The rise of extremism in Somalia in the early 1990s, according to Sheikh Nur Barud Gurhan, the deputy chairman of Somali Association of Islamic Scholars, has perpetuated national instability and threatens the safety of the Somali communities. He argues that the form of instruction surrounding religious education accompanied by the political oppression of the Somali people has resulted in the rapid growth of militant extremism in Somalia, most notoriously perpetrated by al-Shabaab.
The primary issue to in addressing the propagation of extremism in Somali society is the ties that fanatic ideology has in education due to the false instruction of religion. It is necessary to analyze the complex interpretations of religion when faced with its use as justification for violence. A militant ideology was not paired with Islam in Somalia until foreign educated preachers carrying a fanatic ideology opened military training camps in the 1990’s. The use of extremist ideas as the one true knowledge has become the single narrative in the country. Rather than a following of public support, as many citizens once expressed, people are forced to abide by this radical mindset out of fear.
Through the establishment of religious schools, entitled al-Tadamun al-Islami, the Saudi Arabian government encouraged the spread of Wahhabi fundamentalism. Many of the foreign trained preachers that later returned to Somalia, many of whom taught in schools, had received their education in Saudi Arabia as well. Further, the external interventions only picked up force through the neighboring state support of violent leaders. This external pressure that was integrated into the institutions and structures of society has continued to promote the spread of extremism. For many countries like Somalia, colonial powers play a major role in society, post-independence. Which begs the questions: has Saudi Arabia replaced the Western colonial influence in Somalia with another form of neo-colonialism? Will a reformation of religious instruction hinder the propagation of extremism, when Al-Shabab maintains a stronghold over the country? If a reform were to occur encouraging the distribution of new books and new materials, how would the influences of extremist informal education be controlled?
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