Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Infidel and (in)tolerance

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and subsequently lived in a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Holland, and currently USA. Her observations reminded me of how diverse human beings are, and how universal intolerance and bigotry is.

In Somalia clans are all important. When strangers meet, one of the most important things to do is to find out how far back they can trace their common ancestors, and hence, whether they belong to the same clan/sub clan. People of the same clan help each other Different clans do not like each other, and is one of the main reasons for the civil war. In Kenya they have their tribes. The difference being that different tribes speak difference languages, while different clans speak the same language.

Arabs looked down on and called the black Somalis slaves.

Somalis tend to be tall and slim. They look down on other people who have a different physique. Many of their neighbours tend to be shorter and have flatter noses, hence considered inferior. Somalis consider the Ethiopian Christians despicable – they drank alcohol and didn’t wash properly. Ethiopians were even poorer that Somalis.

In Kenya there are people from diverse ethnic groups. Indians had a complicated system of social classes, all unbelievers in Muslim eyes. Pakistanis were Muslims but also had castes. The Untouchables, both Indians and Pakistani, were darker-skinned.

Recent Somali exiles are families of warriors, while older immigrants who had grown up in Kenya had poor grasp of the Somali language.

Some Arabs also had clans – e.g., some Yemenis considered themselves superior to others. All Arabs consider themselves superior to everyone else - they were born close to the Prophet Muhammad. Somalis and Yemenis were close, Indians and Pakistanis were close. Yemenis, Somalis, Indians, and Pakistanis considered Kenyans the lowest. Somalis treat Kenyans almost exactly as the Saudis had behaved toward Somalis.

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