While a lot of attention is focused on Yemen as the next major center for Islamic terrorism, a disturbing trend is continuing in Somalia. As the country continues to suffer from lack of a central government to provide for its people, militant Islam is gaining a progressively stronger foothold. Two stories this week provide evidence that both Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam (the two major Islamist groups in Somalia) are starting to significantly affect the social landscape of the country, as well as easily recruit young people into their ranks.
A New York Times Article reported that Hizbul Islam ordered radio stations in the capital of Mogadishu to stop playing music because it is “un-Islamic.” The terrorist group threatened radio stations with consequences if they did not comply with the order. The article goes on to point out that this is just one in a series of attacks aimed at the media in Somalia. Al Shabab has denounced some broadcasts at Western propaganda, and reports say that nine journalists were killed in Somalia in 2009.
It was also reported that Al Shabab is recruiting young Somalis into the group by offering them regularly salaries and what amounts to “signing bonuses” of up to $400. The Somali youth are tempted by the money because their families are desperate need of it to buy food. The story tells about former recruits that joined up with Al Shabab not because of any ideology, but because the militant groups are one of the few ways that a person can provide for their family.
Despite the benefit that they provide, reports from Somalia seem to suggest that Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam’s popularity is in decline. The argument could be made that these groups will simply go away eventually if the population does not embrace them. That may very well be true. Without the support of the Somali people it will be extremely difficult for the Islamists to gain control of the country; however, the fact remains that Somalia is a country with essentially no central government and that makes the country a prime target to become a major terrorist hub. Without a government to provide for the people of Somalia those people will do what they have to in order to survive, even if they have to turn to militant groups that they may dislike. The influence of militant groups in Somalia will remain high as long as they are the central source of obtaining money and other essentials.