Young Somali Muslims in Toronto drawn to activism

The Globe and Mail – September 23, 2011


Famine in their homeland has brought 20 young Canadian-Somalis together to walk 350 kilometres to reach the nation’s capital. They’re bonded by a common goal: to raise money and awareness for a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations estimates has killed tens of thousands of people and threatens, over the next four months, to starve to death 750,000 Somalis.

Walk for Somalia is one of several youth-driven groups that has formed in Toronto in response to the drought, violence and famine ravaging the African country. Long-time community leaders say they’re seeing an unprecedented level of engagement among young Canadian-Somalis, a spirit they hope will eventually be channelled into challenges facing other Somali youth in Toronto.

The UN has declared famine in six regions of south Somalia, which is mainly controlled by Islamist militants known as al-Shabaab. Toronto houses one of the largest Somali populations in North America and Europe. Canada’s official census pegs the Somali population at nearly 38,000, but the Canadian Somali Congress believes the figure actually stands around 200,000, with the majority residing in Toronto.

Somalia’s Religious Extremism Emerges in Canada

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Somalia’s independence, but there is little to celebrate.
Al-Shabab, which means The Youth, emerged from this bleak chaos in 2006. Human Rights
Watch says Somalis living under Al-Shabab control are subjected to grinding repression. The
impact of the conflict is felt in Canada, home to between 150,000 and 200,000 ethnic Somalis.
While extremist Islam has little appeal to most Somali-Canadians, some support Al-Shabab.
But Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, said while there was
once “quiet support” for Al-Shabab, that has evaporated due to the group’s conduct in Somalia
and the news reports, that young Canadians had been recruited.