25 Sep 2013

Al-Shabaab attacks and their effect on British Somalis

Africa Correspondent

British Somalis have been under pressure for years. Whenever an Islamist-related attack takes place anywhere they feel vulnerable. The Kenyan siege will add to their fear.

I went to east London to ask Somalis what they thought of the events in Kenya.

I found a community that was shocked and under pressure.

“I don’t know whether they are Somalis or not,” Said, Shawqi Ahmed. “But if they were Somalis I’m very ashamed to be honest of what they have done.”

But Nuuh Ali, though disagrees with al-Shabaab’s actions, he feels it’s a retaliation of what the Kenyans are doing in Somalia. “I think a lot of young men do join al-Shabab because of the allegations that Kenyan military are doing (killing and raping) to women and children in Somalia. However, I don’t think it’s correct what they did, even in Islam.””

Most Somalis I have met in east London condemned the attack but they also know they will be blamed for an event that, as far as they are concerned, had nothing to do with them.

In a nearby café, I met a group of community leaders. It’s not confirmed but there is speculation that British Somalis were involved.

Mohamed Ibrahim of London Somali Youth Forum, who has been working with British authorities to create a better understanding, believes that young men need help. He said: “I think when people are brainwashed, deluded and somewhat under-achieved in society, they are vulnerable to these sort of issues.”

Adam Matan of the Anti-Tribalism movement feels that al-Shabaab Somalis should not be blamed over al-Shabaab actions. He said: “Al-Shabaab is a global network, part of al-Qaeda and I think it’s unfair for the Somalis to be labelled as terrorist.

Even before the attack in Kenya, many young Somalis were regularly interrogated by the UK authorities. That experience is common amongst Somalis and it has been going on for years. UK border officials seem to target Somalis and I have experienced this, first hand.

Somalis in the UK have felt under siege for sometime. Some fear the attack in Kenya will cause more alienation and radicalisation.