An Exploration of Al-Shabab


By Bismellah Alizada

The “Mujahedeen Youth Movement,” commonly known as al-Shabab, is the branch of al-Qaeda located in Somalia. Based there, the group sometimes poses serious threats to the neighboring countries such as the two subsequent suicide bombings in July 2010 in Kampala, Uganda that killed more than 70 civilians watching a World Cup final soccer match in a restaurant. It officially joined al-Qaeda in February 20121. The militant group promotes Sharia Law including the stoning of women and girls who commit adultery and the amputation of hands of thieves. Around 14,426 al-Shabab militants control large areas in southern Somalia. The group has gained international notoriety since 2012. “The group emerged as the radical wing of Somalia’s now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts in 2006.”2 Now regarded as a terrorist organization internationally, the group was forced out of the Mogadishu in August 2011 but its writ still runs in many rural areas. The most recent terrorist attack carried out by al-Shabab was that of the Kenyan Mall that killed at least 68 civilians and took an unknown number of hostages.

It is impossible to analyze al-Shabab and its ideologies without studying other movements that fall under the same notorious umbrella: al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda emerged in late 1970’s as an international group who opposed western intervention in Islamic countries and the wave of Americanization and modernism. Al-Qaeda interpreted the wave as a western attempt to marginalize (and later eliminate) Islam and overshadow Islamic culture, values and beliefs so it can prepare the ground for a soft substitution of them with western values. From a political and militaristic perspective, the al-Qaeda movement was an anti-colonial movement that posed Unity of Islamic Nations against western colonialism. This is an excerpt from an article by Paul Berman:
Al Qaeda and its sister organizations are not merely popular, wealthy, global, well connected and institutionally sophisticated. These groups stand on a set of ideas too, and some of those ideas may be pathological, which is an old story in modern politics; yet even so, the ideas are powerful. We should have known that, of course. But we should have known many things.3

A prime objective of the group was to fight the “moral corruption”, a term that referred mostly to clothing and interaction of youth (boys and girls) in public places. One of the most radical ideologues of the wave was Sayyid Qutb who got his masters from Colorado State College of Education4. He wrote Ma’alim fi al-Tariq which is translated as “Signposts Along the Way” in English. In the book—also known as “Milestones Along the Way”—he strongly attacks the wave of modernism and calls it “Jahiliyya” which mean the pre-Islamic ignorance that the world has lapsed into. Another book by him, “In the Shade of Quran,” is believed to be even deeper than the Milestones. Qutb authorizes jihad against all non-Muslims nations but gives priority to those who pose serious threat to Islamic world through colonialism and cultural influencing. The Milestone soon earned fame and popularity in extremist circles and was dubbed the manifesto of political Islam. Martyrdom was among the themes Sayyid Qutb introduced. Muslim fighters are victorious if they win over their enemies and they still win even if martyred because they will be rewarded in paradise by Allah. The theme made his campaign even more dangerous. Dreaming of paradise, Muslim jihadists have been fighting with no concern about their lives. The paradise reward even tempted women to provide sexual comfort for jihadists known as jihad al-nikah which was authorized by more fundamental wings. Sex jihad has been seen lately in Syria, too.

Since the formation of al-Qaeda, the group has proved threatening to the whole world. The 9/11 attacks, terrorist activities in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, North and East Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and so on are signs of their being a threatening in international dimensions.

It is undeniable that al-Qaeda is the most threatening phenomenon on our age. It would be too illogical to think that al-Qaeda is poor in terms of its ideological grounds and policy-making. Al-Qaeda is a threat to the world and of course, a serious one that is ideologically rich.




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3 responses to “An Exploration of Al-Shabab

  1. I believe that it the Al-Shabab are an immediate threat to the citizens of Somalia, and particularly those on the outskirts of Mogadishu. The Shari’ah law, and beliefs of an afterlife are dangerous and result in Muslim jihadists fighting as martyrs with no concern about their lives. Take the 68 innocent citizens killed in the Kenyan mall shooting, they had no idea what hit them, and it is these actions that make this extremist Shari’ah law inhumane. These militant groups have to be brought down and stopped before the death toll breaks through the roof. Countries should come together to take out the militants surrounding Somalia so it’s citizens do not have to live in fear. Most importantly, the madrassas or establishments were child soldiers are trained and “brainwashed”, need to taken care of because these children in the Al-Shabab as well as Al – Qaeda experience a childhood of war, which is just not fair. In fact, Al-shabab means children or the youth, and most of the militant group is made up of teenagers who have been kidnapped at young ages and trained as soldiers to kill all of those who oppose Shari’ah law and try to introduce colonialism. So the way to take out the Al-Qaeda and is factions would be to stop the supply of children to training camps. It is just not moral to have little children building IED’s and shooting guns for candy. An article on the kidnapping and training of young Taliban members is located here:,7340,L-4407709,00.html

  2. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs but when it hurts others there should be something done about it. Those laws deny people of their rights.

    What I understand is that Al-Qadea, which paved the way for AL-SHABAB, only began to act in this sort of way was because they were paranoid, jealously and feeling betrayed . Their religion is not at all popular by any means unlike westernization which has been spreading for a long time, internationally. When the people around the middle east, the Islamic people begin to disregard what their people stood for it brought out the feeling of being betrayed which led to the anger in people that allowed for these sorts of conflicts to brew.

    I understand that need for revenge ( revenge because by any means they seem to get people who now support them and their law )or to stop it but violence is not the answer because the results of it is unpredictable. And from what has already happened because of it people’s lives are being set up for death.

    Opinion on Sharia Law
    In my opinion, they should remove that law from existence. They oppress women to the point of them losing their individual identity which isn’t right.

    In my opinion there shouldn’t even be a law like that they are the cause

  3. Regarding the Al-Shabab, America and neighboring countries in Africa cannot do much but just watch the increment in the number of followers of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization. With the power they hold, as stated in this article, countries surrounding the area attempt to avoid conflicts with this group because of their never-ending alliances. As for the terrorist attacks planned by them, countries surrounding the terrorist group should plot attacks to weaken them or attempt to kill a leader. Other than that, not much can be done. Reiterating the article, ” It is undeniable that al-Qaeda is the most threatening phenomenon on our age. It would be too illogical to think that al-Qaeda is poor in terms of its ideological grounds and policy-making. Al-Qaeda is a threat to the world and of course, a serious one that is ideologically rich.” A compromise will have to be made with many powers to stop this terror. Although peace may seem unrealistic, it may be the only chance.

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