Radio al-Shabaab: limited crossover appeal for a Western market


The lucky kids of Somalia are being given the chance to win a host of prizes if they enter a competition run by a radio station controlled by al-Shabaab. All you have to do is win a Quran recital contest.

If you were a child living under al-Shabaab, what would be top of your wish list? The occasional piece of food? Clean water? Better schools? An end to seeing your family being murdered or mutilated by thugs with guns?

Well, with the exception of murder and mutilation, the rest of those things aren’t exactly al-Shabaab’s bag. So, instead, the award for first prize is… a rifle and $700. Second place gets… a rifle and $500. Third place is somewhat disappointing – just two bombs and no money at all. Don’t despair though – all three winners get a selection of religious books.

Of the many things Somalia is lacking at present, insufficient amounts of guns and religion don’t seem to be obvious ones – and judging by the recent beheading of a Christian convert in Somalia, I’m going to speculate that these books aren’t going to be too big on interfaith dialogue.

This grotesque situation fits in with al-Shabaab’s overall modus operandi. They target recruits at a very young age, and are willing to pay them well to join. The group may have recently retreated from Mogadishu, but they still remain a huge threat to the entire region.

Further reading on Somalia and al-Shabaab:

  1. Today’s Washington Post
  2. Yesterday’s HJS strategic briefing

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