Unity key to defeating radicalisation, terrorism

In Summary

• Nipping al Shabaab or any other al Qaeda or ISIS splinter group in the bud requires a thorough intellectual dismantling of their warped and utopian ideology

KDF troops under Amisom in Somalia
KDF troops under Amisom in Somalia
Image: FILE

Kenya has remarkably improved its counterterrorism tactics in regards to the asymmetric warfare of the Somalia-based and al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab terror group.

The gains made have significantly reduced the frequency of terror attacks in the country since the second quarter of 2015. This follows radical security changes implemented hard in the heels of the April 02, 2015 Garissa University attack which unfortunately left 148 people dead.


 Much more, however, still needs to be done to further disable the al Qaeda franchise locally and in Somalia. And besides the hard power strategy, there is a pressing need to seriously pursue the agenda for the intellectual demolition of the ideological infrastructure of al Shabaab and its ilk. It is a fact that no one is born a terrorist and neither does a person become one overnight.


Monstrous and bloodthirsty terrorists are a product of radicalisation through either a self-driven process or political socialisation with a radicalised person(s).

This accentuates Prof. Peter Nuemann's description of radicalisation as "everything that happens before the bomb goes off."

Nipping al Shabaab or any other al Qaeda or ISIS splinter group in the bud requires a thorough intellectual dismantling of their warped and utopian ideology and politics that brainwash young and unsuspecting preys who have never squeezed a trigger to sign up for terror missions. They join with a falsely implanted hope to attain 'Gold, God and glory' as depictured by Dr. Katherine Brown, a senior lecturer of Islamic studies at Birmingham University.

It is, however, becoming increasingly clear that Islam is just used as a convenient "motif" rather than "motive" behind the so-called 'islamist' terrorism as has been cautioned by Prof Bill Durudie, a leading counterterrorism expert.

UN experts also recently released a corroborating report revealing a new dimension to al Shabaab's recruitment strategy that showed the group was more interested in criminal skills rather than religious fervor.

"The possession of criminal skills, including knowledge of evading law enforcement, are privileged over ideology or affiliation with certain Mosques or religious networks" says the UN report.


But even the brand of Islam that is effigiated in terrorism is not inspired by the mainstream Islamic beliefs and teachings. Its influences are traced to the doctrines of Kharijites, a sect that claims to be Muslims, even though their actions are overly dissimilar to the authentic spirit and letters of Islam which are pacific and takes care of the good-of-all.


This small, perverted and narcissistically self-righteous sect emerged from the power struggle that occurred following the death of Uthman Bin Affan, who was the third leader of Islam after the departure of prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and they have continued to wreak havoc in Muslim societies as well as to non-muslims.

Defending Muslims has never been the business of these terrorist groups as they commonly allege. In Some of the Muslim majority countries such as Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq they do bomb and fire at innocent Muslims even inside Quranic schools and mosques.

Here in Kenya, Shabaab has despoiled Northeastern region, which is largely populated by Kenyan Somali Muslims and they have sabotaged its development and trade.

The terror group has also negatively impacted on the education sector, which is still in a crisis state following several mass exoduses of non-local teachers due to fear of the group's attacks.

Equally, the group has killed a number of Kenyan Muslims civilians, security officers, civil servants and moderate clerics such as Sheikh Muhammad Idris from Mombasa.

The utopian ideology and politics of these terrorists groups blinds them from seeing the positives that exists in our societies. Kenyan Muslims, for example, have never been more represented in government as they are today in addition to relatively having the right to worship freely and enjoy life and government resources like other Kenyans.

 In Somalia, a 99 per cent Somali and Muslim country, the people always elect one of their own to power. Tanzania rotates presidential power between Christian and Muslim candidates. Nigeria, on the other hand, has a policy that ensures that either the president— like it is now with Muhammadu Buhari— or his running mate is a Muslim.

Interestingly, Senegal, which is a majority Christian country, has often produced a Muslim president, which is an eminent display of religious tolerance.

In past and present, philosopher and author Thomas Carlyle advised that "Men's hearts ought not to be set against one another, but set with one another and all against evil only."

Unity is a crucial pillar to defeat the evils of radicalisation and terrorism. We cannot afford to allow extremists to define who we are as a society and country. We can neither crush them through blame games, mistrusts, unnecessary hatred and suspicions among ourselves .

What we require is a sturdy and cohesive resistance strategy that will efficaciously demolish not only the physical assets of al Shabaab, but more importantly the ideological bedrocks on which it is perched both locally and in Somalia.

 Mohamed is a social-political commentator from Garissa County