Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Somali cleric's choice: Prayer or beheading


MOGADISHU, Somalia — Residents of a southern Somalia town who do not pray five times a day will be beheaded, an Islamic courts official said today, adding the edict will be implemented in three days.

Public places such as shops and tea houses in Bulo Burto, about 124 miles northeast of the capital, Mogadishu, should be closed during prayer time and no one should be on the streets, said Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, the chairman of the town's Islamic court.

Those who do not follow this edict "will definitely be beheaded according to Islamic law," Rage told The Associated Press by phone. "As Muslims, we should practice Islam fully, not in part, and that is what our religion enjoins us to do.''

He said that the courts are announcing the edict over loudspeakers in the town.
The decision is not binding on courts in other towns.

Somalia's Islamic courts have made varying interpretations of Quranic law, some applying a more strict and radical version of Islamic law than others.

As a result of such disparate variations, residents in the capital of Mogadishu complained, forcing the Council of Islamic Courts officials in October to set up an appeals court with better-educated judges.

The Council of Islamic Courts have swept through most of southern Somalia since taking over Mogadishu in June.

Their sometimes strict and often severe interpretation of Islam has raised the specter of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime, and contrasts with the moderate Islam that has dominated Somali culture for centuries.

Some of the courts have introduced public executions, floggings of convicts, bans on women swimming at Mogadishu's public beaches, and the sale and chewing of khat, a leafy stimulant consumed across the Horn of Africa and in the Middle East.


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