Published: 00:00 GMT Daylight Time - Friday 15 September 2006
Convert from Islam to Christianity killed in Somalia
Somali Christian sources report that Ali Mustaf Maka'il, who converted from Islam to Christianity eleven months ago, was shot and killed in the Manabolyo quarter of Mogadishu on 7 September 2006. Ali (22) was a cloth merchant and college student.
According to the source, the gunman was loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts (ICU), the Islamist organisation that took power in Mogadishu in early June 2006 and now controls much of southern Somalia. The gunman shot Ali in the back after he refused to join a crowd chanting Qur'an verses in honour of the lunar eclipse. (Solar and lunar eclipses are significant in Islam and are accompanied by special congregational prayers.) The ICU confiscated his body for 24 hours before delivering it to the grieving family.
It seems that under the new Islamist rulers, who include hard-line jihadi elements, the tragic history of persecution and martyrdom for Somalia's tiny Christian community is set to continue and most likely to worsen.
In July 2006 there were unconfirmed reports that three Christians had been shot and killed by Islamists as they returned home from a prayer meeting. In October 2005 an evangelist and house church leader, Osman Sheik Ahmed, was shot dead by Islamist radicals. Children of Christian Somali refugees in Kenya have been kidnapped by Muslim relatives and taken to Islamic institutions in Somalia for "rehabilitation".
The leader of the ICU, Hassan Dahir Aweys, promised to implement shari'a in all areas he controls. According to shari'a, apostates (those who leave Islam for another religion), must be killed. ICU leaders have even threatened to kill as apostates Muslims who are lax in their prayers, claiming this is commanded by shari'a. Several Muslims have been publicly flogged for drug related offences since the ICU took control.
Over 99.5% of Somalis are Muslims and regard Christianity as a foreign religion of their historic enemies in Ethiopia and of their former colonial masters the Italians and the British. There is a long history of conflict between Muslim Somalis and Christian Ethiopians, so anti-Christian sentiment runs deep. Most Somalis take it for granted that a true Somali is a Muslim and converts to Christianity must be traitors. These prejudices, widely held by Muslim Somalis, seem to used to justify violence against Christians, both indigenous and expatriate. The US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the recent Israeli campaign against Hizbullah in Lebanon have fuelled and inflamed the inherent hostility to the West and to Christians.