Former prime minister of Somalia visits class here: A student's impressions

Former prime minister of Somalia visits class here:
A student's impressions

By Ina Ziegler, St. Thomas freshman

Dr. Ali Khalif Galaydh, the former prime minister of Somalia, made a surprise visit to Dr. Ellen Kennedy’s Sociology 100 class recently to talk about Islam and Somali politics.

Galaydh’s visit was very timely. Students in this class recently began working with refugees and immigrants at Lincoln International High School as part of their coursework for the Changing Faces of Minnesota program. Many of the Lincoln students are from Somalia.

Islam is the dominant religion of Somalia. Muslims are currently celebrating Ramadan, a time of fasting to develop self-discipline, empathy for those who are hungry, and a deeper connection to the Muslim community as a whole.

Galaydh talked about relief workers in Pakistan who fast despite the fact that it makes it difficult for them to help victims of the earthquake. He said that they feel more connected to those who are suffering when they themselves share in the experience. Fasting is a symbol of solidarity, one of the five main pillars of Islam, and an important value in a highly religious culture.

Galaydh spoke about the political situation in his country. Somalia currently does not have a centralized government, and he noted that factional fighting occurs on a daily basis. The problem is that “each warlord sees himself as the next dictator,” he said. As a result, it is very difficult to create any sort of ordered state. One of the existing factions is trying, without much chance of success, to replace the traditional tolerant Islamic practice with a fundamentalist theocracy.

"You cannot have peace in the country unless there is peace in the region,” he said. There is currently instability throughout much of eastern Africa.

Galaydh, who currently lives with his wife and family in the Twin Cities, is a professor at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.

In one short hour, Kennedy’s class gained a greater understanding of the background of many of the students they are partnering with at Lincoln International High School and the challenges facing eastern Africa and the entire globe.

We would like to thank Dr. Galaydh for sharing his time with us, and Dr. Kennedy for arranging the visit.

Galaydh will be on campus again today, Oct. 24. He will introduce the documentary “The Letter,” about Somalis in Lewiston, Maine, whose presence touched off a confrontation between white-supremacist groups and civil-rights leaders.

The film, free and open to the public, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium.