Somalia’s al Shabaab terrorist group has banned single-use plastic bags in areas under its control. Previously, the group’s leadership has banned smoking, dancing, playing football and watching movies. Sputnik discussed this with Dr. Elisabeth Kendall, senior research fellow in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Pembroke College, University of Oxford.
Sputnik: What is it that Al Shabaab are trying to achieve by suddenly going green and banning single-use plastic bags?
Dr. Elisabeth Kendall: It is interesting because it goes against all of our stereotypes of how jihad groups operate. We always associate them with killing and bombing, and maiming and this actually shows a completely different side. But I don’t think that this really is indicative of al Shabaab suddenly going all green; I think what it’s really trying to do is prove its governance credentials.
It’s banning plastic bags because they litter villages and slums, they are a scourge on the environment, they harm livestock and al Shabaab wants to show it cares for Muslims, it cares about how they can live better and that the government doesn’t care, the government is corrupt, only out for itself, so al Shabaab should actually be in a ruling position. That’s much more what it’s about; it’s not about going green.
Sputnik: The group has been for years adept to understanding topics that resonate with the Western public and using them to their advantage. How successful have these messages been in attracting new recruits?
Dr. Elisabeth Kendall: Al Shabaab hasn’t been always been successful in the way it tries to put its message across. As you mentioned, it’s done very unpopular things like banned football, banned the watching of movies, and so it really isn’t necessarily about trying to make itself popular, it’s really about trying to show that it can rule justly and that it takes local concerns into consideration.
And in some of the moves, it’s made in the past, it has actually had to take a more relaxed attitude and step back a little bit in order to keep that kind of popularity.
What’s really going on here is al Shabaab trying to grab attention; this kind of media attention is very useful, it makes them seem like it’s a growing enterprise, it has ideas, initiatives and it has the will to govern well. It’s more about showing us, demonstrating to us that it does something rather than just trying to be incredibly popular with potential recruits.
SOURCE: sputnik news