A friend of mine recently decided to collect money for charity. As a Somali, his natural instinct was to start with the Somali community in his local neighbourhood.

His Somali neighbours asked him who and what he was collecting  the money for. He informed them that he was collecting for a hospital in Somalia. ‘Where in Somalia’? they wanted to know. He said it was a children’s hospital and was run by a French charity, medicine sans frontier (Doctors without borders) and was situated in Mogadishu. He said the hospital desperately needed funds.

What the Somalis said next beggars belief and left my friend utterly speechless. They said if he (my friend) was collecting for a hospital in Mogadishu they would not donate however if he was collecting for xxxx(their region) they would be happy to donate. They said they would not help a hospital in Mogadishu when their people in xxxx didn’t have a hospital.

Time and again my friend encountered Somalis with the same prejudices. They would only help their region/clan and nowhere else! It doesn’t matter that they were Somali, they needed specifications as to who was being helped.  What was the region and from that, they would deduce the clan of the population that lived there. 

Yes, The Qabeealist (Clan)as they are called are well and truly alive in the West.  

If a child is dying and my $1 can go to saving a life should I care what Qabeel (Clan) that child is?! Does anyone in the world apart from the Somali care about that? The Prophet Muhammad SAW said “He is not of my Ummah when his stomach is full while his neighbour goes to bed hungry”.

The French doctors from Medicine sont frontier (Doctors without borders) who volunteer their time and risk life and limb to go to a country thousands of miles away, a country so dangerous that everyone carries a gun, a country where lawlessness is the order of the day.

Where only the strong (with guns) survive. Where they could lose their lives at any minute and sometimes do. where after all that, they don’t even get acknowledged let alone appreciated or thanked for their hard work. (according to an article in Time magazine, Somalis don’t say thanks for anything ever). Do these French doctors know what that child’s Qabeel is? Do they care? Should they? If they did know the child’s Qabeel would that make any difference? Would it even matter?

If the Qabeealists donated to the hospital surely there would be at least one good hospital where their children, relatives and Qabeel could go to in the future. At least one in their own country, their motherland. Would it matter if the hospital was in Mogadishu? To me it makes perfect sense that a children’s hospital should be in the capital city of a country (i.e Mogadishu).

Would the hospital turn the children away because they were a certain clan? Of course not.

Qabeel in its original context is not a bad thing it’s beautiful. It gives one a sense of belonging, pride and identity. However it’s not the be all and end all of any society. There are many Qabeels out there. Not better or worse than your Qabeel. Or mine. It’s all about tolerance and respecting differences imaginary or otherwise.

The Qabeel is part of a Somali but a very small part. It might have come in useful in the olden days of cattle raids during my great grandfathers generation when the Qabeel would rally round to offer extra protection but in these peaceful times there is no reason to use Qabeel as a weapon in which to beat others. Especially needy children. At least not for the educated western Somali.

Much as someone from Liverpool will call himself a Scouser but still be proud to be an English man or British, the Somali should be proud of their Clan without disliking other clans. Just because he is a Scouser doesn’t mean he has to hate the rest of Britain and not help Folk in Birmingham or London when need arises. You get the gist.

African countries where there are several hundred tribes with different religions,culture food,different languages spoken etc and have nothing in common other than share a country are different from Somalia. Somalis are not tribes but Clans. Although the word Qabeel can be translated as tribe, in its literal context, it is not. It’s a Clan.

The Somalis are Clans and sub-clans with the same food, language, religion, culture etc. The clans often merge with other Clans further down the lineage and most clans are closely interrelated. (But this is not a history lesson:)

As long as the Somalis consider themselves as clans and sub-clans, they will never be progress in their country or communities. ever. As long as they see themselves as a fraction(clan) rather than a whole(country) they won’t change. Amongst the Somalis it seems Qabeel is supreme. It rears it’s ugly head even in giving sadaka to the needy. Their clan must first be identified before they can be helped. Do Muslims not give sadaka to anyone for the sake of Allah SWT ? Not the Somali it seems. Not if you are from a different clan. Their hatred runs that deep.

Yet Somalis are the most religious and God fearing people. Make of that what you will!

In Tanzania, school kids are taught about “undugu” (brotherhood) And “umoja” (oneness) from an early age which leads to their tolerance of each other as adults. Rwanda similarly is setting up this initiative and has started implementing it in primary schools. Somalis are still backward in this respect and without a functioning government or stable country, is unlikely to change.  It will require generations before they get to the point where Tanzania is now, where they understand undugu and umoja.

As for my friend and his collection tin, he didn’t get a penny from the Somali community. What he did get instead was a cheque from the good people of the Pacific island (miles and miles away from Somalia) as donation to the children’s hospital in Somalia.

If you would like to donate to the Somali children’s charity, or any other charity doing work in Somalia please contact the African Development Trust in London. They are on google.

May Allah keep our hearts free of hatred.

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