Country Profile



The role of religion in the Somali independence and civil war periods rarely gets a hearing. Then and now, religion manifests both as cause and remedy of conflict. Warlords were the focus of 1990s debate and reporting is now dominated by the exploits of the militant group, Harakat al Shabaab. Both perspectives ignore the widespread influence, for good and for ill, of a broader number of Islamist groups.

1Somalia is a predominantly Muslim country where Islam has heavily influenced national identity and provided social cohesion, where weak government and civil war have fostered insecurity and the spread of militant groups.

2The Muslim Brotherhood played a positive role during the civil war through peace building initiatives and delivering aid. Its significance has since diminished with splits over military and political activity. Other Islamist groups crowd the political landscape and all have struggled to navigate the Somali clan system.

3Other Islamist groups currently oppose Al Shabaab. Although it is unable to hold significant territory and has suffered from internal division, it remains the most high profile organisation in Somalia. Islam thus remains crucial to both the continuation of the conflict, and the prospects for peace.

Situation Report

The role of religion in the Somali conflict has frequently been neglected, misunderstood or dismissed as irrelevant. Researchers have often preferred to focus on warlords, but religious actors have always been important, causing violence as well as establishing peace and creating forms of justice, delivering services and building educational institutions.

Religion has served to enhance Somali national identity in opposition to former colonial masters and to Ethiopia more recently, being used as a mobilising force against outsiders of a different religious identity. It has also facilitated forms of social capital, crucially aiding cooperation in a context where civil war and statelessness have broken down trust. This was most notable during the Somali civil war, but the history of religion in Somalia also shows how grassroots religion creates social order, and creates opportunities for innovative development by new religious movements.

  • Global Overview
  • 1. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: September 2016 44
  • 2. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: August 2016 55
  • 3. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: July 2016 35
  • 4. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: June 2016 55
  • 5. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: May 2016 47
  • 6. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: April 2016 50
  • 7. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: March 2016 57
  • 8. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: February 2016 40
  • 9. Violent Religious Extremism Incidents: January 2016 27
  • Extremism
  • Fatalities: Civilians: September 2016 17
  • Fatalities: Extremism: September 2016 168
  • Fatalities: Security Forces: September 2016 97
  • Groups: Fatalities caused by al-Shabaab: September 2016 132
  • Counter-Extremism
  • Counter-Extremism Incidents: September 2016 30
  • State Counter-Extremism: Arrests: September 2016 10
  • State Counter-Extremism: Statements: September 2016 1
  • State Counter-Extremism: Use of Force: September 2016 27