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.
Photo Credit: moonofthesouth.com
KENYA’S NEW LEADER RAISES NEW QUESTIONS
After a tense few days of long lines and restless citizens, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the first president of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta, has won the Presidential election by the slimmest of margins. Kenyatta passed the necessary 50% mark by 8,000 votes or .07%.¹ Despite controversy regarding the capability of electronic voting, some claims of voter fraud, and a few episodes of violence the election process was relatively peaceful. Maybe peaceful is not the right word because around twenty people were killed, but it was serene compared to 2007 where over 1,000 people were killed in ethnic tribal clashes.² Despite controversy regarding the capability of electronic voting, some claims of voter fraud, and a few episodes of violence the election process was relatively peaceful. Maybe peaceful is not the right word because around twenty people were killed, but it was serene compared to 2007 where over 1,000 people were killed in ethnic tribal clashes. An article in a Kenyan newspaper before this election accentuated the chaos that elections bring to the country:
“This election brings out the worst in us. All the tribal prejudice, all ancient grudges and feuds, all real and imagined slights, all dislikes and hatreds, everything is out walking the streets like hordes of thirsty undeads looking for innocents to devour.”³
The anxieties of the author of that article did not pan out, possibly showing the progress that Kenya has made in democratic elections. However, I cannot continue to be optimistic without addressing the elephant in the room. President-elect Kenyatta has been accused of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for funding and planning violence after the 2007 election and and will be on trial in July. The accusation brings up a very interesting paradox and also puts the United States in a tough position. The president of a country, the man who will lead 167 million people, the man who will be a role model for millions of children, might go to prison for a very long time. Even though the United States wants to sustain a good relationship with a key ally in a constantly-changing region, they also want to respect the International Criminal Court’s authority. In addition, Kenya is an important part of President Obama’s heritage, possibly forcing him to make emotionally-tough decisions.
I do not believe that the Obama administration should abandon diplomatic ties with Kenya, but the pending charges against Kenyatta should inform the US’s dealings with Kenya. The world of politics does not move particularly quickly so President Obama has time to examine the situation, but he will eventually have to make a decision. If he does choose to “embrace” Kenyatta and continue normal relations there will be serious repercussions, including losing respect from the international community. How could he reprimand Russia or China for supporting Bashar al-Assad, while sustaining a relationship with another murderous criminal? Kenyatta has not been proven guilty yet, but Obama will not look good when he is holding Kenyatta’s hand as he is hauled to prison.
1 Gettlemen, Jeffrey. “Kenyatta Is Declared the Victor in Kenya, but Opponent Plans to Appeal.” The New York TImes. 3/9/13.
2 Gettlemen, Jeffrey. “Neighbors Kill Neighbors as Kenyan Vote Stirs Old Feuds.”The New York Times. 2/21/13.
3 Mutuma Mathiu. “Elections: What we must do right to prevent a 2008-style meltdown.” The Nation. 2/14/13.
4 Gettlemen, Jeffrey. “Kenyatta Is Declared the Victor in Kenya, but Opponent Plans to Appeal.” The New York TImes. 3/9/13.
5 Ibid. 1
Image from: http://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/index.php?i=15291&a=64738