‘Woe unto to You Evil Scholars’
Rhetorics of Religious Authority Delegitimization in a Jihadi Magazine in East Africa
In their struggle to win the hearts and minds of ‘vulnerable’ youth to get radicalized, sympathize with their ideologies and join their cause, the toughest challenge terror outfits in the Horn of Africa face are not necessarily combined military forces of regional countries but its Muslim religious leaders and institutions who not only condemn their propaganda but work with state and non-state agencies in countering violent extremism. As their main stumbling bloc, jihadi groups such as al Shabab go great length in otherizing national religious leadership and affiliated institutions as hypocrites who working with unbelievers, benefitting from unIslamic regimes and ‘crusading’ nations to the detriment of the umma. This customized delegitimization of religious authorities in Kenya was best captured by exclusive focus of Gaidi Mtaani’s (roughly translates as the urban terrorist) Issue no. 9, a Swahili language al Shabab online magazine released in October 2017 (Dhul Hijja 1438). This paper, while highlighting brief history of Kenyan youth cooption into al Shabab jihadi group, will explore rhetorics and politics of otherization and delegitimization as depicted in this Issue of Gaidi Mtaani. It posits that in a tactical move to win over the youth and further dent the authority of Muslim religious scholars, al Shabab as other jihadi groups oft do, rely in ahistorical rendering of Muslim-secular State relations, the role of Muslim leadership in such a State and extensive use of self-affirming reading of select verses of the Quran and vivid photographic depictions to convey their ideas. The paper will rely on extensive translation of Swahili to English of the themes captured in the Issue.
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