Somalia Muslim clerics are moving to the front-line in an effort to counter the propaganda being spread by Al-Shabaab militants regarding the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab group is about to exploit the current global Coronavirus pandemic by spreading propaganda to Somali populous. The Islamist militant group which seeks to overthrow the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) is ‘warning’ the Somalis that the infectious diseases such as coronavirus are spread by the ‘crusader forces’ (meaning allied foreign forces battling them) and ‘disbelieving countries’ that support them.
By spreading this propaganda, the militants which still controls much of southern and central Somali wish to turn Somali locals against security assets by portraying them as the root behind the lethal virus in their country.
Although there have only been a handful of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Somalia so far, the spread of this infectious disease could have a catastrophic outcomes to the weak FGS that is still battling the Al-Qaeda-led insurgency. Somalia authorities are deeply worried that if the disease takes hold they will be unable to cope.
With over three decades of civil conflict and catapulted by militant insurgency, Somalia has been left with devastated health facilities. The conflict and militant menace have left hundreds of thousands of displaced people are crowded into camps, with limited access to soap and water, and no way of practicing social distancing meaning the spread of COVID-19 could be lethal in the Horn of Africa nation.
Al-Shabaab’s propaganda on COVID-19 should worry the Somali government as it could easily oppose medical help from international aid agencies and very easily could cause humanitarian crisis.
Somalia’s mainstream Muslim clerics have now decided to fight the spread of Al-Shabaab’s propaganda by calling on the Koranic schools popularly known as madrassas to be shut down to help spread of the virus.
The Muslim clerics, leaders have opted to work with others including ministries of religious affairs, health and information to transform madrassa teachers and mosque Imams into what has been dubbed as an “anti-corona army“.
In the coming days the anti-corona army is expected to stand in every corners with loudspeakers to educate Somali populous on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and subsequently counter Al-Shabaab’s propaganda.
According to Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, a university professor and senior adviser in the ministry of religious affairs, the messages will include religious elements.
“We will talk about hand-washing and social distancing, but also speak of how Islam encourages cleanliness, including ablutions before prayers, and how there were dangerous diseases at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.”