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Somali Islamists Losing Support due to Brutality

“Al-Shabaab is the most hated group among Somalis.”

Washington D.C. (February 17, 2011)-Al-Shabaab, the Somali radical group in control of most of Somalia, is losing support among Somali Muslims due to its implementation of Sharia laws and banning of aid groups. Al-Shabaab enforces strict interpretation of Sharia law by stoning adulterers to death, cutting off the hands of thieves and murdering Christian converts from Islam.

One victim, Mu’awiye Hilowle Ali, a Somali Christian convert from Islam, was a church leader and father of ten children. Trained in the former Soviet Union, Ali had served his country as a member of the armed forces.  But after coming to Christianity in 2006, he became the “enemy.” According to strict interpretation of Islam, leaving Islam (apostasy) is considered treason and punishable by death.

Members of Somalia’s Islamic radical group, al-Shabaab, accused Ali and his family of spreading fitna (an Arabic word for religious discord) due to his Christian beliefs. Ali, however, refused to change his Christian faith. On March 23, 2010, members of Al-Shabaab fatally shot Ali. He was among the 23 Christians to be murdered by Al-Shabaab members since 2009.

Christians are not the only victims of Al-Shabaab. The Al-Qaeda affiliated organization has stoned Muslim adulterers to death, cut off the hands of thieves and taken similar other unpopular measures against Muslims. Al-Shabaab has banned over 20 aid groups from distributing relief to the millions of Somalis suffering from severe drought. Many Somalis have voiced opposition to these unpopular measures.

Because of these continued brutality, Al-Shabaab has suffered a massive loss of support among Somalis. This year alone, two big demonstrations were staged by Somalis denouncing Al-Shabaab’s violence.

Even Al-Shabaab’s leaders admitted that Al-Shabaab is losing support for mistreating Somalis.In a recent statement on a local radio senior al-Shabab Commander Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, said, “The reason the holy warriors have failed to emerge victorious against the infidels is largely due to the bad relationship between the public and al-Shabab. If we are stronger than the public, we should remember that Allah is also stronger than us… We need to fairly treat the people if we are to succeed.”

In a statement to ICC, a Somali church leader said, “Al Shabaab may think that the days of the Somali church are numbered but it is their days that are numbered. Now, Al-Shabaab is the most hated group among Somalis.”