The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group has warned Muslims to beware of infectious diseases such as coronavirus, which it says are spread ‘by the crusader forces [Christians] who have invaded the country and the disbelieving countries that support them’. Please pray for Somali believers who may suffer as a result of this rhetoric.
15 April 2020
The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group has warned Muslims to beware of infectious diseases such as coronavirus, which it says are spread ‘by the crusader forces [Christians] who have invaded the country and the disbelieving countries that support them’.
Jo Newhouse, spokesperson for Open Doors’ work in sub-Saharan Africa, says, “Messaging like this is very terrifying for [Somali believers]… who are forced to practise their faith in absolute secrecy. They are constantly spied on to look for signs of apostacy from Islam. Punishment is often death. These lies can only add complexity to already difficult circumstances. One encouraging positive is Muslim clerics have taken some action to counter these lies.”
While the Somalian government has closed madrassas (Islamic educational institutions) to limit the spread of the virus, teachers and mosque leaders have been sent to spread the word on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 with loudspeakers at crossroads and other places where people gather. They have also been asked to drive around in vehicles mounted with loudspeakers and transmit messages from the minarets of mosques.
Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, a university professor and senior advisor in the ministry of religious affairs, said 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.”
Please keep praying Somali believers to experience the provision and protection of the Lord in these circumstances. Ironically, the isolation most of us experience and struggle with as a result of social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus, is part of their everyday reality: they cannot gather in groups for public worship and fellowship, and must always find innovative ways to access God’s Word, spiritual formation and fellowship.