Al-Shabab: Samosas are too Christian

In al-Shabab-controlled regions of Somalia, anything deemed un-Islamic is outlawed. This includes mustaches, the World Cup, wearing bras, and dancing at weddings. The militant Islamist group recently added something new to that list: Samosas.

How can a seemingly harmless pastry be un-Islamic? Apparently, it's the shape. Samosas are fried in a triangular shape, which al-Shabab finds to be strikingly similar to the Christian Holy Trinity. Samosas, known as sambusas in the region, are often enjoyed to break the fast during Ramadan. But now, those caught selling, cooking or eating sambusas could face harsh punishment -- if history is any guide. The militant group follows a strict interpretation of Islam, enforcing their moral rulings to the utmost degree. In 2009, al-Shabab gunmen went village to village, rounding up women who were found wearing bras. Traditionally moderate Muslim Somalis were horrified as the women were beaten, their bras forcibly removed, and then told to publicly shake their chests for the men. Al-Shabab's justification for the public humiliation was that the bras promoted deception, a breach of Islam.

Last year, radio stations were shut down for playing music. Men and women who are not related can no longer shake hands, or even speak to one another in public. Women who are found working in public places face execution in some cases. Women and young girls alike have been arrested and flogged for not wearing hijabs. Watching soccer in general has been outlawed, but al-Shabab took a particular disliking to the World Cup since Somali boys and men were watching soccer instead of joining the group's jihad against the government. Cinemas no longer show the matches after numerous theaters were attacked with grenades.

It seems anything remotely enjoyable (and triangular) is prohibited, and now, al-Shabab's control has struck at the core of human survival. As Somalia starves to death, the militant group bans a staple food in East African culture as it is too "Christian." Humanitarian aid from Western organizations has been mostly outlawed, with UN famine reports called "sheer propaganda". Al-Shabab's outlandish rulings may cost millions of lives.

_ubik_ via Flickr Creative Commons


Going green in China's coastal waters

Beachgoers in China looking to kick back at the shores of the country's beer capital might want to think twice. An algae bloom off the eastern coast of Qingdao, in Shandong Province, has covered 7,400 square miles and counting, according to Xinhua News Agency, and researchers expect to see part of it wash ashore in the next few days.

Whatever does make it ashore from the bloom will add to a 75,000 square foot patch already coating Qingdao's beachside waters. But the residents of Qingdao are used to these algae invasions. Blooms have become something of a summer tradition in Qingdao's Yellow Sea since they first emerged in 2007. The 2008 bloom forced the government to deploy thousands of soldiers and locals to clear the waters in time for the sailing competitions being held at Qingdao as part of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

What's behind the outbreaks over the past few years? Bao Xianwen of the Ocean University of China, located in Qingdao, told Taiwan's China Post earlier this month, "We don't know where [the algae] originated and why it's suddenly growing so rapidly. It must have something to do with the change in the environment, but we are not scientifically sure of the reasons." But Western outlets like the New York Times and the BBC who covered the blooms in 2008 blamed that year's algae explosion on agricultural and industrial run-off. 

Though the bloom hasn't sat well with many of Qingdao's beachgoers, some intrepid swimmers are taking a different tack. ""We have not been disturbed by the green algae. I swim here as usual," 32-year-old local swimmer Zhao Xiaowei told the China Post. Li Li, a preschooler from inland Hebei Province, told China Daily he didn't mind it either: "I like the green 'grass.' It feels so soft."

STR/AFP/Getty Images; STR/AFP/Getty Images; ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images