Kenyan Girl’s Close Shave With Al Shabaab In Search Of Identity

Terrorism has fully been tagged on the confluence of religion and culture across the world. With names like Islamic State fighters, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen, Al Qaeda to mean “The Foundation”, group logos, flags, slogans and regalia, it is evident this goes beyond religion.

Exaggerated ways to get recognised only reeks of identity seeking young men and women. The urge to belong is a core human need to feel ownership of our self, take comfort in a unique identity, and feel a sense of belonging to a larger ‘something’. This is what ISIS, ISIL, Al Shabaab, BokoHaram and Al Qaeda are tapping on and therefore religion has been used as a means to acquire militants.

Religion offers a very convenient means for terrorists to exploit. In many ways it dictates a value system and brings a rich culture and history to which you can feel a part. Terming it as ‘Jihad’ already appeals to Partisanism and terrorists work at convincing potential recruits to be ‘part’ of it. Even as religion is the most exploited, Al Shabaab is actively seeking to exploit various grievances most of which appeal to identity such as personal endeavors to expand its tentacles in the country.

Zeinab Ahmed Maalim, a 23year old university student narrates how her search for Identity almost got her in the hands of the Al Qaeda linked militia were it not for the police. Having come from an affluent family, she went to good schools and socialized with the crème de la crème of the Somali entertainment industry, something that drew her to cultural music, a course she would dream of pursuing. Her father, Ahmed Maalim however had a different vision for his first-born daughter.

He enrolled her to the University for a Nursing Course, something Zainab says she had no intentions of pursuing but she was out of options on this one. Zainab would graduate four years later from the University of Khartoum but she did not plan on returning to Kenya. Armed with a ticket to Somalia, Zainab was ready to meet a Social media group admin she had been in communication with, on a platform that put out information on Somali music and would once in a while hold ‘auditions’.

Despite there being a rumour of how disingenuous the group was, nothing would stop Zainab from pursuing a dream that was about to come true. On arriving in Somalia, the local police put her in custody for questioning after getting wind from Zainab’s close friend back in campus. To her shock, the group admin was an Al Shabaab recruiter who used the ‘Cultural entertainment’ channel as bait mostly for young people.

After days of questioning, she would be ferried back home in the company of her disappointed parents. Her search for identity was however genuine as we would assume, but unknown to her, Zainab was right on her way to joining the Al Qaeda linked militia.

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