I’m always tempted to think I’ve heard it all before, but this one stunned me … the UK’s Guardian reports …
An Islamist-backed radio station in Somalia has awarded assault rifles and hand grenades to the winners of a children’s Qur’an recital competition.
Andalus radio, which is run by al-Shabaab militia, said on Monday that the first prize was an AK-47 and £450. The runner-up received an AK-47 and £320, while the child who came third received two F1 hand grenades and £250. The three children also received religious books.
You might be tempted to think it is just anti-Islamic PR and did not actually happen. If only, but alas, it is sadly true, here (to the right) is a picture of the senior Islamist leader and spokesman Sheikh Mukhtar Robow presenting the awards in Elasha Biyaha, about 11 miles from Mogadishu. I’ve lifted it from their website here.
So who exactly are these folks? Well, they are formally known as Mujahideen Youth Movement or “Movement of Striving Youth”), more commonly, but grammatically incorrectly known as al-Shabaab (Arabic: الشباب, “The Youth”, “The Boys” or “The Lads”), and they are a group of Islamist militants fighting to overthrow the government of Somalia.
They are a truly unpleasant bunch, and have ben known for not only attacking aid-workers, but for also strictly enforcing Sharia. Direct international relief cannot take place, so supplies are flown or shipped into the country and distributed, wherever possible, through local relief workers, yet these insurgents routinely attack and murder even them.
What is chilling and also tragic to note is that many of the disturbing acts of violence (including beheadings and amputations and the pulling of gold fillings) are often committed by illiterate children rather than radical leaders. They also, as part of their policy, have persecuted others who do not adhere to their specific beliefs. This not only includes obvious targets such as Christians, but also Sufi Muslims because they have practices that conflict with Al-Shabaab’s strict interpretation of Sharia. This has led to confrontations with Sufi organized armed groups who have organized under the banner of Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a.
At first it might appear odd to be handing out weapons like this to teenagers, but when you consider that they have also systematically recruited children under 15 to fight for them, (source – Amnesty International), then the motivation for this becomes clear, it is all part of their recruitment policy. What is also shocking is that this is not a first, the Qur’an recital contest has been running for three years. Back in 2009 it was a similar story, prizes included hand grenades, anti-tank mines and an AK-47.
In summary, this is a prime example of what happens when religious fanatics gain the upper-hand and no other forms of authority exist to rein them in and tame them. It is truly bizarre when you realise that these folks are opposed to normal activities such as films, football broadcasts, and dancing at weddings, yet are quite happy to give out AK47 assault rifles and hand grenades to children as prizes for reciting religious texts. Most normal humans, with or without belief, would find that to be utterly abhorrent, yet in the minds of these fanatics, belief has overridden this to such a degree that they perceive this to be their way of serving their mythical god.
- Guardian Report
- Somali rebel website page with pictures
- Wikipedia page all about Al-Shabaab
- Jon Lee Anderson, Letter from Mogadishu, “The Most Failed State,” The New Yorker, December 14, 2009