Why these young men are ready to die for religion
[Daily Nation (Kenya)] The six Al-Shabaab
... Harakat ash-Shabaab al-Mujahidin aka the Mujahideen Youth Movement. It was originally the youth movement of the Islamic Courts, now pretty much all of what's left of it. They are aligned with al-Qaeda but operate more like the Afghan or Pakistani Taliban...
recruits looked anything but the fighters they claimed they were. They were young, slight in build, shy with forlorn, distant looks in their eyes and seemingly unsure of themselves.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, two weeks after the Kenyan troops had conquered Somalia's port town of Kismayu, the cut-thoats' last urban stronghold, the young Kenyan men told the Sunday Nation of their desire to cross the border and join the war in Somalia.
The setting was a madrassa in one of the four mosques in the larger Dandora area in Nairobi; not at all a grandiose building but which nonetheless has played a crucial role in the youths' journey to Moslem radicalism or jihadism.
Hassan, 26, who had organised the meeting, said logistics had made it impossible for them to cross the border to fight the "invaders" as they referred to the Kenya Defence Forces and African Union
...a union consisting of 53 African states, most run by dictators of one flavor or another. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established in 2002, the AU is the successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was even less successful...
The rest of them, Juma, 21, Ramadhani, 24, Ahmad, 30, Obeid, 23, and Salim, 22, nodded in agreement and then fell into a silent reflection. "But a way will be found soon, inshallah," Juma said after a while.
Dressed casually in jeans and T-shirts, they lamented about Al-Shabaab's defeat by the KDF and reflected on what this portends for the movement in East Africa, to which they had been recruited.
"The Prophet told us to prepare for such setbacks," said Ramadhani. "But it does not matter much because ours is a cause much bigger than any one group. If Al-Shabaab dies, another will rise in its place."
Sunday marks exactly one year since the Kenya Defence Forces rolled in to southern Somalia to battle the cut-throats blamed by the Kenya government for a series of cross-border incursions and kidnappings in the Coast. (READ: Kenya declares war on Al-Shabaab)
Even as Kenya and KDF celebrate the victory in Somalia, the six recruits are a sobering reminder that the shadow of terrorism is yet to pass. Al-Shabaab's extremism and ideology lives on through the young recruits.
Al-Shabaab was just one dark star in the constellation of the ultra-radical groups in the Moslem world dedicated to the cause of jihad, the holy war against the so-called infidels represented by the West and their allies.
"What we fight is a righteous war without borders, race or tribe. I hear the Mujahideen have risen up in Mali and, God willing, I will join them," said Salim, a quiet, soft-spoken fellow.
But Moslems such as Alamin Kimathi, who was held for nearly two years in Uganda in connection with the 2010 attacks in Kampala that killed more than 70 people, think that the zeal among young Moslems is largely informed by misunderstanding or misreading of the Koran.
"They have a zeal for their religion often based on little knowledge of Islam. Based on their backgrounds, they are prone to engage in anti-social behaviour and what better way to express that behaviour than in religion," Mr Kimathi said.
In understanding how the six youths came to join the Shabaab, their histories should be a cause for worry for anti-terrorism agents in Kenya and East Africa in general.
Obeid, from Ukambani, was known as Pius and was a Jehovah's Witness before converting to Islam in 2009. Salim, from Western Province, was known as Hillary and was a member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God.
Hassan, from Nyanza, was known as Patrick and was a Catholic as was Ahmad, from Central Kenya before converting in 2009. The other two, Juma and Ramadhani, were born to Moslem parents.
They all come from the poverty struck areas of Majengo, Huruma and Dandora in Nairobi which have proved rich recruiting centres for myrmidon movements in the region.
Prof Eric Nandi of Masinde Muliro University, who has done extensive research on religious fundamentalism, said "socio-economic problems are very profitable religiously".
Posted by: Fred