Accession Number:

ADA518724

Title:

Radicalization within the Somali-American Diaspora: Countering the Homegrown Terrorist Threat

Descriptive Note:

Master's thesis

Corporate Author:

NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA DEPT OF NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:

2009-12-01

Pagination or Media Count:

106.0

Abstract:

In 2008, Minneapolis resident Shirwa Ahmed became the first U.S. suicide bomber after he detonated his explosives-laden vehicle in front of a government compound in Hargesa, Somaliland. Ahmeds transformation from an average American teenager to an Islamic jihadist was gradual and complex. This thesis will examine how Ahmed, and other Somali American teenagers, morphed into Salafi jihadists. Through interviews with law enforcement officers, social services providers, and homeland security officials, the cultural, religious, and assimilative traits that exist within this unique diaspora community and that have affected the radicalization of its members will be examined. Factors such as historic clan identity, religious pragmatism, pastoralism, and Somali nationalism have generally discouraged first-generation Somali Americans from adopting transnational movements like global jihadism. However, Somali youths are less like their parents and more like their American and European-Muslim counterparts. Thus, they are a virtual tabula rasa upon which jihadist recruiters may write and 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. The research for this thesis is broken down into two parts a study of the two largest existing Somali Diaspora communities in the United States -- the Columbus, OH, and MinneapolisSt. Paul, MN, communities and profiles of three Somali youths who have been recruited by jihadist groups. Many of these youths are deceased, incarcerated, or still missing, so much of the background data was taken from interviews of friends, families, and teachers of the youths. Once a profile was developed, it was compared with other jihadist recruits in the United States and the United Kingdom Muslim communities.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Unconventional Warfare

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE