Divided Loyalties

Divided Loyalties

Young Somali Americans and the Lure of Extremism

by Joseph Weber

Published by: Michigan State University Press

230 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in

  • ISBN: 9781611863727
  • Published: September 2020

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Why do people join violent extremist movements? What attracts so many to fight for terrorist groups like al-Shabab, al-Qaida, and the Islamic State? Journalism professor Joseph Weber answers these questions by examining the case of the more than fifty Somali Americans, mostly young men from Minnesota, who made their way to Somalia or Syria, attempted to get to those countries, aided people who did, or financially backed terrorist groups there. Often defying parents who had fled to the United States seeking safety and prosperity for their children, many of these youths ended up dead, missing, or imprisoned. But for every person who went on or attempted this journey believing they were rising to the defense of Islam, more rejected the temptations of terrorism. What made the difference? The book takes a close look at one man from Minneapolis, the American-born son of a couple who had fled Somalia, who came dangerously close to answering the ISIS call. Abdirahman Abdirashid Bashir’s cousins and friends had taken up arms for the group and reached out to him to join them. From 2014 to 2016 he and a dozen friends—some still in their teens—schemed to find ways to get to Syria. Some succeeded. In the end, Bashir made a different choice. Not only did he reject ISIS’s call, he decided to work with the FBI to spy on his friends and ultimately to testify against them in court. Drawing on extensive interviews, Weber explains why.