PtG Article 20.11.2006

Islamic rulers in Somalia label sport a satanic act

In Somalia, the national Olympic Committee and the country’s new Islamic rulers are working on a framework for the practice of sport in the country. The Islamic Courts Union decreed in June that sport is a “satanic act” but recently one leading sheik said that the Islamists are not totally against sport. Instead they want to encourage sports of Islam.

The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) took control of Mogadishu in June 2006 and much of southern Somalia since then. According to BBC News, the unions have imposed Sharia law and are at lengths to show that no-one, no matter their clan or influence, is above God's law.

One of the first moves in terms of sport was the banning of sport during Ramadan. “It is offensive to mark the holy Ramadan with sports games,” said Sheik Ali Nur Zoogsade, an Islamic administrator in one of Somalia’s regions to the Somali Sports Press Association.

The sheik said that anyone who attempted to play sport or watch it would be arrested. A group of teenagers playing football in Mogadishu was taken into custody last month and only released when their parents promised they would never allow their children to play football again. Elsewhere nine men watching a football match on television were arrested and ordered to read verses from the Quran.

The UIC has also issued a 13-point media code which demands the cessation of sports news and commentary.

“This will have an impact on the Somali Sports Press Association. The SSPA News will find it difficult to publish photographs of international players, news and commentary from around the world,” said Muse Mohamed Osman, president of the Somali Sports Press Association to the International Sports Press Association.

Rules for women’s participation in sport postponed

It is on this background that the national Olympic Committee has held a number of meetings with the UIC to find a way forward.

The outcome of the meetings has been detailed in a report by Shafici Mohyadin Abokar published in the magazine of the International Sports Press Association. Overall, the parties agreed that they had resolved their differences, although the Islamic leaders postponed guidelines and playing systems for women’s sport until a later date.

Sheik Hussein Abdullahi Barre, ICU Information Deputy Secretary, said that Somalis could continue to play sport but must play recordings to spectators of Islamic verses from loud speakers mounted at all stadiums.

The Somali Olympic Committee has already established Islamic law in stadiums across the country with segregated seating for male and female sports fans. The SOC has also prepared mosques at all playing fields in the country which means that players will not miss out on praying time.

“Somalis are 100 per cent Muslims and are committed to keep praying times and fasting,” said Abdullah Ahmed Tarabi, general secretary of the SOC.

New president of Somali Olympic Committee

The Somali Olympic Committee has also elected a new president to replace Farah Addo. Addo was suspended by the International Olympic Committee in 2004 after evidence that he embezzled several hundred thousand US dollars of funds paid by FIFA to finance sports projects. The funds were embezzled either through the Somali Football Federation (SFF) or through the NOC.

The new president is Abdulkadeer Ibraahim Ga’al Abkow who has been acting president for the past three years.

The election took place at a hotel in Mogadishu and present at the meeting were representatives from the Islamic Courts Union. An agreement stipulates that representatives for the Islamic rules must be represented at each activity of the Somali Olympic Committee, its federations and national sports associations.