Radicalization within the Somali-American diaspora : countering the homegrown terrorist threat
Mulligan, Scott E.
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In 2008, Minneapolis resident Shirwa Ahmed became the first U.S. suicide bomber; he detonated his explosives laden vehicle in front of a government compound in Hargesa, Somaliland. Ahmed's transformation from 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, this thesis identifies cultural, religious, and assimilative traits existing in within this unique diaspora community that effects the trajectory of the radicalization of its members. First generation Somali eÌ migreÌ s are not particularly susceptible to radicalization. The historic clan identity, pragmatic religious practices, pastoralism, and nationalism of Somalis generally discourage the adoption of transnational movements like global jihadism. A study of the profiles of the Somali-American travelers shows that these youths are less like their Somali parents and more like their American and European Muslim counterparts. Thus, they are a "blank slate" for jihadist recruiters; much of their parent's clan and cultural traits are erased or otherwise diluted in the process of integration. These youths rush to embrace American culture but are torn between two diametrically opposed identities. This tension leaves these youths in a gap and Salafi Islam offers a ready-made solution.
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