Radicalization Within the Somali-American Diaspora: Countering the Homegrown Terrorist Threat   [open pdf - 318KB]

"In 2008, Minneapolis resident Shirwa Ahmed became the first U.S. suicide bomber after he detonated his explosivesladen vehicle in front of a government compound in Hargesa, Somaliland. Ahmed's transformation from an average American teenager to an Islamic jihadist was gradual and complex. This thesis will examine how Ahmed, and other Somali-Americans, morphed into Salafi jihadists. Through interviews with law enforcement, social services providers, and homeland security officials, the cultural, religious, and assimilative traits existing within this unique diaspora community that have affected the trajectory of the radicalization of its members will be examined. Factors such as historic clan identity, religious pragmatism, pastoralism, and Somali-nationalistic identity generally discourage the adoption of transnational movements like global jihadism by first generation Somali émigrés. An in-depth analysis of the profiles of Somali- American travelers suggests that Somali youth are less like their parents and are more similar to their American and European-Muslim counterparts. Thus, they are a virtual 'tabula rasa' upon which jihadist recruiters may not only write but also erase much of the youths' inherent clannish identity and cultural traits. These newly indoctrinated youths rush to embrace American culture but are torn between two diametrically opposed identities. The resulting tension leaves a gap ready to be filled by Salafi Islam."

Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Naval Postgraduate School, Dudley Knox Library: http://www.nps.edu/Library/index.aspx
Media Type:
Cohort NCR0803/0804
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