For første gang splittes Somalia langs religiøse linjer, ikke klanbaserte. Det er Shaabab-militsens brutalitet og strenge saudiarabiske versjon av islam som ikke faller i god jord. Shaabab gikk løs på sufi-imamer og sufi-heligdommer. Da var det nok for mange somaliere. I løpet av kort tid kunne sufiene stable sin egen milits på bena, og den har beseiret Shaabab.
Many Somalis say that the Sufi version of Islam, which stresses tolerance, mysticism and a personal relationship with God, is more congruent with their traditions than the Wahhabi Islam espoused by the Shabab, which calls for strict separation of the sexes and harsh punishments like amputations and stonings.
«We see the Sufis as part of us,» said Elmi Hersi Arab, an elder in the battered central Somalia town of Dusa Marreb. «They grew up here.»
The Sufis also tapped into an anti-Shabab backlash. The Shabab, who recruit from all clans, and, according to American officials, are linked to Al Qaeda, controlled Dusa Marreb for the better part of last year. Residents described that period as a reign of terror, with the Shabab assassinating more than a dozen village elders and even beheading two women selling tea.
«We respected the Shabab for helping drive out the Ethiopians,» said one woman in Dusa Marreb who asked not to be identified for safety reasons. «But when the Ethiopians left and the Shabab kept the war going, that to us didn’t make sense.»
Hassan Sheik Mohamud, the dean of a college in Mogadishu, said the rise of the Sufis was «absolutely, totally new historically.»
«They had a reputation for being peaceful,» he said.