Terrorism Part III: Al-Shabaab

Most Americans consider acts of radical Islamic terrorism a relatively recent problem. They aren't. In fact, America has been dealing with radical Islamists for over 200 years.

In this four-part series, we'll cover the beginnings of America's troubles with Islamic terrorism, specific terror groups like Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and ISIS, and why terrorism increases when nations fail to recognize its threat.

Terrorism Part III: Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab is a Somalian-based, radical terrorist cell with ties to al-Qaeda in the Middle East and possibly Boko Haram in Nigeria. They believe in violent Islamic militancy and boast a troop strength of between 7,000 to 9,000 militants.

In 2006, Al-Shabaab gained control over Somalia's capital city Mogadishu, raising the fear in Ethiopia that the group's violence would spill over into their country. So, in December 2006, the Ethiopian military launched an offensive into Mogadishu and successfully drove Al-Shabaab out of the city. Ethiopia's action inflamed the group, and Al-Shabaab attacked Ethiopia's forces in central and southern Somalia, taking control of those areas. Al-Shabaab's goal was to topple the Somalian government and replace it with Islamic rule and Sharia law.

One of Shabaab's most infamous attacks took place in 2013 in Nairobi Kenya's most upscale mall, which was owned at the time by Israelis. A group of Al-Shabaab terrorists stormed the mall, shooting patrons on a Saturday afternoon. At times, they asked their victims if they were Muslim. If the response was no, they were shot. In all, 67 innocent people died and 175 were wounded.

Strangely, Al-Shabaab's radical brand of Islamic extremism has proven appealing to certain Americans. Al-Shabaab recently used a spokesman for one of their propaganda videos who sounded suspiciously American. At the end of his rhetoric, to accentuate his point, he used a clip of Donald Trump.

Another radicalized American from the deep south --- Daphne, Alabama --- was Omar Hammami. He was raised southern Baptist by an Irish-American Baptist mother and a Syrian Muslim father. He was not a loner. He was elected president of his sophomore class in high school. He was bright and considered a leader among his classmates. He even dated one of the more popular girls in school.

However, after his father rediscovered his Islamic roots, Omar converted to Islam as a teenager. By his early 20s, he had become radicalized and later moved to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab. There he rose quickly through the ranks to the inner leadership circle.

Hammami eventually fell out of favor with Shabaab's leadership, who were offended by his attempts to gain fame through his music, which was forbidden by their brand of Islam. Finally, after several false alarms, Hammami, who now went by the name Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki --- "the American" --- was ambushed and killed by Al-Shabaab fighters.

Many other Americans still remain with the group in Somalia and Kenya, waging jihad, to this day.

Listen to the Full Series on Terrorism

Part I: Foundations of Islamic Terrorism

Part II: Boko Haram

Part III: Al Shabaab

Part IV: ISIS Success & Expansion

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!