Known as Mama Shabab

Remember Amal Farah on The Big Questions?

The Daily Mirror talks to her.

The police came to her door and told her her mother was a jihadist.

In the seven years since the two last saw each other, her mother had become a pivotal member of Al Shabab, the Somali jihadists ­behind the Westgate mall ­massacre in Nairobi.

Known as Mama Shabab, she ­allegedly ran a safe house for suicide bombers and Western fighters recruited into the militant Islamic organisation.

The police officers told Amal, 34, to Google her mother’s name if she wanted to know why she was in trouble.

So later on she did.

“There were all these ­pictures of people injured by ­suicide bombs.

“As I read about what she’d done I felt so alone. I couldn’t just turn to my colleagues and say, ‘Guess what? My mum’s a wanted terrorist .’

“I couldn’t believe my own ­mother was involved. I cried non-stop for days after that.”

Can you imagine it? I can’t…only the edges of it maybe.

At the age of six she was made to wear the hijab, a headdress.

When she was ten her family fled Somalia after being granted refugee ­status in Canada.

But any hope of a Western ­upbringing was quashed after she was enrolled in a strict Islamic school.

She said: “Suddenly I was wasn’t ­allowed to play with my male cousins. We weren’t allowed to listen to music. Anything that was deemed frivolous, anything that took you away from the ­importance of Allah, was forbidden.”

Everything good in life is forbidden, so that you can pay all your attention to something that isn’t there.

But she got out.

It was only when she began ­studying for a ­degree in molecular ­biology that a new world opened up.

“It was a ­revelation,” she said. “I met ­atheists, Christians, Jews, Hindus – they challenged me about my views, and I about theirs. It was an ­incredible sensation to be able to ­discuss ideas without fear.”

She felt in her heart that to be true to herself she could no longer call ­herself a Muslim.

Recalling the day she broached the subject with her family, Amal said: “My mum’s first words were, ‘You’re going to hell!’ Then my uncle flew over from Saudi Arabia and for three days I was locked in the house and forced to listen to him.”

It didn’t work, so her mother cut all ties, and then moved to Dubai. That’s the last time Amal saw her.

Then she married a Jewish man.

Death threats followed soon after.

She revealed: “It was frightening. I was sent death threats telling me to come back into Islam or else. I became paranoid. Leaving my house and going to work made me scared.”

Since finding out about her mother, Amal has become a member of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, ­speaking against radical Islam, and of One Law For All, a campaign group.

Her life now is one that she never thought she would have as a child.

She says: “All my dreams have come true. I have a wonderful family, an ­incredible husband and I just feel so ­fortunate. Sometimes I pinch myself. It’s the life I never thought I’d have.”

But she misses her sister. She also misses her mother, but doesn’t plan ever to see her again.


  1. Blanche Quizno says

    Almost as horrible as news that a relative has died. I’ve never been in either situation – is it worse to hear that a loved one has died, or that a loved one has committed a heinous crime – wittingly? It’s scarring, either way.

    She seems to have taken the only rational, life-affirming path in the wake of the revelation, though.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    her family fled Somalia after being granted refugee ­status in Canada

    This line leads one to the question: is there any practical way to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again?

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