Picking up on heightened tensions surrounding police brutality against Black communities and anti-Muslim violence in the U.S., al-Shabaab specifically targeted Black American Muslims in the group’s first official video of 2016.
The group encourages Blacks in the U.S. to convert to Islam because shari’a treats races equally, and that Black Muslims should leave the U.S. to live in a Muslim country or go elsewhere to fight violent jihad.
The video mends commentary from mid-20th century civil rights leaders such as Sunni convert Malcolm X with that of Anwar al-Awlaki and imagery from police brutality videos that have appeared with depressing consistency in recent years.
The biggest story in mainstream media was that al-Shabaab used video of a statement by leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for a ban of Muslim immigration to the U.S. until officials “can figure out what the hell is going on.“
In a prior debate, democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s claimed that ISIS — a rival jihadist group to al-Shabaab — was using Trump’s statement as a recruitment tool, so the video provided some sort of angle to confirm her suspicion while not validating her specific claim about ISIS’ use of Trump’s demagoguery.
In a more rational world, more U.S. politicians would see al-Shabaab’s exploitation of anti-Black and anti-Muslim violence as an opportunity to engage in a reality check on the dynamics of mass violence in the U.S.
But it is more likely that many politicians and law enforcement will take it as “validation” that the United States should increase surveillance among Muslim communities and continue the controversial use of paid informants that have appeared to create mistrust between locals and police.
Police Violence Versus al-Shabaab Violence
Just hours after al-Shabaab claimed it treated Black Muslims better than the U.S., a suicide bomber belonging to the killed several civilians and wounded others at the Village Restaurant, which has been targeted multiple times in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
The attack illustrates a shocking contrast in the rhetoric of al-Shabaab’s slick videos to its actual operations on the ground.
While al-Shabaab is often effective at navigating Somalia’s complicated clan politics, the group still has an unwieldy definition of which Muslims to spare in its attacks.
In Somalia, the group targets pro-ISIS militants, government officials, Salafists,and everyday citizens as evidenced by the Village Restaurant attack. But in Kenya, the group at times tries to spare Muslims in a way that the Ummah in Somalia are not afforded.
So, al-Shabaab’s offer of protection to Black Muslims — including White Jihadists who claim to be Black — in actuality covers a very small spectrum.
In addition, al-Shabaab’s suspicion of foreign Muslims who join the group — including Somali Diaspora — has increased in recent years as foreigners are increasingly viewed more likely to be spies, dissidents critical of al-Shabaab’s leadership, or ISIS sympathizers. This has caused an exodus of those who want to avoid being a victim of internal bickering.
Even an infamous Black Sudanese jihadist who joined al-Shabaab after killing an American official in Sudan and later escaping from prison in Khartoum was not offered any compassion before he was assassinated in December by al-Shabaab’s own militants, who suspected him to be an ISIS sympathizer.
Al-Shabaab’s treatment of its members is at such a low that its spokesperson Ali Dheere is allegedly feuding among other leadership over the ongoing purge and lack of dialogue with pro-ISIS militants, though Ali Dheere publicly has been one of the most outspoken critics of the pro-ISIS faction.
Overall, many of al-Shabaab’s claims about anti-Black violence in the U.S. are uncomfortable truths that many politicians and Americans are unwilling to admit or address. And yet, al-Shabaab has failed to resolve its hypocritical standing toward Black people.
Some notable quotes from al-Shabaab’s video are below:
“Despite the widespread myth of the United States being the land of freedom, liberty, and lasting hope, it’s in fact a land of injustice, intolerance, and institutionalized racism. For the African-American community in particular, the United States has always been a land of historical injustice, and a society founded upon racial bigotry.”
“Black people are often disproportionately targeted by law enforcement agencies and are subjected to racial profiling and police brutality. Such institutionalized racism manifests itself in the form of mass incarceration of young black men and the racial disparities of wealth and living conditions across the United States.”
“With racism deeply entrenched in every part of American society, the highly celebrated notion of the American dream has become for many African-Americans just that — a dream that will never materialize. For as long as you are Black, you will always be considered sub-human…to the White man, who’s determined to maintain a system of White supremacy.”
To the millions of oppressed Black people living in the United States, however, there is an alternative. That alternative is Islam. We invite you to a religion that guarantees you your rights…[where] neither the White has precedence over the Black, nor the Black over the White, except by virtue of faith…For Islamic shari’a is not based on a racist ideology, nor does it endorse a social hierarchy based upon biological differences.