Take some anti-jihadist courage and mix it with musical talent and what do you get? An Islamist-fighting hip hop group, apparently.
Enter Waayaha Cusub (which means "New Era" or "New Dawn"), an 11-member music group intent on battling the al-Shabaab terror group and its violent ideology.
The hip-hop collaboration, comprised of Somalis, Kenyans, an Ethiopian and a Ugandan, was founded by 29-year-old Shine Ali in 2004. Just three years ago, Ali was shot by members of the terrorist group after they broke into his home. According to the Waayaha Cusub founder, it was his anti-radical message that incited the attack.
While this would have been enough to stop most people from proceeding, Ali and his group members are intent on continuing their mission to encourage young people to sheer clear of involving themselves in jihad. "When they shot me, I knew that if I stopped the music, they would win but if I continued, my power would win," says Ali.
The group has produced several albums and caught some major attention for its 2010 song, "No to al-Shabaab." Waayaha Cusub's songs are recorded in Nairobi and they are disseminated on CDs, though the radio and on the Internet. Aside from their peaceful calls against the terror group, the Guardian reports that the musicians tackle other issues like AIDS and clan rivalry.
Here's the music video for "No to al-Shabaab":
But the price members pay for their brave stance is a hefty one. One singer -- a female -- who was slashed across the face a few years ago remains in hiding. As Ali has learned, the positive and uplifting message the band is trying to spread could cost the singers their lives.
Al-Shabaab controls a substantial portion of south and central Somalia. As we've reported before, the group enforces sharia law and has been responsible for beheadings and other forms of torture and murder. The al-Qaeda-linked terror group has vowed to purge Somalia of Christianity and seems intent on grasping power, no matter what methods are needed to accomplish the goal.
Currently, al-Shabaab is listed fourth on the U.S. State Department's "Foreign Terrorist Organizations" list. The group has been described as both violent and brutal, with the Department of State claiming that certain members have ties with the al-Qaida in Afghanistan. The following comes directly from State.gov:
Al-Shabaab has used intimidation and violence to undermine the Somali government and threatened civil society activists working to bring about peace through political dialogue and reconciliation. The group scattered leaflets on the streets of Mogadishu warning participants in last year’s reconciliation conference that they intended to bomb the conference venue. Al-Shabaab promised to shoot anyone planning to attend the conference and to blow up delegates’ cars and hotels.
For Ali, it's all about "awareness." The hip hop singer believes that education is key to stopping the radical ideology. "These youth have bad ideology. If we give them good ideology, talk to them about life, marriage, children…If we show them these things, we can stop them," he says. "You cannot fight someone who wants to die, you can only save them."