Radicalization of Somali Youth


Imam/Prof. Hassan Mohamud

Radicalization of Somali Youth

Why this topic is important?

This topic is taboo in our communities so majority of members of the community are not willing to publicly discuss it.


In general, Muslims believe that  we are balanced community as Allah mentioned in the Quran:

Chapter Name:Al-Baqra Verse No:143

وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَاء عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا وَمَا جَعَلْنَا الْقِبْلَةَ الَّتِي كُنتَ عَلَيْهَا إِلاَّ لِنَعْلَمَ مَن يَتَّبِعُ الرَّسُولَ مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَى عَقِبَيْهِ وَإِن كَانَتْ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلاَّ عَلَى الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللّهُ وَمَا كَانَ اللّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَانَكُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ بِالنَّاسِ لَرَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ {143

002:143 Khan : Thus We have made you [true Muslims – real believers of Islamic Monotheism, true followers of Prophet Muhammad SAW and his Sunnah (legal ways)], a  (just) (and the best) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) be a witness over you. And We made the Qiblah (prayer direction towards Jerusalem) which you used to face, only to test those who followed the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) from those who would turn on their heels (i.e. disobey the Messenger). Indeed it was great (heavy) except for those whom Allah guided. And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e. your prayers offered towards Jerusalem). Truly, Allah is full of kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind.

002:143 Rashad : We thus made you an impartial community, that you may serve as witnesses among the people, and the messenger serves as a witness among you. We changed the direction of your original Qiblah only to distinguish those among you who readily follow the messenger from those who would turn back on their heels. It was a difficult test, but not for those who are guided by GOD. GOD never puts your worship to waste. GOD is Compassionate towards the people, Most Merciful.

002:143 Shakir: And thus We have made you a medium (just) nation that you may be the bearers of witness to the people and (that) the Messenger may be a bearer of witness to you; and We did not make that which you would have to be the qiblah but that We might distinguish him who follows the Messenger from him who turns back upon his heels, and this was surely hard except for those whom Allah has guided aright; and Allah was not going to make your faith to be fruitless; most surely Allah is Affectionate, Merciful to the people.

002:143 Yusufali: Thus, have We made of you an Ummat justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves; and We appointed the Qibla to which thou wast used, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels (From the Faith). Indeed it was (A change) momentous, except to those guided by Allah. And never would Allah Make your faith of no effect. For Allah is to all people Most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful.

In my discussion of the topic I will summarize it into 4 parts due to the time constrain:

1- What is radicalization in general?

Radical is different from usual or tradition according to Webster.  It is extreme or fundamental or roots.   As an adjective it means a big change which could be a positive change?  This term can be used both positive and negative even though it has negative implication For example:  American people made a  radical change when they elected a black president in 2008.  My article which was published in Wardhere news I discussed about Radical change needed in Somalia.  I talked about  moving from 4.5

(a destructive formula ) to 5 equal tribes is a radical change.


“American history books are full of reminders that many of the rights and freedoms now taken for granted were fought for by individuals who were condemned as “radicals” and “extremists” .

Wikipedia states that “ Radicalization (or radicalisation) is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that (1) reject or undermine the status quo.[1] Radicalization can be both violent and nonviolent, although most academic literature focuses on radicalization into violent extremism (RVE).[2] There are multiple pathways that constitute the process of radicalization, which can be independent but are usually mutually reinforcing.[3][4] or (2) reject and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice. For example, radicalism can originate from a broad social consensus against progressive changes in society”   Therefore,  radical changes whether is social or politics or even religious  are not a problem but violent radicalization is a problem?  In America it is legal to be a radical person or believe a radical ideology but it is illegal to be a violent radical. You are free to believe whatever you want but you cannot transform your radical beliefs to a violent action.   For example, y ou can believe any radical Islamic ideology but not to force others to accept it by force.

2- What is radicalization in Islam?

“Radical Islam is not merely an extreme version of Islam. Rather, it is a cultural-social ideology dominating all aspects of life. Like many violent totalitarian movements, its primary objective is to dominate all those within its reach and suppress all other ideologies, movements, and beliefs in its path”. By ://www.clarionproject.org

In general,  Islam rejects extreme practice of Islam and calls for moderation of every aspect of life. In Islam is not haram to be radical unless you force others to believe or practice what you believe.  Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) rejected the extreme life style adopted by the three young followers.  As narrated by Anas bin Maalik (radiyallaahu ‘anhu),   He says: “A group of three men came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) asking how the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) worshipped (Allaah), and when they were informed about that, they considered their worship insufficient and said: ‘Where are we compared to the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) as his past and future sins have been forgiven.’ Then one of them said: ‘I will offer the prayer throughout the night for ever.’ The other said: ‘I will fast throughout the year and will not break my fast’ The third said: ‘I will keep away from women and will never marry.’ Allaah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: ‘Are you the same people who said so-and so? By Allaah! Indeed I am the one who fears Allaah the most amongst you, and the most pious of you; yet I fast and break my fast, I pray and I sleep, and I marry women. So he who opposes my Sunnah is not from me.” Reported by Imaam al-Bukhaaree in his Saheeh.

3- Causes of  Somali youth radicalization

“For example Marc Sageman, a former CIA operations officer, has conducted the largest survey of radical Muslims to date in order to locate the causes for radicalization. In a groundbreaking study, he analyzed over 500 profiles and concluded that this phenomenon normally occurs in four distinct stages:

1] It is sparked when the individual reacts with moral outrage to stories of Muslims suffering around the world;

2] for some, that spark is inflamed by an interpretation that explains such suffering in the context of consistent policies in Western countries that are viewed as hostile to Muslims around the world;

3] the ensuing resentment is fuelled by negative personal experiences in Western countries (e.g., discrimination, inequality, or just an inability to get on despite good qualifications); and

4] the individual joins a terrorist network that becomes like a second family, albeit one closed to the outside world.  This situation stokes the radical worldview and prepares the initiate for action and, in some cases, martyrdom”.

I would summarize the causes of radicalization of Somali youth the following:

  • US policy toward Somalia: Many young Somalis believe that US policy supported the Ethiopian forces who defeated the Islamic courts project which brought peace and hope to Somali people in June 2006.  This policy led many young Somalis to view US policy as hostile to Islam and Muslims.  Those young Somalis believe that there was no US policy toward Somalia which provides programs to train and provide employment opportunities to the majority of Somali youth who are unemployed in Somalia.  In contrast, Al Shabab attracted the youth for JEF programs: Job, empowerment and helping you establish a family.  Another example,  In Egypt the majority of Islamist youth could transform to radicals after the coup of President Morse.   Professor Ayoob commented about the military coup in Egypt and stated : “Wednesday’s events must have made clear to the Brotherhood faithful, not only in Egypt but across the Arab world, that Qutb and his disciples were right and that politics in the Muslim world is indeed a zero sum game and the taghuti(Satanic) regimes will never allow Islamist political formations access to political power.
  • Delaying Implementation of Sharia Law in Somalia: Some Somali youth view that Somali government has no intention to apply Sharia Law in Somalia so they feel there is a religious  obligation to replace the government by force and play its role to practice Sharia Law.
  • Somali Islamic Scholars and Islamic movements’ weakness to breach the proper Islam among Somali youth in and outside Somalia, was another factor which created young e extremists in and outside Somalia. Therefore, some youth with less knowledge about Islam had played  the role of Somali scholars to spread Islam among youth.
  • Many youth view foreign troops such as AMISOM are here for business or their own interest not to protect Somali people. In addition, they believe they are invaders who want to take advantage of  the weaknesses of the Somali government.

4- Practical Solutions and Recommendations:

Here, for the record, I want to make clear that a military approach will not help a war on extremism or radicalism.  I believe this war is between two ideologies: The extreme ideologies and moderate ideologies.  So extreme ideologies can be defeated by moderate ideologies through fair and health debate to save many lives especially people’s lives.  As I discussed above the prophet Muhammad (PBU)cured extreme practices of some of his youth by using moderate debate and example.  Another example, after Al-khawarij (armed opposition) opposed Imam Ali’s government, Ibna Abbas, a well-respected companion and scholar, suggested not to use a force against Khawarij before trying non-military alternative such as a persuasion or debate tools.   Therefore,  here are my recommendations to find a fair solution to the problem of radicalization of Somali youth:

A-Somali government should find out an alternative non-military solution for Al-shabab issues to save lives of all sides.  The government should seek the assistance of Somali scholars to use the Ibnu Abbas model to convince Shabab to be part of dialogue to have  a common understanding  about specific  issues such as how to implement the Sharia Law and who has authority to implement it or relationships between Muslims and non- Muslims.   As president Hassan Sh. Mohamud promised in one of his speech that he would try to reconcile with Al-shabab before using any military action.  After the incident of September 11, 2001, US, world superpower, had already tried a military action against Taliban which both sides lost many lives from both sides.  US government  and Afgani Government are now trying to use a method of reconciliation with Taliban as an alternative option to save more lives from the both sides.

B-US  Gov.  should revise their policies toward Somalia and Somali community in US and use all aids to develop Somali youth programs in order to train and provide them employment in Somalia.  US Government should consult with Somali Community in US and Somali Government in order to come up with programs which could be productive and effective to help Somali youth become good citizens,  peaceful and productive.

C- Somali Government should establish a special office of Youth Affairs under Somali president   which focuses on developing a well selected youth programs which produce a productive and peaceful youth who are ready to take part of re-building of their country.

D-This conference should establish inclusive and cohesive council of Imams in Somalia and Diaspora or at least a forum of Somali Islamic scholars which will have a constant dialogue or semi year or a yearly convention to tackle radicalization issues and with practical solutions.

E- Ministry of education with help of Somali Islamic scholars should prepare an affective  Islamic programs through K-12 which can help prepare Somali youth comprehend their basic Islamic religion with civic responsibilities.

F-In our region, we should support every Islamic entity or groups or scholars whose work are based on moderate ideologies.  For example, well respected and well known moderate scholars from Jebuti are now in prisons because they opposed the government programs.   This move from DJebuti government  hinders the dawah work of moderate preachers.  Therefore,  we should request the DJebuti government to release those scholars or Islamic preachers in order to protect the moderate dawah and its preachers in the region.

G- Reconciliation and disarmament projects should be done as soon as possible so the government will be strong enough to bring justice and peace to Somali people.


  1. By ://www.clarionproject.org
  2. By Proff. Mohammed Ayoob: is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University, and Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He is author of the upcoming book‘Will the Middle East Implode?’
  3. Quran-Tafsiir from Authors: Khan, Shakir, Rashad, and Yusuf Ali.
  4. Wikipedia Dictionary



By:  Professor /Imam Hassan Ali Mohamud (Hassan Jaamici)

Adjunct Professor of William Mitchell College of Law and Director of Minnesota Dawah Institute

Adjunct Professor of Islamic University of Minnesota