Category Archives: extremism

‘He was brainwashed’ — a Somali-American man’s account of his nephew’s recruitment by al-Shabaab

This evening, NBC Nightly News aired a report on Islamic extremists recruiting in Minneapolis.

“For years, Minneapolis has been a target for terrorist recruiters seeking angry, disillusioned young men,” reporter Ron Allen said.

Tens of thousands of Somalis live in a Minneapolis neighborhood called Little Mogadishu where recruitment of young men into Islamic extremist groups is “an all too familiar story,” Allen said.

Allen interviewed a Somali man about his nephew’s recruitment (the report included the names but did not show them on the screen, so I cannot spell them).

Allen: “You lost your nephew.”

Somali man: “Yeah.”

Allen: “What happened?”

Somali man: “He was brainwashed.”

The nephew, Allen said, was “lured” back to Somalia in 2008, when the kid was only 17 years old.

The nephew died a year later while fighting for al-Shabaab, the same group behind last year’s attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Robbinsdale, Minnesota, a town in the Minneapolis area, was also home to Douglas MacArthur McCain, who reportedly died last week while fighting for Islamic State.

The word “brainwash” has been used more frequently as Western males have started fighting for Islamic extremist groups.

Some have become radicalized before traveling to areas controlled by Islamic extremists, while others might have been tricked into entering extremist groups.

In at least one case, a young man (from Belgium) traveled to the Middle East because he was led to believe he would be helping a charitable organization, but the organization was actually an extremist group.

Like many stories, the story of Zia Adbul Haq of Queensland, Australia, suggests religious brainwashing is most successful in times of crisis.

The 33-year-old had told those closest to him that he’d travelled to the [Syrian] region to find a wife after the breakdown of his marriage…
Friends told an Australian news organization that Zia “fell off the rails and under the spell of the extremists,” and  “Zia has been brainwashed.”

Life’s difficulties also seemed to be making restless, unemployed young men in Minneapolis easy targets for jihadist brainwashing, as Allen of NBC News suggested.
Even when Somalis enter the U.S. for legitimate reasons, some of them, somehow, become radicalized. As Michelle Moons of reports,
NCTC [National Counterterrorism Center] reports have noted the high level of terrorist activity in Somalia, as terrorist group al-Shabaab has intermittently controlled various key regions of Somalia. A Center for Disease Control and Prevention document cites Office of Refugee Resettlement statistics that list Minnesota, California, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. as locations where the majority of Somalis have settled in the U.S. Thousands have come to the U.S. as refugees under the banner of fleeing war and persecution in their home country. Current population estimates of Somali-born individuals living in the U.S. range from 35,760 to 150,000.

Trouble with radicalized Somalis has been building for years. Here’s a snapshot:

Oct. 31, 2011: “Suicide bomber in Somali attack was reportedly from Minneapolis

Aug. 5, 2010: “14 U.S. citizens charged with trying to join Somali terror group

July 20, 2009: “Minneapolis struggles with Somali gangs

Hard times for liberal Muslims in the Middle East

“[R]adical Islamism is a modern philosophy, not just a heap of medieval prejudices. In its sundry versions, it draws on local and religious roots, just as it claims to do. But it also draws on totalitarian inspirations from 20th-century Europe…. 

“In today’s Middle East, the various radical Islamists, basking in their success, paint their liberal rivals and opponents as traitors to Muslim civilization, stooges of crusader or Zionist aggression. And, weirdly enough, all too many intellectuals in the Western countries have lately assented to those preposterous accusations, in a sanitized version suitable for Western consumption….

“Muslim liberals find themselves routinely berated in the highbrow magazines and the universities as deracinated nonentities, alienated from the Muslim world…. as if any writer from a Muslim background who fails to adhere to at least a few anti-imperialist or anti-Zionist tenets of the Islamist doctrine must be incapable of thinking his or her own thoughts.”

— Paul Berman, writing in this commentary in the New York Times

Police becoming co-conspirators with Hindu extremists

NEW DELHI, December 31 – In their campaign against Christians, Hindu extremists in India are increasingly relying on a key weapon: police officers. Local police in Bangalore recently arrested and harassed five workers from the Indian Church of Christ after Hindu extremists attacked the Christians in the capital of Karnataka state. Police from the Indira Nagar police station arrested the five Christians but allowed the attackers to go free. Rights activists have long been calling for reform in the police system. “The police, who are supposed to protect all citizens from criminal assaults, are often found to be conniving with the ruling government to organize religion-related violence or harass the victims hoping to get bribes,” said a representative of the Christian Legal Association.

-Compass Direct News

Hindu extremists attack Christians on Christmas Eve

NEW DELHIAt least four Christians are feared dead, many injured and more than 50 churches and 200 homes are either destroyed or damaged in Orissa state in anti-Christian violence that began Christmas Eve. Violence by Hindu extremists continues in some pockets despite the state imposing a curfew and deploying hundreds of police officers. Extremists have pursued Christian leaders into forests where they fled. The Delhi Catholic Archdiocese fears a repeat of 1998 attacks on Christians in Gujarat, followed the next year by the burning alive of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his sons in Orissa.

-Compass Direct News

India fails to protect religious minorities; violence against Christians unchecked

MUMBAI, India, November 9 — A rash of violence in Maharashtra state last weekend, Christian leaders say, is typical of a growing history of unchecked, Hindu extremists crimes against Christians in Thane district.


In a scene repeated for years in the area with impunity, Hindu extremists armed with wooden clubs barged into the worship service of the Mumbai Diocesan Missionary Movement in Kuttal village of Wada on Sunday (November 4) and beat several members brutally enough that they required hospital treatment.


When Pastor Suresh Suttar went to the police station to file a complaint against the extremists, officers instead detained him. Unable to find any evidence to file charges against him, they released him on Monday (November 5), said Dr. Abraham Mathai, vice chairperson of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission.


The club-wielding extremists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its affiliated organizations, the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad (VKP or Forest Dwellers Welfare Council) and the Bajrang Dal (youth wing of the VHP) were left free to pursue future victims. The Christians – Vishnu Barad and his wife Aruna Barad, Vandhana Barad, Nirmala Barad, Ramdas Ahad and Neelesh Barad – were left with swollen arms and legs, a bruised and swollen chin, bruises and abrasions to the temple and forehead and a bruised chest.


After the Hindu extremists had stormed into the service shouting curses and anti-Christian slogans, they struck the believers with their fists and clubs, snatched Bibles and tore pages from them and flung chairs. Some of the extremists marched up to the dais and slapped Pastor Suttar, raising the oft-repeated but baseless charge of luring poor tribal peoples to convert to the Christianity.


“This attack took place despite an assurance on Friday, November 2, from state Home Minister R.R. Patil that the police would take action against attacks on tribals,” said Mathai, who is also general secretary of the All India Christian Council.


-Compass Direct News



Muslim extremists apologize for attack on Pakistani church

ISTANBUL – Muslims who attacked a Pakistani church and declared religious war against Christians from mosque minarets have apologized for their actions, human rights workers said. The threats included demands that Christians of Gowindh, a Punjabi village of 10,000, convert to Islam or “be prepared to fight or die.” Muslims ended their boycott against trading with the 300 Christians. This incident is the latest in a pattern of church attacks in which perpetrators apologize and avoid facing charges.

 -Compass Direct News

Could solution to Islamic extremism breed cynicism?

In an article headlined “Islam’s authority deficit,” the June 30 edition of The Economist opened with the following three paragraphs:

Governments worried by Islamist extremism ought to get the message: the only real answer lay in more Islam — deeper, sounder, more careful readings of the Muslim faith, from scholars who could use the weight of collective experience, accumulated over 14 centuries, to solve the dilemmas of life in the modern age.

Such, broadly, was the argument laid out in London recently by Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt, before a gathering of Islamic scholars and pundits. And his hosts took him seriously. The case for using scholarly Islam as a counterweight to the radical, hot-headed sort is familiar in the Middle East, but this time it won an unusually clear endorsement from a Western leader, Tony Blair.

In his parting thoughts (as prime minister, anyway) on Islam, Mr Blair lauded Jordan for its efforts to make the various legal schools of Islam respect each another and stop calling each other infidels. And just like Mr Gomaa, Mr Blair said how important it was to ensure that only qualified people could issue fatwas, or rulings on how to follow Islam in specific situations. Emboldened by his welcome, Mr Gomaaa offered to help Britain set up a post like his own: state-certified grand mufti.

I worry about Tony Blair’s role, not Ali Gomaa’s role, in the discussions and possibilities mentioned above.

Those possibilities are outstanding. My concern is that any perception of Western-influenced official Islam would breed cynicism among the more conservative elements in Islam as well as the extremists. Blair and Gomaa are wise men who realize something constructive must be attempted in our time. However, isn’t the nature of Islamic extremism, and even some especially conservative elements within the religion, to be suspicious of anything that might water-down the message? Will the attempt backfire?

-Colin Burch