On Mar. 30, Shabaab warned Somalis not to take the AstraZeneca vaccine for the coronavirus. The warning came in the form of a three–page statement, which was published in both Arabic and English. Instead, Somalis should rely on “black seed and honey,” because these are the “medications prescribed in the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet.”
Shabaab, which is al Qaeda’s East African branch, seizes on recent reporting concerning potential problems with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe. The group tells Somalis that this particular vaccine “does more harm than good and has an array of adverse side effects as illustrated by many health professionals and proven in medical researches around the world.”
Shabaab blasts Somalia’s government, described as the “apostate Somali regime,” for working with UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) to provide vaccinations. Indeed, the statement is clearly intended to undermine the Somali government’s legitimacy, portraying it as inept and wedded to international organizations that supposedly do harm to Muslims. By way of contrast, Shabaab holds itself up as a legitimate governing force.
For instance, the statement cites Shabaab’s “Office of Politics and Wilaayaat” calls on “all the Muslims of Somalia to reject the deadly Coronavirus vaccine.”
“Do not allow your children and family members to be used as guinea pigs in the race to develop a potent vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic,” this political branch of Shabaab says. The statement continues: “Do not allow your family to be used as subjects in the experimentation of the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a time when countless number of people have died and hundreds of others have developed severe adverse reactions, including the formation of blood clots, as a result of administering the vaccine.”
Shabaab also uses the reporting over AstraZeneca’s vaccine to reinforce its ideological animosity for the “disbelievers.” The group informs Somalis that they shouldn’t interact with or come near the “disbelievers,” because they not only spread the coronavirus, but “far worse diseases than the coronavirus pandemic, diseases that affect the heart, corrupt one’s religion and lead them towards hellfire.”
“Do not trust the disbelievers to benefit you in any way,” Shabaab warns.
The al Qaeda branch goes on to accuse international aid groups of conspiring against Muslims. “For more than three decades, UNICEF and WHO [World Health Organization] have overtly and covertly been involved in exacerbating drought, diseases and poverty in Somalia and other Muslim lands,” Shabaab alleges. “Therefore, the Muslims of Somalia should not expect any sentiments of altruism from the disbelievers and their organizations.”
Shabaab’s “Office of Politics and Wilaayaat” does inform its audience that it will let them know when a “safe and effective vaccination becomes available.”