Somali woman reportedly killed for not wearing a veil

July 30, 2014 • 10:08 am

I say “reportedly,” because although the BBC reports it as news, it is based on hearsay from relatives and so must be hedged. But if it’s true, what can you say about groups that will kill women based on their failure to cover their faces. The same thing, I suppose, you’d say about those who mutilate schoolgirls for the crime of wanting to study. From the BBC report:

Militant Islamists in Somalia have shot dead a Muslim woman for refusing to wear a veil, her relatives say.

Ruqiya Farah Yarow was killed outside her hut near the southern Somali town of Hosingow by gunmen belonging to the al-Shabab group, they say.

The militants had ordered her to put on a veil, and then killed her after returning and finding she was still not wearing one, the relatives said.

An al-Shabab spokesman denied the group had killed the woman.

The hedges are the denial (itself dubious), the hearsay, “her relatives say,” as well as this (my emphasis):

Relatives, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, told the BBC that Mrs Yarow was killed at about 07:30 (04:30 GMT).

She was shot twice and died instantly, they added.

She is survived by her husband and children, the relatives said.

Al-Shabab, which controls much of southern and central Somalia, imposes strict rules of behaviour, including dress codes for men and women.

BBC Somalia analyst Mary Harper says the fact that al-Shabab has denied killing Mrs Yarow suggests that rogue elements within the group may have been responsible for her death.

It is also possible that al-Shabab wants to distance itself from the shooting because it is likely to provoke a strong public reaction, she says.

Had I been the BBC, I’m not sure I would have run this story without confirmation, as it’s based on hearsay. I report it here because it may be credible, especially because what they say about  al-Shabab’s dress codes appears to be true.  If the story is true, and even if the killers were merely “rogue elements” of Al-Shabab, it shows something that at least a few commenters have denied. Maybe the U.S. is not at war with Islam, but the civilized world is at war with many, many adherents to Islam.

A paragraph from Wikipedia about the organization, which also checks out, at least according to the references, notes this:

Through their religious rhetoric Al Shabaab attempts to recruit and radicalize potential candidates, demoralize their enemies, and dominate dialogue in both national and international media. According to reports Al Shabaab is trying to intensify the conflict: “It would appear from the alleged AMISOM killings that it is determined to portray the war as an affair between Christians and Muslims to shore up support for its fledgling cause… The bodies, some beheaded, were displayed alongside Bibles and crucifixes. The group usually beheads those who have embraced Christianity or Western ideals. Militants have begun placing beheaded corpses next to bibles and crucifixes in order to intimidate local populations.” In April 2010 Al Shabaab announced that it would begin banning radio stations from broadcasting BBC and Voice of America, claiming that they were spreading Christian propaganda. By effectively shutting down the Somali media they gain greater control of the dialog surrounding their activities.

Of course, this has nothing to do with religion—it’s all culture, and all the result of Western oppression! For those who maintain these misguided attitudes, I highly recommend (as I have repeatedly) Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. I hate to sound like a theologian, but your credibility on the origins of Islamic violence will be considerably raised if you’ve read it.





34 thoughts on “Somali woman reportedly killed for not wearing a veil

  1. Yes, I’ve been meaning to get that Lawrence Wright book for some time now. “Remembering Satan” was a great book, and I also expect to say the same for “Going Clear” (do look up Michael Kinsley’s hilarious review of it at The New York Times).

  2. The Islamic requirement for women to cover their heads and sometimes faces in veils or their entire selves in amorphous cloth sacks pre-dates Islam, however Islam enforces this practice as a religious edict across the various cultures that subscribe to it, so the separation of culture from religion is a red-herring. Consider this atrocious book once used (it may no longer be in use) to teach Muslim children in Ontario, Canada. It states:

    Islam helps to secure a females (sic) modesty by preserving her beauty with Hijab.

    Islam helps. Not culture helps. Islam. There is more:

    The importance of Hijab will be briefly discussed in the light of the verses of the Holy Qur’an on the subject. Allah says:
    “Say unto the believer men to cast down their gaze and guard their private parts; that is purer for them. Verily Allah is Well-Aware of what you do. And say unto the believing women that theycast down their gaze and guard their private parts; and not to display their adornment (Zeenat)except what becomes apparent of it; and to draw their headcovers (Khumur) over their neck slits(Juyoob); and not to display their “Zeenat” except to their husbands…


    …COVERING THE HEAD IS NOT THE SIGN OF DEGRADATION or oppression. It is a commandment from Allah…

        1. Now now. It’s like this: a baby in a baby bonnet, diaper, and booties isn’t being degraded or oppressed, are they? But force them on a grown man and it’s embarrassing. See?

          It’s also like a dog collar being okay on a dog.

          1. Which reminds me of when I saw, decades ago, a young black woman who was leading around the main shopping streets (presumably) her white boyfriend with a leash and a studied collar round his neck. The couple were clearly thoroughly enjoying the reactions of passersby!


    1. Not to make light of a very serious thread, but I really want to start a book review program on NPR called “consider this atrocious book.” We’ll trash EVERYTHING. All points agreed.

    2. “The Islamic requirement for women to cover their heads and sometimes faces in veils or their entire selves in amorphous cloth sacks pre-dates Islam…”

      Just as so many Xtian fables predate Xtianity. Whoever espouses whatever at this time is the problem, no matter where the ideas originated.

  3. I’d also recommend reading A Season in Hell, by former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, who has kidnapped and held for 130 days by al-Qaeda in Mali in 2009. He’s under no illusions about the motivations of his abductors – not colonialism, not poverty, but religious fanaticism.

  4. I hate to sound like a theologian, but your credibility on the origins of Islamic violence will be considerably raised if you’ve read it.

    I flat out refuse to take on new homework assignments during summer vacation.

    This was not a part of the deal!

  5. Things are mighty awful fanaticism-wise right now, and seem to be getting worse every day. Can’t wait for water shortages/famine, displaced waves of starving migrants, disease, and everything else headed humanity’s way when a really hot, muggy, and buggy climate is 100 octane fuel on fanaticism’s fire. Luckily, even if I live a long life I should croak about the time the worst of it is just beginning to kick in.

  6. Very difficult to get confirmation in an environment like that so perfectly right to report it with a reference to it being unsubstantiated. We are doing a disservice to those suffering if we allow those who make their crimes almost impossible to collaborate to operate unchallenged and unreported.

  7. Re: “Maybe the U.S. is not at war with Islam, but the civilized world is at war with many, many adherents to Islam.”

    I disagree. I feel you have it backwards: “Maybe the U.S. is not at war with Islam, but many, many adherents to Islam are at war with the civilized world.”

  8. Yes, the Looming Tower is excellent (also, Going Clear, his book on scientology is essential). I recently bought a copy of the koran (pickthall translation recommended by Hitchens) and I felt nauseous thumbing through it. Don’t think I’m gonna be able to even skim it.

      1. To amplify on Chris’ comment, when you write a comment, you get a tick-box option to be notified of other comments in the thread by email. Many people prefer this way of working. Hence the “sub” comments.

  9. I cannot help but feel sadde3ned when I think about the 25 years of unimaginable strife Somalia has faced. I’m sure lots of you have read it, but Ayaan Hrsi Ali’s Infidel is a tremendous book, the vivid depiction of a slowly destabilizing Somalia is just one of many reasons to read it.

    1. Not a nice place to go, according to the Somali refugees I’ve worked with.
      We had a request for CVs to do some work – several months worth – in Somalia a few years ago. About early 2012 IIRC. We didn’t reject it out-of-hand, but did ask for clarification about the planned security procedures. We never got a reply, so I guess it was just someone flying kites.

  10. Gerry, thank you so much for recommending that book. It really “joined up the dots” of things that I sort of knew but didn’t understand in context. I lent it to friend and the other day see said to me (over a pint, of course) “I wish that bloke would write a few extra chapters”.

  11. Those poor, oppressed Shabab militants. What choice do they have, what with colonialism and all. Surely you can sympathize with their plight. I mean…oh wait, the woman wasn’t an Israeli? What a disgusting tragedy! This is terrible! It’s American foreign policy that’s to blame, though.

  12. Just to keep people up to date with other events in the Sahel regions :
    The wife of Cameroon’s vice-prime minister was kidnapped and at least three people were killed in an attack by Boko Haram militants in the northern town of Kolofata on Sunday, sounds like they’re expanding their reach.
    And it’s 109 days since the Chibok kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls, also by Boko Haram. Over 200 are still missing. Just in case people have forgotten. They’re not getting a lot of press coverage at the moment.

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