Somali Culture and Islamic Extremism

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After decades without a functioning national government, either their traditional clan leaders or local warlords have governed the people of Somalia. The lack of a national government and the following decades of turmoil have led Somali people to develop an identity that focuses on self and self-preservation. Since small clans have governed the people there has not been a higher power to settle disputes between clans or to provide services that the Transitional Government (TG) has failed to provide. In the early part of the century, Islamic extremist groups began to fill this gap. The groups were even able to control the majority of Mogadishu for a short period. These extremist groups aim to emplace an Islamic caliphate in Somalia and they will do so at the peril of the people. One of the extremist groups has been able to extend its reach outside Somalia and recruit from western nations. This organization has demonstrated a clear threat to American interests, not only abroad, but also within American borders.

To understand how these extremist groups came to power one must first examine the make up of the Somali identity. Somali people share the same core values of identity with American culture. The Tradoc Culture Center (2011) defines these two core values as self and family. The variation between the two cultures is that family in American culture refers to the immediate family. In Somali culture, it refers to the extended family. After family, clan is next for Somali's followed by religion. There is little to no national identity among Somali people. The decades of fighting and civil unrest in Somalia have led to this lack of national identity and the development of a self-preservation mind set among ...

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