Wretched, jobless, invisible: are Britain?s Somalis the enemy within?
The Times seems to be of the opinion that prestigious jobs and affluence will be the solution to the problem, and one must never forget the potential fullfilled by Aayan Hirsi Ali and her comrades, the young woman mentioned in the first paragraph must also have been very hard working, motivated and intelligent, but my experience is that Somali menfolk are all too visible on the tube and lounging on every street corner of east London and are jobless by choice. It is easy to think of the war in Somalia as being, to quote Neville Chamberlain, a “quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing”. That is a dangerous illusion.
This is a conflict that has driven tens of thousands of Somali refugees to Britain. They are probably the poorest and most disadvantaged ethnic community in the country, a people whose disaffected young are all too easily recruited by gangs or, worse, Islamic extremists.
Government officials say that dozens have already returned to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, the brutal militia with links to al-Qaeda that is fighting the Western-backed Government. They fear that these battle-hardened jihadists will bring their newly acquired skills back to the UK. One senior official told The Times that Somalia had risen sharply up the list of threats to Britain’s security and was probably now second after Pakistan. “It’s something we worry about a lot,” he said.
Lord Malloch-Brown, the former Foreign Office Minister, warned before leaving office in July that “the main terrorist threat comes from Pakistan and Somalia, not Afghanistan”. Radicalised Somali immigrants have already launched botched terrorist attacks in Britain and Australia.
The Government has no reliable statistics on how many Somalis now live in Britain. One official reckoned that there were 150,000 legal immigrants and three times as many illegal ones.
The usual estimate is about 250,000, mostly in London but with sizeable numbers in Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Cardiff and other cities.
It is almost certainly the biggest Somali community in the worldwide diaspora and suffers from shockingly high levels of unemployment, low levels of education and wretched living conditions.
A 2008 report by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggested that 46 per cent had arrived in Britain since 2000, 48 per cent had no qualifications and barely a quarter of the working age population was employed — mostly in menial jobs.
In 1997 Haringey Council found that 50.6 per cent of its Somali adults were illiterate in any language. Not exactly what I think of as enrichment.
The community is fractured, has largely failed to integrate and has lost its traditional social structures. Britain has only one Somali mayor, in Tower Hamlets, East London, and one former councillor, in Liverpool. I'm sorry but we shouldn't have Somali mayors and suchlike in Great Britain. We should have English and Welsh mayors, who may have a Somali or Polish or Maltese heritage but who are themselves English. Call me old fashioned. The Metropolitan Police employs not a single Somali policeman, although it is now training four. “It has been called the invisible community,” Mohamed Aden Hassan, co-founder of the Somali London Youth Forum, said.
Not surprisingly, some marginalised young Somalis join gangs: the Tottenham Somalis, the Woolwich Boys, Thug Fam. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Somalis are too often the perpetrators, or victims, of violent crime.
Other young Somalis, angered by the US and British-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have followed the siren call of Islamic fundamentalism. Two of the four men who tried to bomb the London Underground on July 21, 2005, were Somali asylum-seekers.
Others have gone home to fight for al-Shabaab, which, until Ethiopian troops withdrew from Somalia in February, portrayed itself as a nationalist group fighting foreign occupiers and enjoyed considerable support among British Somalis.
British officials are uncertain whether the converts are recruited on the street, in mosques, or through the internet, but al-Shabaab certainly exploits the latter. In one online video two young suicide bombers talk of the “sweetness of jihad”.
“How dare you sit at home and see Muslims getting killed . . . Those who are in Europe and America, get out of those countries,” they say.
Officials do not know exactly how many have gone because they cannot distinguish between Somalis travelling home for legitimate and illegitimate reasons. If they are so very poor how come they can afford the fair. If the homeland is so dangerous how come they go back and forth? Refugee German Jews in 1940 couldn't pop home for Passover when they felt homesick. A counter-terrorist source said: “They are not just fighting and learning new skills, but forging contacts from around the world.” Make it a rule - if they once leave the country, they don't get back in. Conviction of a crime = deportation.
Besides Ayaan, the Somalis that *I* respect and who give me some small hope for their people, are the incredibly brave and persistent members of the Underground Church in Somalia, who when found by their fellow Muslims, are routinely beheaded or shot. There appear to be, perhaps, thousands of them; the Saints and [Christian] Martyrs and Confessors of Somalia. In them, the energy and aggression and low cunning of a warrior desert people have been transmuted, by the Holy Spirit, into an incandescent courage, devotion and clarity, faithfulness unto death.
The Somali Christians - and other apostates, like Ayaan - are the ones who, if the authorities in the west had any sense, would be getting airspace, day in and day out, not only on the Christian radio programs that are beamed into Somalia, but...on the BBC or on radio and satellite programs in Europe and everywhere else that Somali Muslims have invaded. Let them - in their mother tongue - give their testimonies, explain in detail how and why they left Islam and what joy they have found outside it, and recite the Christian scripture (which, I suspect, given Ayaan's obvious affection for her own tongue, and dislike of having been forced to learn and recite the Quran by rote in alien Arabic, may be far more winsomely mellifluous to Somali ears than the Islamic texts). Let Ayaan read aloud - in the English in which she first enjoyed them, but perhaps also in good Somali translation - the Western fairy tales, and classic children's adventure stories, and lush romances that awakened and fed her soul. Let Fr Zakaria Botros' programs - mercilessly and humorously debunking Islam, but offering also a rich and lifegiving alternative - be dubbed into Somali and rebroadcast, relentlessly.
Drop the spiritual depth charges and hope to crack open the prison-house of Islam.
"For He shatters the gates of bronze, and cuts the bars of iron in sunder" - Psalm 107
Of course, in tandem with such efforts I would heartily support the deportation of convicted Somali Muslim criminals from all the lands of the non-Muslims, and a grim refusal to let back in, to non-Muslim lands, any Somali Muslim men, or young Muslim men of *any* background, that have waltzed off home to Somalia to take part in Jihad.