched the country disintegrate with radicals as they practiced a policy of containment. Somalia fought this menace of terror for several years and is now turning the corner as they have managed to reverse the situation with their resilience, resources and support from their neighbours. “We are very grateful to our brothers in the Arab and Islamic world and East African neighbours without whose support we would not have been able to fight these terror organisations,” the minister revealed.
Offering to share their experiences the minister said, “We call our fight against these organisations as a low cost, high impact one as there was no billions of dollars spent, no fighter jets or tens of thousands of troops in the battle. Even though we may have won the battle against these extremists." He remarked that they need a collective effort to win the war. The minister questioned the extremism that is affecting the entire region by asking “how do you deal with young men and women who blow themselves up, they are also our children but they are misguided.”
“The Muslim community is losing that war and we need to regain the confidence of our children, we need to give them a meaningful life and education and take care of them.” The minister pointed out that there was a big need to change the strategy which cannot be localised anymore and a major shift in the minds of the people was required.
“The danger is around us, it is the enemy within and not outside,” he pointed out, "A common understanding of the problem is essential as the magnitude of the current conflict has made it imperative that everyone comes together for a common action."
Regarding the solutions, the minister agreed that there were differences as it was not possible to deal with them in an isolated manner, rather to start thinking collectively on the solution was a good beginning as is now taking place. The minister was categorical in that military solution would never work, as this is a socio-economic and alienation issue.
One of the most important steps to deal with these issues, the minister stated was to share intelligence so as to understand the problems better and be able to jointly act on solutions. Expressing his regret over the damage and harm being done to Islam, he said, “most damaging other than human life and property loss was the damage to Islam in the eyes of others.”
Despite all the issues facing the Muslim world, the minister reiterated that the OIC had to be relevant, the organisation has the potential to do what needs to be done, but we have to be realistic in our expectations. “If one looks at the big picture of the Muslim world the problem is still manageable,” the minister argued and added that the OIC required a new strategy, new funding and economic strategy as they already shared a common bond of Islam that is very strong, a brotherly thing in the heart and mind.
In the past many issues from poor governance to economic exclusion, social alienation allowed groups to take advantage and misguide the youth, these issues need to be addressed and dealt with to avoid future repercussions. On the situation in Somalia, the minister was upbeat that the recovery which has many elements was on course and there was a unity in purpose to ensure that it succeeds. “There have been no clan wars for the past 15 years and every one of the groups have come together to work for peace,”
Though there are still many issues to be resolved the Somali people are now talking about governance and economic prosperity which is a positive sign. "Traditional aid may not help anymore," he pointed out, adding that today the buzzword is investment and though it is not progressing as fast as they wish there is still considerable investments coming in.
By Reaven D’Souza