The role of religion in the Somali independence and civil war periods rarely gets a hearing. Then and now, religion manifests both as cause and remedy of conflict. Warlords were the focus of 1990s debate and reporting is now dominated by the exploits of the militant group, Harakat al Shabaab. Both perspectives ignore the widespread influence, for good and for ill, of a broader number of Islamist groups.
1Somalia is a predominantly Muslim country where Islam has heavily influenced national identity and provided social cohesion, where weak government and civil war have fostered insecurity and the spread of militant groups.
2The Muslim Brotherhood played a positive role during the civil war through peace building initiatives and delivering aid. Its significance has since diminished with splits over military and political activity. Other Islamist groups crowd the political landscape and all have struggled to navigate the Somali clan system.
3Other Islamist groups currently oppose Al Shabaab. Although it is unable to hold significant territory and has suffered from internal division, it remains the most high profile organisation in Somalia. Islam thus remains crucial to both the continuation of the conflict, and the prospects for peace.