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SomaliNet Forum (Archive): RA'YIGA DADWEYNAHA - Your Opinion: Somalia: Archive (Before Nov. 8, 2000): IS THERE AN EXCUSE TO CONVERT TO CHRISTIAN, LOOK HERE.
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Tuesday, November 07, 2000 - 11:59 am
I would have never believe that a somali family with a such a honorable name like, Mohamed Haji would even consider converting to christianity, what a pitty.

Here is the story!!!!!

LOS ANGELES, Nomember 3, 200(Compass) -- Officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) confirmed from Yemen today that former Muslim Mohammed Omer Haji and his family have been accepted for emergency resettlement by New Zealand.

According to a UNHCR protection officer in the Yemen capital of Sana’a, Haji is slated to leave the Arab Gulf state with his wife and baby by August 9 for religious asylum in New Zealand.

"We are waiting for documents from New Zealand immigration officials," the UNHCR officer said, "and then Yemen immigration can issue them an exit visa."

An Aden representative of the UNHCR confirmed the New Zealand destination to Compass, stating that Haji and his wife had completed and signed all the forms required by New Zealand immigration. "As soon as their new I.D.’s and immigration papers arrive, they can leave," he said.

UNHCR representatives said they had maintained daily contact with the Somali refugee in Aden’s Immigration Jail since his transfer there July 17. After being denied access to him for 10 days, the convert’s wife, Sarah, was allowed to visit him again yesterday. Reports that she had been attacked in recent days by other refugee women could not be confirmed.

Haji, 27, was jailed twice and finally put on trial in late June in the southern port city of Aden on charges of committing apostasy, a capital offense under Islamic law. On July 5, Judge Gamal Mohammed Omer of Aden’s First Court in Tawahi gave Haji a one-week ultimatum to either recant and return to Islam, or face execution.

Four days later, the same judge convened a secret hearing on Haji’s case, but without informing his court-appointed attorney, Mohammed Abdul Karim Omarawi. According to the Arabic text of this July 9 court session, when Omarawi failed to appear, the UNHCR "came forward to hire a lawyer for the accused." Omarawi was subsequently denied access to the prisoner.

During the July 9 hearing, the general prosecutor declared that "the Muslim laws of ‘sharia’ [Islamic law] acknowledge the freedom of joining a religion." Quoting the Koranic verse stating that "there is no compulsion in religion," the prosecutor said this "actually means that anybody can join any faith, but without joining any others." He went on to specify that any Muslim who joined another religion must not teach this new faith to others, but simply practice it "without any harm." The prosecutor concluded by calling for Haji’s deportation outside the borders of the Republic of Yemen.

No court documents were made available from the previous July 5 hearing, where Omarawi had said his client was given a one-week ultimatum to return to Islam.

A resident of Yemen since 1994, Haji had been granted formal refugee status under the UNHCR. He reportedly became a Christian two years ago, his lawyer said.

According to Aden court documents obtained by Compass, Haji testified at a June 28 hearing that he accepted the accusations of apostasy filed against him. "I hold on to Christianity and refuse to repent," the court record quoted him telling the court. Haji is believed to have a fifth grade education.

The controversial case has been mentioned in both of Yemen’s English-language weekly newspapers since the story broke in the international press.

A report appearing in the "Yemen Observer" on July 19 was headlined, "Apostasy Death Penalty Reports Untrue."

"Contradicting international media reports and comments including a U.S. congressman," the news brief said, "Mohammed Omer Haji, a Somali refugee, has not been sentenced to death for apostasy … and has not even been sent to trial yet. A source in Aden informed the "Yemen Observer" that Haji used religion to further his career."

In its July 24 edition, the "Yemen Times" commented, "According to witnesses, there is an increasing wave of attempts to convert the vulnerable sectors of the refugee community to Christianity in an indirect way. … Analysts observe that the refugees’ conversion to Christianity is not for faith, but for the financial benefits they are promised. It is reported that Haji suffered from severe financial problems before he was converted to Christianity."

In initial contacts with Compass, UNHCR representatives in Yemen expressed skepticism that Haji’s religious conversion was genuine, calling it a "calculated move" to force his resettlement. The U.N. agency has voiced concerns that the 75,000 Somali refugees now residing in Yemen could abuse this "unfortunate precedent" as a pretext for gaining asylum abroad at U.N. expense.

Two weeks later, however, the organization’s Sana’a representative stated that he no longer believed Haji’s "initial motive" was resettlement.

In a letter of concern addressed to UNHCR chief Sadako Ogata in Geneva over the case, U.S. Congressman Bob Clement noted that Haji’s professed beliefs had subjected the refugee over a period of several months to "tremendous pressure by the police, reportedly including prolonged beatings, threats, incarceration and separation from his family."

The Tennessee representative said that he found if difficult to believe that "out of mere self-interest, Mr. Haji would persist in adhering to his beliefs, when recanting them would relieve his suffering and ameliorate his circumstances."

It is sad day for us...

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Wednesday, November 08, 2000 - 05:46 am
It's the same freaking thing to be a muslim or christian.... what matters is that you are a good human being.
And besides who cares about it.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2000 - 10:53 am
TO: Somali
Obviously every body cares about it except you. They might seem the same to you but not us. We're Moslems and we chose to be moslems. The difference is also substantial. We respect every body's faith but the two religions are obviously not identical.

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