Nairobi, Kenya — By 4 p.m. each weekday at this parking lot in the Nairobi suburb of Eastleigh, the cars clear out.
Volunteers lay down straw mats on the tarmac, and young men and women trickle in – sitting on separate sides – to listen to the daily teaching of Salim Ndenda, a local Islamic leader.
Here in the bustling neighborhood nicknamed Little Mogadishu for its large concentration of ethnic Somalis, Mr. Ndenda’s daily message to more than 500 youths in attendance – often sent by their own families – is of singular importance. It is one that will help prevent young men from radicalizing, or even worse, joining the ranks of Al Shabab fighters.
“We have to do this to give the youth the right teachings,” says Ndenda. “Wrong teachings may mean they end up in Somalia with Al Shabab.”
The topic of radicalization is a sensitive issue here, especially with the stigma that Somali-Kenyan communities serve as breeding and recruitment grounds for the extremist group. Few are willing to talk, often citing that they just want to go about their day-to-day.
But after the Kenyan government decided to offer full amnesty in April to Kenyan Al Shabab members who wanted to come back, residents here have been debating how they will be able to welcome their prodigal sons home.