World Policy Review had a pretty good three part investigative series that delves into the question of why Somali-American youth in Minnesota would be susceptible to appeals to go fight in Somalia.
Here’s an excerpt from Part II:
For protection and justice, many young Somalis turn to gangs with names like the “Hot Boyz” and the “Somali Mafia.” Minneapolis community organizer Shukri Adan estimated in a report to the city that between 400 and 500 Somali youths are in gangs, according to the Associated Press.
What’s striking is the similarity between the Somali gangs and Shabab, which not coincidentally means “youth” in Arabic. Like the Somali gangs in Minneapolis, Shabab originally formed to defend innocent victims of violent crime, before evolving into the armed wing of an Islamic political movement from which it subsequently split. Today, the group mainly functions as a loose alliance of mercenaries, religious zealots, criminals and, yes, street gangs.
During our visit to Mogadishu in November 2007, city residents told us they feared the gangs more than they did any Shabab army, for the gangs would stop cars and steal drivers’ cash and cell phones. Over the years, Shabab has become what it once despised. So, too, have the Somali-American gangs. Formed to protect Somali youths from white violence, the Minnesota gangs are now suspects in a number of killings . . . of Somalis.
For young Somali-Americans already deep into gang culture, the step to joining a group that is, in essence, just a bigger, better-armed and more strictly religious gang, based in another country, is a short one.