Book Review: “The Youth of God” by Hassan Ghedi Santur, 2019, Toronto: Mawenzi House Publishers, Ltd

by Abukar Sanei
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
The setting of The Youth of God is in Toronto, Canada, and the principle message of the novel is to inform in regards to the dwelling circumstances that the Somali immigrants in Canada undergo. But earlier than going added into the themes and particulars of the novel, it is very important grant some background info on why Somalis immigrated to Canada. The reply to this query goes returned to the “push and pull” elements that theorize why individuals go away their state. In 1991, the Somali state collapsed after clan militias overthrew the authorities of Mohamed Siad Barre, a socialist chief in electricity since October 1969. The overthrow of the authorities was accompanied by inter-clan civil battle within the state as many individuals misplaced their lives and others fled the state to hunt refuge in neighboring nations , corresponding to Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. In addition, in 1992, a extreme drought hit the state, inflicting malnutrition in susceptible communities, corresponding to ladies, kids and the aged. The United Nations Peacekeeping Office reviews that in early November 1992, 3,000 individuals died day by day as a result of the famine, and the whole estimated range of people who died was 300,000 individuals (UN Peacekeeping Office, n.d.). Insecurity as a result of the civil battle and famine ensuing from the drought led many Somalis to go away the state as they grew to be refugees in lots of components of Western Europe and both largest North American nations, the United States and Canada. In Canada, Berns-McGown (2007) reviews that Somalis started arriving in Toronto and different Western cities in major numbers within the early Nineteen Nineties [as] the huge majority arrived as refugees (p. 234). But with that temporary background in thoughts, The Youth of God presents three themes. These themes are lack of identification, belonging and nostalgia.

The fictional principal character of The Youth of God is a younger boy named Nuur who embodies a lack of identification even with being a primary era of Somali descent in Toronto, Canada. There are two extra characters who’re carefully related to Nuur as they attempt to affect him to regain some type of identification. These two characters are Mr. Elmi, who’s Nuur’s biology instructor at his excessive faculty and Imam Yusuf who’s founded in a nearby mosque in Toronto. Religion can be the place Nuur appears for his identification as he’s depicted as very spiritual within the novel. In his faculty knowledge, Nuur may be very clever, however he’s routinely bullied by his classmates, in particular James Calhoun and two different college students. He is bullied chiefly for 4 motives: first, he’s a Muslim; second, in contrast to some other typical excessive faculty scholar, Nuur has a large beard; thirdly, he wears the qamiis, an extended garment that covers the entire physique worn by guys within the Middle East, and fourthly, he does his ablution, or wudu (a cleaning of the palm, face, arms and ft completed earlier than prayer) within the sink within the toilet, which is solely meant for laundry arms after utilizing the toilet.

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Qamiis, as the Somalis call it, is a cultural dress for men from the Middle East and North Africa, and it has no religious meaning, but the Somali people see that dress code as a “spiritual” dress, as religious scholars wear it. But because Nuur wears it at school, he is called “Osama” or “Bin Laden” or “Al-Qaeda Boy” (p. 4) by his bullies. This is an example of loss of identity faced by the young Somali men in the diaspora where some of them do not embrace the new culture that adopts them because they are also not well versed in the Somali cultural background that they came from. Nuur’s religiosity is also very visible in his handling of his own brother, Ayuub, when he takes his concerns to Imam Yusuf. “What do you do when somebody you’re keen on is on the incorrect path? The incorrect path, the imam repeated. Yes, the incorrect path, Nuur stated, the trail to hellfire” (p. 22). This line refers to when Nuur saw her brother lying with a white Canadian girl to whom he is not married. Throughout the novel, it is clear that Mr. Elmi tries to make a very good connection with Nuur because he sees that there is potential in him. As a teacher, Elmi understands that the young man needs someone who can provide mentorship and a sense of identity. “I need to provide you some thing earlier than class, Mr. Elmi stated. It’s only a e book. Thank you,” Nuur said, reading the title and letting the words go slowly as if thinking about their meaning, “I noticed not that Descartes made a mistake” (p. 76). In his interaction with Nuur, Mr. Elmi emphasizes the well-known five words attributed to Descartes: I think, therefore I am. Because wearing qamiis can be a problem for Mr. Elmi , by giving the philosophy of Descartes, he indirectly tells this young man, “be yourself and imit you are not blind.”

On the different hand, Imam Yusuf has an interrupted entry to Nuur as he tries to get him to show away from “this worldly life”. For Imam Yusuf, “serving God’s means is the final aim on this life; faculty isn’t vital. “The loss of faith,” he tells Nuur, “is what puts Muslims where they are today” (p. 77). Imam Yusuf continues his oblique recruitment of the younger boy to radicalism when he even questions Mr. Elmi’s religion.Imam Yusuf does his greatest to reap full possession of Nuur.Nuur’s brightness in faculty and his bold to enroll within the University of Toronto aren’t a issue for Imam Yusuf. He tells Nuur that so many Muslim guys your age haven’t any such want. They are extra worried with going to college and getting jobs and shopping for good {things}. But as you and I do know, for a real Muslim man, his residence isn’t on this dunya (this worldly life). A real Muslim seeks a domestic in paradise (p. 114). When Elmi desires Nuur to go to college, Imam Yusuf tries to tarnish Elmi’s credibility by asking Nuur, “is he coming to your Friday khutba? How much does he know about Islam?” (web page 115). Like any extremist or recruiter, Imam Yusuf reveals that Nuur rejects democracy and all types of secular rule. “Their democracy, this thing they want to infect us with, is not a simple case of electing a president or prime minister. What they want from us, no, what they demand from us is nothing more than the removal of the word of Allah from everything in public life (p. 118). When Nuur got kicked out of school because of a fight and his father kicked him out of the house, Imam Yusuf places Nuur in “The House”, which is a recruitment domestic for individuals who shall be deployed to Somalia to be part of be part of al-Shabaab Once the recruitment is full, Imam Yusuf arranges the complete procedure for Nuur’s journey from Canada to Somalia through Kenya.

Belonging is the second theme told in the novel. Although Nuur was born in Canada, his attitude and behavior do not show that he belongs there. There is, of course, nothing wrong with being a practicing Muslim and a Canadian at the same time, but Nuur isolates herself in an extreme way. In the entire novel, there is not a word that Nuur has friends either Canadian or even Somali-Canadians his age. The only two people Nuur is associated with are Elmi and Imam Yusuf. In addition, Khadija reveals, Mr. Elmi’s wife, that Canada is not where she belongs. Ghedi tells us that for months after their wedding, Elmi had felt excluded from his wife’s inner world, as if she was punishing him for taking her so far away from the only place and people she had ever known and loved (p. 96) ). The question of belonging can be a phenomenon that Somali immigrants face in the diaspora, and one of the young men recruited from Britain to join the ranks of al-Shabaab expresses his sense of the isolation he has witnessed. “I used to be directionless, sad and of no use to myself or anybody else … I used to be unemployed and dealt with like a second-class citizen in [my] personal so-called state. The kafirs (infidels) discuss about multiculturalism and all that garbage, however they do not stroll the stroll do they? But I warn you, my younger Muslim brothers, don’t consider their lies. Their state will by no means be our state, yah” (p. 175).

Nostalgia is another theme that Ghedi tells in the novel via Mr. Elmi. In the portrayal that Ghedi portrays, Mr. Elmi is considered an integrated person in his life in Canada. But after a short visit to Somalia he comes back to Canada and he was invited to a symposium by a Nigerian friend and former classmate. The topic he will address in the symposium is titled “Unravelling Somalia: Interrogating the Politics of Diasporic Identity.” Narratively, in the novel, Mr. Elmi’s address when the plane carrying him began its descent into Mogadishu airport. “I regarded out the window of the airplane,” Elmi tells his audience, “and I noticed the shore of the Indian Ocean. The blue water and the white sand dunes regarded simply as I had left them. A heat welcoming feeling of domestic enveloped me” (p . 58).In another memory, Elmi recaptures his past, “I closed my eyes and noticed myself as a boy, swimming at Liido, Mogadishu’s well-known seaside. It was a Friday afternoon and I spent the day on the seaside with my household” (p. 59).This is an imagination that Mr. Elmi tries to recapture his childhood memory as he reconnects to “the nice outdated days” the place all the things was regular.

Mr. Elmi says that the smell of Somali tea, a concoction of loose-leaf tea, ginger and cinnamon steeped in boiling water and served with milk and sugar, was a delicious, Proustian experience that transported me back to a lost time. A time that will never be recovered (p. 60). If this was the old life that Mr. Elmi lived his early life in Mogadishu, what are the changes he witnesses during his return visit to his country of origin? Through the personification of Elmi, Ghedi tells us that nothing is normal in a city that was destroyed by a civil war with clan warlords in the early 1990s on the one hand, and by the extremist group al-Shabaab which has been in constant struggle. on the other hand with the government of Somalia since 2007. The theme of nostalgia is very visible in the story when Mr. Elmi visits his “childhood domestic close to the well-known Bakaare market” (p. 61). On the way in which he passes the “dilapidated National Theater and asks the motive force to cease so he might take some photos due to the fact he felt obliged to only drive by the place the place he noticed his first play on the age of 13 (p. 61).

The Youth of God clearly speaks to the themes of loss of identity, belonging and nostalgia as they are part of the experiences that Somali immigrants in Canada in general and in Toronto specifically go through. As Nuur, the protagonist of the novel reveals, loss of identity makes him so vulnerable because it leads to his being easily recruited for al-Shabaab’s agenda. Mr. Elmi and the parents failed to detect Nuur’s vulnerability to becoming a victim of radicalism. However, since The Youth of God fictionally depicts the scenario of radicalism and recruitment, and there is some possibility that it could happen in real cases, there is no way to assume that all religious centers/mosques are places of recruitment. The young Somali-Canadians yearn to find where they can belong, and this is where the authorities, local leaders and parents should pay attention by providing opportunities that can protect the youth from becoming prey for radicalism and jihadism. Finally, since Mr. Elmi is portrayed as someone with nostalgia in the novel, it is a condition that the older generation of the Somali diaspora lives with because those who can get the opportunity may want to visit the country and see the memorable places that they spent time in their childhood.

Abukar Sanei is a PhD scholar at Scripps College of Communication from Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. His lookup focus is media and migration and diaspora communities. He could be reached at

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