SOMALIA – Freemuse has condemned the killing of Islamic cleric Sheikh Abdiweli Ali Elmi and 17 of his followers by extremist group al-Shabab for playing music during religious ceremonies. The incident took place in the city of Galkayo, Somalia, on 26 November.
“We call on the authorities in Somalia to conduct a transparent and comprehensive investigation into the killings and urge them to facilitate a tolerant environment for those who wish to create and enjoy artistic expressions.”
According to The New York Times, two suicide bombers exploded in front of the preacher’s residence, which is also a Sufi shrine, before four gunmen stormed into the building and opened fire.
“The militants killed 10 people including the cleric, teenagers and women who lived inside the camp. Fighting between security forces and al-Shabab still goes in the centre, the toll may rise,” police Maj Abdirahman Abdullahi told Reuters soon after the incident.
The Washington Post reported that Elmi had been warned previously not to play music or chant religious poems, as this was anti-Islamic.
The incident comes after NPR reported in May that music was being gradually reintroduced in Somalia, through a combination of political strategy and personal courage.
NPR said the Somali government had shown support for musicians by providing security during small indoor concerts. This is done despite criticism from a section of religious leaders and threats from al-Shabab, which has fought since 2006 to establish its own rule based on a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
The group has killed several musicians including Abdulkadir Adow Ali, a member of the Waaberi National Band, who was stabbed to death in 2008. By 2010, anyone found listening to music on mobile phones would be forced to swallow their memory card. The group has also banned music at weddings and on radio stations.