Somali Islamists = Environmentalists?

May 12, 2010

Somali fighter

Guardian photo.

by DAVID AXE

Just two weeks ago Somali Islamic group Al Shabab advanced on a Harardere, a pirate stronghold in central Somalia. "The pirates began retreating with the hijacked vessels and crew to Hobyo, another pirate stronghold about 108 kilometers to the north," Voice of America reported. This after years of inaction by secular authorities in the region.

Many Westerners fear Islamic parties, and for good reason. Periodically Islamists sponsor bloody attacks on Westerners in their hotels, office buildings and city buses. But remember: there’s a reason Islamic parties enjoy significant public support in many of the areas they control, despite their frequent brutality. Law and order.

In Somalia, Islamists have successfully cracked down on piracy where even the U.S.- and U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government has failed. And according to Somali Weyn, Al Shabab is also enforcing sound environmental policy, preventing people from cutting down the country’s few remaining trees for charcoal. "The administration of Al-Shabab, an Islamist adversary faction in Somalia has on Monday banned cutting down of trees at Bula-Hawo district in Gedo region to the west of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, and the surrounding areas," Mohamed Omar Hussein wrote.

Instantaneously after the decree was announced, the fighters of Al Shabab conducted an operation to monitor if at all there were people in the bush who were cutting down trees, and in the operation five lorries which were partly laden with charcoal and waiting for the capacity of the lorries to be filled were brought to the former Somali police station in the district, which is now a base for Al-Shabab.

Until secular powers start exercising the same clear, decisive authority in pursuit of something resembling the public good, rival Islamists will always win.