In an exclusive interview, the US-educated African leader says Islamic terrorists are flocking to his country. And preparing to strike the West.
Three months after leaving behind a comfortable academic life in the United States to become Prime Minister of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has a chilling assessment of the state of affairs of his native land. "Somalia is like Afganistan. But the one difference is that NATO is in Afghanistan, and all the terrorists who have fled Kabul are now here."
Speaking with La Stampa, Mohamed sent a clear warning call to the West. In Somalia, Islamic terrorists "have found a safe haven from which they can strike New York, or Milan. The international community must understand this and act on it soonest, and Italy should take the lead."
Until last fall, Mohamed was a college professor in Buffalo. Now he is at the helm of a government of 18 people, for the most part former expatriates who have come back home after years abroad in an effort to save the country from becoming the African version of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Mohamed's transitional federal government remains in power until August, when his mandate runs out. It is not clear much the temporary leaders can change a country considered the world's most dangerous.
Speaking on the eve of a trip that took him to New York to seek the help of the U.N. Security Council, Mohamed said he has also sought a meeting with the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, or the foreign minister, Franco Frattini. So far he has received no reply. U.S. Ambassador to Rome David Thorne said in an interview with La Stampa days ago that, according to the CIA, Rome can play a significant role in the Horn of Africa region. But Somalia wants more from its former colonial rulers: it wants Italy to take charge of saving Somalia like other ex-colonial powers have done elsewhere in Africa.
Mr. Prime Minister, how did a U.S. political science professor become the head of the Somali government?
I've always been engaged in and worried about the future of my country, even though I left it 25 years ago. Many ex-pats like myself have thought this was the time to come back, to prevent Somalia from ending up in the hands of religious extremists.
Your government was formed in October and approved by Parliament in December. The international community is skeptical as to what you can really do. What results have you achieved so far?
We'll do whatever we can, but we need international help, both financially and militarily. First of all we are working to ensure that soldiers receive a regular salary, because they cannot fight on an empty stomach against terrorists who are well financed -- including from abroad -- and strengthened by the arrival of combatants from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Pakistan, as well as from other African countries. The African Union has 8,000 troops here to help ours, but that is not enough. The terrorists are coming by the thousands as they perceive Somalia to be the world's weak link.
How worried are you by the recent decision of the two main Islamist groups, al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam, to merge?
We are fighting against the terrorists in a tough way, we won't give them any room. Many have already abandoned fundamentalism and joined us.
How much of your country does your government control?
We are in control of 65 % of Mogadishu. In the rest of the country, the situation is more complicated, but we have made progress. People are starting to trust us. If in the next eight months we can guarantee a higher level of security and show that we are an efficient government that is not corrupt, then the people will be on our side. But, I stress, in the absence of greater help from the U.N., Washington, the EU and perhaps even NATO, this will not be enough.
What can Italy do?
Italians are a great people, and we share much history. We are greatly appreciative of what Italy has done in the past, but it can and must do much more. It has both the resources and the skills to intervene directly, the same way that other colonial powers have done in other parts of Africa: I'm thinking about the U.S., France or Great Britain and what happened in Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Chad or Kenya. We expect direct help from the Italian government, or that Italy takes the lead in Europe to allow for financial intervention and the deployment of experts and military forces.
If your government fails, what destiny awaits Somalia?
It will become a threat to the whole of mankind.
Read original article in Italian
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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