On July 1st, Somalia celebrated its 40th year of independence and the formation of the present-day republic through the unification of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. The day was marked by low-key celebrations in Mogadishu, which is controlled by the Union of Islamic Courts. The Islamic Courts, who seek to spread their control throughout Somalia, have promised to expand their governing council to include members of civil society.          

Omar Aden Qadi is a journalist and a member of the civil society group that has been in contact with the Islamic courts. He told Voice of America English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that the Union of Islamic Courts derives their strength from the people of Somalia, who appreciate the stability and peace in the areas controlled by the courts.

?People are actually welcoming the development, it is coming from the people, they are requesting that the courts go to their area.? He said the Transitional National government is confined to Baidoa and is very weak and inefficient but the Islamic courts are giving them a chance to organize.

Qadi said rumors that the Islamic courts had banned videos and closed movie theaters are untrue and are attempts at anti-Islamist propaganda. He said some courts that make up the consortium of the Union of Islamic courts had closed some movie theatres but the central command of the Islamic courts overruled them. ?It wont be an extreme form of Sharia law, it will fail if it becomes so because it is not in the nature of Somalis to be controlled strongly and the courts know that.?

He added that the Union of Islamic Courts hesitates to be regarded as similar to the Taliban or extremists. Qadi said the Union of Islamic courts has promised to expand the ruling council to include civil society groups in two months. He said the courts would like to involve civil society as a way of forging unity and ensuring stability.

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