Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Minnesota

The Latest News about Somalis in Minnesota.
Wararkii ugu danbeeyay ee Soomaalida ku nool gobolka Minnesoota.

Mary McKinley and Ahmed Amin of the nonprofit Heartland Democracy

Star Tribune

They have known each other barely a month, but their lives are linked by a shared story — the struggle to find a new identity in a new land.

One is a quiet, lanky Somali-American teen from Minneapolis, arrested by the FBI last fall and accused of trying to join a brutal terrorist group in the Middle East.

The other is a Somali-American schoolteacher who came to the United States when he was 12 without a hint of English on his tongue. He teaches history at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, where he’s the coach of a scrappy debate team and an eloquent instructor who shows his students the power of words to change minds.

Today, Abdullahi Yusuf and Ahmed Amin find their paths intertwined — drawn into an intensifying global terrorism fight through an unusual new experiment to see if radicalized Somali-American youths can be talked off the path of violence and extremism.

Amin and a team of religious scholars and teachers pulled together by Heartland Democracy, a Minneapolis nonprofit serving at-risk youths, have been assigned by a federal judge to mentor Yusuf, an 18-year-old who, like the six young men arrested on conspiracy charges last week, stands accused of trying to leave the United States to be a terrorist. U.S. District Chief Judge Michael Davis diverted Yusuf to the Heartland project in what is thought to be a first for the federal court system in a terror case.

“Someone’s life is on the line,” said Amin. “Many [of the accused] are great kids, but kids who are lost. It’s for us to help them discover who they are — and not who they are told they are by being brainwashed.”

With Minnesota thrust again into the international struggle against Islamist violence, Amin and his colleagues also find themselves walking a path that could lead to a new form of justice in such cases.

“This is all new territory for us,” said Mary McKinley, Heartland’s executive director.

Yusuf came to the attention of federal investigators in the Twin Cities last spring, when he applied for an expedited passport but couldn’t answer basic questions about his plans to travel to Istanbul. He would be the first of nearly a dozen young Somali-Minnesotans now caught up in a yearlong federal grand jury investigation. The FBI placed him under surveillance and, a few weeks later, stopped him as he tried to board an overseas flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

From the first, Yusuf showed signs that his life could be redeemed. An FBI agent testified that, after Yusuf was stopped at the airport in May, he ceased associating with other suspects in the terrorism investigation. Considered low-risk, he was an ideal candidate for Heartland Democracy’s new effort.

After Yusuf was arrested and charged, in November, Davis made it clear that he was keeping him on a short tether. He ordered Yusuf to wear a GPS-tracking ankle bracelet and to check in frequently with probation authorities after his first court appearance.

Yusuf, then a student at Inver Hills Community College, didn’t disappoint the judge. Around the time Davis was considering the Heartland diversion project, Yusuf’s GPS unit went off randomly. “Call Officer now,” it read. The young man was in a philosophy class and didn’t have his cellphone — it had been confiscated by the FBI.

“He ran home 2 miles to call his probation officer,” an attorney wrote in her argument to show Yusuf was a good candidate for diversion.

After pleading guilty last winter, Yusuf was assigned to a halfway house.

Living in two worlds

Amin and his colleagues are forbidden to discuss their conversations with Yusuf. Nevertheless, the case is producing powerful insights into the minds of young Somali-Americans who present a deep and troubling puzzle.

When they confronted him at the Twin Cities airport, agents asked Yusuf whether his parents knew where he was going. He said he had told them he was “Gonna be gone for a while.” Asked whether his father knew where was, Yusuf replied, “I don’t think he cares.”

Then, at some of the first meetings documented by Heartland in court filings for Yusuf’s case, he shared more intimate pain, exposing exactly the kind of wounds that Heartland wants to try to mend.

Yusuf described living parallel but separate lives — by night an obedient son of Somali refugees, by day an American high school student who enjoyed the freedoms and pleasures of a secular society — customs unimaginable in his family’s homeland.

“It’s like we young people live in two different worlds,” he explained. “We go to school, we speak English, we are American. And we go home and when we walk in the door it’s like walking into a different country.”

At home, he added, “It’s like Somalia, and our parents are very worried about what’s going on there.”

Amin sees Yusuf and his generation as “the hybrids.” Some, he said, have embraced the life of an American teen. Others remain suspicious of what can still seem a strange culture.

“I work in a school where there are kids who have not bought into America,” Amin said. “It’s almost as if you have to sell them the idea that there is a good life that America affords you. We have to implore them. I read where one of the defendants said he was through with America and wanted to burn his ID. Well, if you don’t have the role models, that’s what can happen.

“These are the kids trying to figure it out,” Amin continued. “The ‘right’ question to start asking is not just about being a Somali-American and embracing this country and democracy. It’s ‘What does it mean to be a Somali-Muslim-American?’ ”

Amin is confronted by Somali parents who don’t want their daughters to read certain books; he leaves school at day’s end knowing that all the energy he put into “trying to explain that the Constitution is a living document” will likely fall by the wayside in some students’ homes.

“What is being taught in the home?” he asked. “What are the attitudes? Civic education about embracing this country and democracy, does that match up at home?”

Of the more than 20 Somali-Minnesotans in the first wave of departures, who left to fight in Somalia, roughly one-third had — like Amin himself — attended Roosevelt.

Good kids, bad choices?

Mary McKinley is a realist. A veteran of civic nonprofits such as the Open Society Institute and the Aspen Institute, she returned to Minnesota five years ago after a long career overseas and in Washington, D.C. She bristles at any suggestion that she’s merely, as she puts it, “the bleeding heart liberal” out of touch with reality. She knows her organization’s curriculum — civic engagement for at-risk youths — is not going to work for many of the people who are charged with terrorism.

In January correspondence to the U.S. Public Defender’s Office in Minneapolis, whose attorneys were representing Yusuf, McKinley was blunt.

“Make no mistake: We realize this would be an experiment, a pretrial release program unlike any other, especially in dealing with the ISIL threat and the counterterrorism efforts that are the focus of the FBI, the U.S. Attorney and the White House.

“This community has been the victim of benign neglect and we know the consequences,’’ she added. “Youth involved in violence, gangs, drug use and trafficking, high rates of poverty, extremely high unemployment rates, and now terrorism.”

In an interview last week, McKinley elaborated.

“I don’t use the term, ‘de-radicalization.’ Our program works with young people to connect with themselves, their community and their world. We believe that when young people make bad choices — some extremely bad choices — there’s still an opportunity to turn your life around.”

Members of Minnesota's Somali community rallied at the Capitol Saturday, in support of the families of the men accused of trying to join ISIS in Syria. Euan Kerr | MPR News

 ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO)

Dozens of local Somali families gathered at the State Capitol Saturday afternoon, calling for the release of six terror suspects.

They’re calling for the government to stop what they see as attacks against them, and say the suspects were set up.

Six local Somalis were charged this week with trying to leave the country to join the terrorist group. These four men were taken into custody in Minneapolis a week ago. Two others were arrested in San Diego.

Federal agents also arrested Mahamed Said for allegedly making threats on Twitter in response to the arrests. One tweet from his account said if the men weren’t freed, there would be a “massacre.” Another message said “Best believe I’m gonna kill for those guys if they don’t free my brothers.”

The leadership and families at Saturday’s rally denounced any retaliation because of the arrests and asked for the public to hold judgment until their sons are found guilty or not guilty.

About 100 people turned out at the State Capitol, including three mothers of four of the men arrested. One of them made remarks saying she doesn’t believe her sons are terrorists.

A Somali community advocate says the community has agreed to peacefully protest the government and the confidential informant prosecutors built much of their case around.

Abdullahi Salim helped lead the protest. He says he’s a friend of all the arrested suspects, and can’t believe they could be involved.

“I grew up here with them,” Salim said. “I was not expecting them to be criticized as terrorists.”

Salim also says the suspects’ character was never in question for him.

“These guys are really, really, really helpful guys,” he said. “Whenever you need help, they’re the first guys you call for help.”

Community organizers say they want to sit down with lawmakers and talk about programs to help Somali youth prosper and not be drawn into recruiting.

Amran Farah, right, offers advice about individual rights and police interactions. MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi

MinnPost

Late last week, scores of immigrants filled the seats of the dimly lit conference room in the Minneapolis Brian Coyle Center as a group of lawyers addressed the crowd about their legal rights when it comes to police interactions. 

Local leaders of the North American Somali Bar Association brought their second educational eventsince its launch in January to the immigrant-populated Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to educate the community about their constitutional rights and responsibilities when dealing with authorities. 

Among the presenters was Amran Farah, a Minneapolis attorney and an NASBA member, who spoke to a crowd of more than 50 people about possible scenarios of a legal encounter with law enforcement. 

If an officer pulls over a driver, Farah explained to the crowd, that driver is being seized under the Fourth Amendment.  “It’s a seizure when a police officer has flashing lights on, and in that way, you feel like you’re duty bound to submit to that authority.”

She added: But “you’re not seized when an officer merely approaches you in a public place. If an officer just walks up to you and starts a conversation, you’re not seized.” 

At a time when a deep distrust exists between many police departments and many communities of color nationwide, Farah accentuated that an officer cannot legally stop someone because of the person’s skin color.

She said of the officers: “They have to be able to point to any traffic violation. They can’t just point to the fact that you’re black or you look suspect. They need specific and articulable facts that, taken together, builds this reasonable inference that it’s OK for them to stop you.” 

All that said, Farah explained, it’s easy for an officer to stop a driver for a simple traffic violation: Your break lights are out. You turn right or left without signaling. You’re not wearing your seatbelt.

The “Interacting With The Police: Learn Your Rights” forum also highlighted the complaint process with the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights and provided instructions on how people with a criminal history can expunge their records.

The Friday forum came a couple of days after a Minneapolis officer was caught on camera seeming to threaten to break the leg of a black teenager and after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man in South Carolina.

At the event, some side conversations referenced those incidents while discussing the day’s presentations. Abdifatah Mohamed, NASBA member and student at William Mitchell College of Law, said in an interview later that the event was a response to the police violence across the nation

Mohamed added: “What we wanted to convey was that the police don’t have complete powers to behave and do whatever they want. At the end of the day, as citizens of this country, we have some protections and we have some rights — and it’s important that we understand those rights so the police don’t abuse that.”

Participants applauded NASBA for creating the opportunity to answer their legal questions and educating them about their rights and responsibilities.

Burhan Mohumed, a longtime Minneapolis youth advocate, said growing up in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, he realized that many people in the community don’t know much about their constitutional rights. 

He added: “Our parents and elders genuinely believe that a police officer can do whatever he wants. It’s powerful when you look at the constitution and when you can look at all the amendments over time sort of protecting the individual, protecting the citizen.” 

Advice on police interaction 

Behind the forum’s educational discussions and legal presentations one common message lingered: Stay alive.

After a long discussion about whether it’s encouraged to record an interaction with the police, Mohamed concluded the discussion with one piece of advice. “General rule of thumb: be polite.” 

He added: “There’s a Minnesota case that said you can record, but it’s in your best interest to be polite when you’re interacting with the police.”

From his seat in the audience, Minneapolis Police Department Officer Abdiwahab Ali joined the discussion: “If you give a police officer the distance to do his job, you can record it.” But the recording shouldn’t distract the officer from his or her job, he added.

Mohumed, the youth advocate, explained how each incident relating to a police shooting reminds the youngsters to be cautious about how they talk, walk or dress.  “There are so many things that I need to adjust just to walk out of that interaction alive,” he said.

And he had a similar message for the young immigrants: “Do what you need to do to walk out of that situation in one piece.”

'I don't believe he was going there. He is a good kid,' says mother of one of the accused despite claims by authorities that they 'never stopped plotting' to get to Syria

The Independent

They barged into her house, told her and her family to get out and handcuffed her husband, albeit briefly. Exactly why the FBI were in her home, Farhiyo Mohamed couldn’t fathom. What she did know, though, was her eldest son, Abdirahman Daud, had been missing since the previous day. The answers, when they did come, left her distraught and baffled – a state she remains in today. Her 21-year-old son was no longer in Minneapolis. He had driven non-stop to San Diego where, along with another young Somali man, he had been taken into custody.

Four other men, also young Somalis, had simultaneously been arrested here in Minneapolis. Their alleged crime: attempting to fly to Syria to fight alongside Isis.

For the Somali community here – the largest in America – it was profoundly shocking.

By Monday, Andy Luger, the US Attorney for Minnesota, was before the cameras describing what had been a 10-month investigation of the six men, all aged between 19 and 21. Over those months “they never stopped plotting” to get to Syria, he said. They did so despite three of the six suspects being intercepted while trying to board a plane at JFK in New York last November.

Then, they were given a warning by the FBI and sent back to Minneapolis. The five defendants with Ms Mohamed’s son are Guled Ali Omar, 20; brothers Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21, and Adnan Abdihamid Farah, 19; Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19; and Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19.

For the Federal authorities, who tracked the men with help from another in their group who had turned informant, the arrests are both a success and a warning siren. Those trying to travel from the US to join Isis are eclipsed by Europeans. But it is happening. So far this year, 25 people have been detained. And there are fears that those who successfully make the journey, might one day return to strike at the US heartland.

Last week saw the arrest of another Somali man, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, in Columbus, Ohio. He allegedly joined an extremist group in Syria and returned to the US after a cleric there instructed him to carry out a terrorist attack on US soil. But authorities are concerned above all, about Minnesota.

Each night this week, members of the Somali community – they number 70,000 in and around Minneapolis – have gathered at the Brian Coyle Community Centre on the south side, including some of the mothers and siblings of the arrested men, to ponder their plight. They came with a shared sense of disbelief, even anger. What the authorities contend, can’t be right,  they said.

“I don’t believe he was going there [to Syria],” Ms Mohamed, 40, insisted on Wednesday, her own mother at her side. Her son, who was born in a Kenyan refugee camp that was her home for years before arriving here in 2003, was studying to be a dentist’s assistant at a community college and was working full time to help the family financially.

“I am in shock,” she added. “He is a good kid, I don’t think this is what happened. He wanted to get married.” She said she saw no sign of his having turned against the country that had become the family’s home. She had  had no inkling of anything of the kind.

As she talked, a group of young Somali students were making banners for a demonstration outside the courthouse where the four men arrested here were due to appear for a hearing. “Free our Brothers, Know our Struggles, Stop the Tears of our Mothers,” one read. Many said they were friends with the men and had gone to school with them.

“They are students, just like us. Our brothers are not involved, this is entrapment,” complained Zaini Sharif, 21, echoing a suspicion that has taken hold in the community – that the unidentified informant tricked the men into making their plans so that an example could be made of them now.

Such deep distrust runs exactly counter to the authorities’ proclaimed aim of outreach to Muslim communities. Minneapolis, Boston and Los Angeles are the sites of three pilot programmes announced by the federal government in February to find ways better to detect and prevent the radicalisation of vulnerable young men long before they vanish to fight for overseas terror groups.

But the “Counter Violent Extremism” initiative, which is barely off the ground here, has run into resistance from some who worry that  law enforcement will use it to gather intelligence at the same time – spying on young Muslims.

Benjamin Fribley, development manager at the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, meanwhile, worries that in any event the government has been delinquent about taking the need for de-radicalisation seriously. “There are at least two parts of this delinquency,” he said. “An unwillingness to recognise the impact of the US actions in the world which have created political grievances in these kids; and an inability to see that they don’t feel integrated or part of American society. Combine the two and it’s extremely volatile.”

The criminal complaint against the men released on Monday includes some snippets of conversations between them allegedly taped by the informant. “The American identity is dead,” Mohamed Abdihamid Farah is claimed to have said to his friends. “Even if I get caught, I’m whatever… I’m through with America. Burn my ID.”

A middle sister of the Farah brothers, who withheld her name, said she didn’t know if they “were happy or unhappy”, but speculated they “had been preyed upon”, including by the propaganda videos put out by Isis on the internet. “They give a sense of false prosperity, these videos,” she said. “They are exploiting their insecurities. I don’t think they understood the consequences.”

Was she cross with them? “Super cross,” she replied. “Now they will be stripped of the rest of their lives.”

Friends greet Abdi Rashid, a brother of one of the accused men, outside the Minneapolis courthouse where detention hearings took place Thursday. PHOTO: ACKERMAN + GRUBER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Wall Street Journal MINNEAPOLIS

After fleeing war-torn Somalia and languishing for years in a Kenyan refugee camp, Farhiyo Mohamed says her family felt blessed to start a new life in the U.S. in 2003. “We came to this country looking for peace,” she said.

That sense of peace was shattered when federal agents banged on her door in south Minneapolis on Sunday following the arrest of her oldest child, Abdulrahman Daoud, in San Diego. Her 21-year-old son was allegedly en route to Syria to join Islamic State, or ISIS.

Mr. Daoud is now part of a federal case that involves six young men, one of the largest groups of would-be foreign fighters so far charged by U.S. authorities with conspiring to support a terrorist organization. Their arrests came amid intensified efforts to investigate terrorist recruitment that has heightened scrutiny of Somali-Americans.

Four of the young men appeared in federal court in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday. Mr. Daoud was scheduled to appear in San Diego federal court Friday for a detention hearing, but the judge agreed to a request from his lawyer to delay it until April 30. The second man arrested in San Diego, Mohamed Farah, is set to be in court Friday for a detention hearing.

“I am shocked because my son is a good kid,” said Mrs. Mohamed, 40 years old, as she spoke with a reporter late Wednesday at a community center here frequented by Somali youth and women.

While she expressed disbelief and heartbreak over her son’s alleged intentions, some Somali-American youngsters who said they attended high school with Mr. Daoud voiced outrage, suggesting law enforcement had framed the six men to intimidate their community.

Mrs. Mohamed said that she and her husband, who works with elderly Americans at an adult center, had no inkling that her son might have been lured to Syria by extremists.

“I don’t believe my son was going” to join a terrorist group, she said, her round face framed by a purple hijab. “Maybe someone brainwashed him,” she said. “I don’t know.”

Mr. Daoud and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah had driven to California from Minneapolis together, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents said, aiming to travel to Mexico and then on to Syria. Four other men—Adnan Farah,Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, Hanad Mustafe Musse and Guled Ali Omar—were arrested in Minneapolis.

Mrs. Mohamed said her son wasn’t planning to leave Minneapolis for good. He had a girlfriend who he had intended to marry soon, she said, and he had been apartment hunting.

Her son had been studying to be a dental technician at a local community college, she said. She explained that he recently had taken a break to work full time in order to earn money to pay back some loans before returning to complete his studies, she said.

His wages helped their family make ends meet, she said. Asked what work her son did, Mrs. Mohamed couldn’t answer specifically, saying only: “big company.”

In contrast to Mrs. Mohamed’s weary tone, defiance was the dominant sentiment among dozens of Somali high school and college students who gathered nearby at the community center, where they participate in activities such as sports and after-school tutoring. One after another, the young men said that Mr. Daoud and the other five men arrested were innocent.

“They are regular people who worked, went to school,” said Zack Yusuf, 19, among several who said he had attended high school with them. “You would see them around.” He said that he had played sports with the men and that they had never spoken about Islamic jihad or expressed extremist views. Law enforcement, one said, wanted to “trap” their friends.

The FBI in Minnesota says it is investigating “numerous individuals” who have attempted or successfully traveled to Syria to join Islamic State.

On the eve of Thursday’s detention hearing for the four Minneapolis suspects, several dozen young men and women were preparing posters they planned to hoist in their support at the courthouse.

“Free Our Brothers, Know Our Struggles. Stop the Tears of Our Mothers,” read one. Another said, “One Nation. One Religion. One Community. #WeAreNotAlone.”


After Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Daoud’s 18-year-old brother, Abdi Rashid, said the case against his brother amounted to “entrapment.” “They set him up for failure,” he said.

More than 100,000 Somalis have come to the U.S. since the 1990s as refugees. The Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area is home to the largest Somali community, numbering about 75,000 immigrants and U.S.-born children, according to independent estimates.

Like other refugees, before Somalis are allowed to travel to the U.S., they undergo security checks that can take several years. On arrival, they are received by resettlement agencies hired by the State Department to help them find housing, learn English and secure jobs, among others.

“We see the U.S. as a country that gave us a second chance,” said Sadik Warfa, who heads the Global Somali Diaspora in Minneapolis, a nonprofit group.

However, experts familiar with such communities say, rifts can develop between U.S.-born or U.S-raised children and their parents, who often arrive with little education and have difficulty learning English and the ways of their new home.

Many youngsters are caught between their old and new worlds. The stress of making ends meet and lack of knowledge of the U.S. make it especially difficult for parents to keep a grip on their children, advocates say.

“The kids born here are more assertive,” said Mr. Warfa. “They want what John, Kate and other American kids have.”

Their frustration and feeling of alienation can compel them to find an identity and a sense of belonging in an extremist group, he said, much like some other disaffected youth join gangs.

A few years ago, some Minnesota Somalis were enticed to join Al Shabab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia. Now, ISIS appears to have become a draw for some.

Mother of five children, ranging in age from 4 to 21, Mrs. Mohamed said that she had noticed her son’s recent absence and asked neighbors and friends whether they had seen him.

When agents showed up, they handcuffed her husband and 18-year-old son. Her family, including her elderly mother, had to stand outside while they searched the house, she said.

Before leaving, they gave her a number to call for information about her son. They were told he was “safe,” she said.

Asked if she believed her son loved the U.S., she responded: “Yes, he was happy here.”

Star Tribune Newspaper

MPR NEWS

On today’s Star Tribune op-ed page, former senator Norm Coleman took a one-sentence point — we need to figure out how people get so disaffected here that joining a terrorist organization seems like a logical choice — and expanded it to several paragraphs that offered no significant roadmap for doing so.

Coleman took a veiled shot at Gov. Mark Dayton, who said essentially the same thing on Wednesday that Coleman wrote today.

“I think we need to do a better job, all of us, in providing a lot of good reasons for young Somali youth to see their better future here in Minnesota,” Dayton said on Tuesday.

But it’s the headline of the piece that’s particularly shocking, one that presumably wasn’t written by Coleman.

It’s a familiar construct. Who hasn’t seen some variation of the “Land of 10,000″ cliche before?

But by using it against a smaller headline linking Somalis with terrorism, it suggests that thousands of Somalis here are potential terrorists. That, coupled with Coleman’s lack of substance, delivers an offensive — and we hope: unintended — message.

“We’re certainly not the villains many of you make us out to be,” a Somali commenter on Coleman’s op-ed said.

While Coleman is correct — we have to understand what attracts people to terrorism — the headline provides the worst possible innuendo: “because they’re Somalis.”

Coincidentally, on an opposite page, a letter to the editor offers a better starting point for the discussion in a fraction of the number of words.

That letter responded to one yesterday, which in turn was responding to Gov. Dayton’s comments in the aftermath of the arrests of six people in a federal terrorism probe on Monday.

Coleman recommended a task force study the situation, hardly an innovative idea.

Ayan Farah, the mother of two young men charged with trying to join the terror group ISIS, photographed Tuesday, April 21, 2015, at the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis.

MPR News

One by one, the Somali women filtered into an office of the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis to tell their stories. Each appeared exhausted. One hadn’t slept in days.

Their sons were among six men arrested in a major counterterrorism sweep Sunday and charged by federal authorities with trying to join ISIS, one of the cruelest terrorist groups in the world. Now the three Twin Cities mothers find themselves grappling with an unimaginable future in the United States.

“My life has turned upside down,” said Ayan Mohamed Farah, who has two sons facing terror-related charges. “I am a mother who came here to seek peace.”

In interviews with MPR News, the mothers say they depended on their first-born sons to be the bedrock of their families. Instead, the young men face years or even decades in prison if convicted.

Four of the men charged will appear in federal court in St. Paul at 9 a.m.

ISIS has lured American fighters from across the United States to the battlegrounds in Syria. The group has had the most success in Minneapolis, luring recruits from families who sought a better life in the United States.

But the three mothers say they can’t believe their sons were headed down that path.

Farhiyo Mohamed, a soft-spoken woman who wore a blue hijab that framed her face, remembered her son Abdirahman Daud leaving their Minneapolis home Friday. She noticed he left his cellphone behind. He didn’t come home that night.

That was bizarre, she recalled, because he dutifully took care of his younger siblings and had a job.

“He was an active and obedient son. He regularly used to call me and was involved in helping raise the children,” Mohamed said. “It then dawned on me that my son was missing. And no one called me [to say] whether he is dead or alive. I did not eat for days.”

Before he left, 21-year-old Daud told his mother he wanted to marry a woman and planned to go to Chicago to meet his future father-in-law.

But federal prosecutors say Daud and two friends instead drove to San Diego to buy fake passports in hopes of using them to travel to Syria and enlist with ISIS. Daud had no idea one of his friends in the car was an informant for the federal government, and that a man who was to supply the passports was working undercover for the FBI.

Daud was arrested in California on Sunday. His mother said the FBI also descended on her home in Minneapolis that day. They handcuffed her husband and her other son, who is 19.

It wasn’t the first time the FBI had paid her family a visit. Mohamed said prosecutors twice subpoenaed her son to appear before a grand jury and federal agents had come to her house several times before, asking for help with the investigation. Their encounters with the family give a clue into how the FBI might have persuaded the seventh man, once a conspiring ISIS recruit, to change course and become a cooperating witness.

“They came to us and told us, ‘Would you work with us?’” Mohamed recalled. “We told them we don’t work with anyone. They also talked to my son and they told him, ‘We want you to work with us.’”

Mohamed said she asked the agents if the family had done anything wrong, and the agents said no.

Another of the women, Ayan Mohamed Farah, is coping with the fact that two of her sons are facing charges. She first learned about her 21-year-old son’s desire to leave the country about 10 months ago.

“Three or four FBI officers came to my house and asked me, ‘Where is Mohamed? Where is your son?’” she said. “I told them, ‘You are asking me about someone who is an adult.’ I told them I don’t know where he is.”

Prosecutors say last November, Mohamed Farah took a Greyhound bus to New York with three other men in hopes of catching planes that would help them get to Syria. That plan was foiled when agents intercepted them at the airport. But five months later, federal authorities say, Mohamed was on last weekend’s cross-country road trip to San Diego to buy the fake passports.

For Ayan Mohamed Farah, it is hard to comprehend that federal agents would be interested in her eldest son. The family has lived in the United States for 23 years.

“I’m a mother who’s raising seven children in this country. My sons did well in high school,” she said. “I was hoping that they would finish universities. They never became drug dealers or anything related with gangs. They have never been in jail. I have raised them in a beautiful life.”

Still, Ayan Farah said the FBI’s scrutiny of her oldest son compelled her and her husband to hide their younger son Adnan’s passport after they discovered it in the mail. Ayan Farah is quoted in the criminal complaint as saying they confiscated the passport because they were afraid 19-year-old Adnan would disappear.

Adnan remained determined to leave the United States, according to the criminal complaint. In recent weeks, authorities say, he joined his brother Mohamed in discussions about traveling to Syria using the fake passports. Agents scooped up Adnan on Sunday at their home, his mother said.

“They told me to sit down on a chair,” she recalled. “My heart beat very fast. I got scared. They brought all the adults from upstairs to the living room with pistols pressed at their heads.”

FBI officials declined to comment about the agents’ interactions with the families, other than to say said the arrests were handled professionally. Authorities have consistently said they’re committed to stopping the flow of American fighters for terrorist groups overseas.

While they said there’s no evidence these young men planned to cause harm in the United States, that scenario is what worries federal investigators.

Ironically, just three days before the arrests, Adnan Farah, Ayan Mohamed Farah’s younger son, introduced his parents to the woman he planned to marry. The couple had set a date in May. Ayan Farah said the family’s festive mood turned into heartbreak over the thought of losing two sons to prison.

She also lamented that the problem of terrorism recruitment in Minnesota — which started eight years ago when young men started to enlist with the group al-Shabab in Somalia — continues to fester.

“From now on, the community and families should work together so as to save our children,” she said. “People have been ignoring this problem for so long.”

Somali-American community members in Minnesota say many parents are at a loss about whom to turn to if they suspect their children are flirting with violent ideology. Robust efforts to rehabilitate these young people are needed, said Kassim Busuri, education director of Minnesota Da’wah Institute in St. Paul.

“Mosques, community members, and community organizations need to get out and campaign to say that we’re here to help and we can do interventions,” he said. “But right now, I’m pretty sure everyone does their own program, and some families don’t know where to go. It’s a mess.”

The three mothers this week turned to Mohamud Noor, who runs the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. Noor said at this stage, he can only offer the parents emotional support and help them navigate the legal process.

But he wishes he could do more. “I haven’t seen anyone step up to say, ‘How can we help you address challenges faced by these young people? We talk about resources, and we can put more into law enforcement. But what about the intervention process?”

Another despondent mother is Ayan Abdurahman. Her 19-year-old son, Zacharia Abdurahman, is accused of taking the bus to New York with hopes of traveling to Syria from there. Abdurahman can’t believe the charges against her son, who was studying information technology at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

“As much as I knew him as a parent, he was a straight-laced boy,” she said. “I’ve not seen him doing anything wrong. His schedule was between work and school. And the rest, he was helping me with the children.”

For Somali-Americans like Abdurahman, the losses are too many to count. She fears for family members in her homeland who are being terrorized by vicious attacks from the group al-Shabab. And now she has to confront the allegation that her own American-born son wanted to become a terrorist.

“Twenty days ago, al-Shabab killed my niece who graduated from college. We have a problem on that front,” Abdurahman said. “On the other hand, we are losing our educated sons, our future. We are losing them for no reasons after they are being brainwashed, and that’s the biggest problem.”

United States Attorney Andrew Luger, right, and FBI special agent Richard Thornton explain the criminal complaint charging six Minnesota men with terrorism at a news conference in Minneapolis, April 20, 2015.

VOA

The families of six Somali-American men arrested for allegedly planning to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State militant group deny the accusations.

The men have been charged with conspiracy and attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization.

The mother of two of the men, Mohamed Farah and Adnan Farah, said she knew nothing of the accusations until the FBI raided her home Sunday to detain one of her sons.

“Until now I don’t know about the charges. The FBI raided our house, they held pistols at us, they herded us in the living room and then they asked us about Mohamed and Adnan,” Ayan Farah said in an interview with VOA’s Somali news service.

“Our children lived in a beautiful life, with their mother and father and no problems. This is a new problem that we are facing. I don’t believe my children support those groups,” Ayan Farah said.

Six arrests

Prosecutors said the six men, all between 19 and 21 years old, are friends and acquaintances. Four of them were arrested Sunday in Minnneapolis, while two others were arrested Sunday in San Diego.

Hodan Ali Omar echoed Ayan Farah’s doubts. She said the arrest of her brother Guled Oma, was “unjust and a set-up.”

Omar said her brother is a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College who performs his prayers and is “straight and never gets involved in gang and drug activities.”

Asked if she was aware of his plans to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group, she said her brother is an adult and people like him travel.

“I travel … my schoolmates travel. I never suspect that he wanted to travel to Syria to join ISIS,” she said, using another name for the Islamist group.

The other three men arrested were identified as Abdirahman Daud, Hanad Musse and Zacharia Abdurahman, all from the Minneapolis area.

Efforts to join IS

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said the men worked for 10 months to leave the United States and join Islamic State.

The complaint said the men sought to travel to Turkey by way of New York City and San Diego, California, in an attempt to reach Syria.

Ayan Farah said she and family moved to the United States to escape the insecurity of Somalia. But she said she feels U.S. law enforcement agencies are creating problems for her children and other young Somali-Americans.

“To see our children being hunted here, and to use them against each other, to intimidate them and threaten and accuse them of working with those groups…I don’t believe they work with the groups.”

Officials say more than 100 Americans are believed to have traveled to Syria, including more than dozen men and women from the Somali-American community in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s Somali community previously grappled with the issue of young people joining terrorist groups between 2007 and 2010, when about two dozen men traveled to Somalia to join the al-Shabab militant group.

At least two of them were involved in suicide missions in the country, while several of them were killed in battle.

Abdi Nur

Reuters

A Somali-American who joined Islamic State as a fighter is alive and still trying to recruit young men from Minnesota to join him, law enforcement officials and a Somali community leader said, despite a report that he might have been killed in Syria.

Abdi Nur, 20, who left Minneapolis for Syria last year, is frequently in touch online with young Somalis in Minnesota to try to entice them to join IS, Twin Cities Somali community elder Omar Jamal said.

“I am sure he is in touch with people as we speak right now,” Jamal told Reuters on Monday. He said local Somali youths had told him that Nur had been in contact with members of the community in recent days.

Despite a report in March that said Nur might be dead, several federal law enforcement officials said they believe he was still alive. They said the investigation into Islamic State recruitment efforts in Minneapolis was continuing.

Nur played a role in an alleged plot by six Americans of Somali origin to travel to Syria and take up arms with the Islamic State, according to a court document released after the men’s arrest in Minnesota and San Diego on Sunday.

Nur communicated with a person in Minnesota via the social media app Kik and also tried to help some of the arrested men obtain false passports to allow them to travel to Syria via Mexico, the criminal complaint said.

One of the arrested men, Guled Ali Omar, was cited as telling other members of the conspiracy in a recorded conversation on March 16 that he thought Nur may have died in Syria because communication with him had been cut.

Prosecutors said there was no evidence the six who were arrested on Sunday had plans to carry out any attacks inside the United States.

Abdifatah Sheikh, assistant director of the Rochester Academy of Math

 ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC)

“I moved to America when I was 9 years old,” says Deq Ahmed, a librarian and administrative assistant at Rochester Math and Science Academy, a charter school that specializes in education of Somali youth.

“I’m more American than I am Somali.”

Such is the sentiment of many Somalis in Rochester. They are overjoyed with their inclusion in the American Dream, happy to be a part of the melting pot, and eager to build better lives for their kids than they have for themselves.

Somalis today find themselves victim of the same xenophobia that dogged Arabs in the months and years after 9/11, and in large part still pervades. The prejudice against young Somali men is in many ways a continuation thereof, another iteration of the proverbial boogeyman, Islamophobia’s latest target.

“It changes the whole community,” says Abdi Roble, a Somalian man living in Rochester, says of the extremist ideology that creates a stereotype of Somali culture. “People look at you when you are walking down the street… it creates vulnerability.”

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Roble sees anti-Somali sentiment as an opportunity.

“Every race of people that has come to America has encountered this. It’s part of coming here.”

Many in Rochester are working to combat that vulnerability, to instill structure and discipline where there was once an identity crisis.

“We are doing all in our capability to divert them [from extremist ideology] and tell them that this is the right way,” says Roble. He says that while his efforts as a father and as a community leader to improve the lives of Somali youth have been successful thus far, it’s important to remain vigilant against pervasive extremism.

“No matter how much you close your doors,” says Roble, “thieves will always try to get in.”

Those sentiments were echoed by other Somalis in Rochester, who say that their culture, ideologies, and religion is not that espoused by ISIS, or by the young Somali men arrested Sunday for allegedly attempting to obtain forged passports for terrorist groups.

“We are worried about people in the Minnesota community getting involved in a bad situation overseas. We want to reach our youth and get them help,” says Omar Nur, director of Somalia Rebuild Organization, a nonprofit whose aim is to improve the lives of Somali youth living in Rochester. His organization funds literacy programs and sports leagues for Somali youth. He, like Abdi Roble, sees progress. He cites the example of Munira Khalif, the Somali-Minnesotan girl recently accepted to all eight Ivy League Schools, plus Georgetown, Stanford, and the University of Minnesota.

“There’s a big gap between the life we left, and the life that’s here. And we try to fill in that gap.”

US attorney Andrew Luger said the six men were determined to join Isis ‘by any means possible’. Representatives of the Somali-American community feel the group is being targeted by US law enforcement.

MINNEAPOLIS, April 20 (Reuters)

U.S. authorities have charged six Somali-American young men from Minnesota with planning to join Islamic State and fight for the militant group in Syria, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota said on Monday.

The six were part of a larger group of friends and relatives that had been conspiring for the past 10 months, many trying multiple times to leave the country, U.S. prosecutors alleged.

They were arrested Sunday as part of a yearlong FBI investigation into young men from the area trying to travel to join Islamic State and there is no evidence they had plans to conduct an attack inside the United States, prosecutors said.

Dozens of people from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, many of them young Somali-American men, have traveled or attempted to travel overseas to support Islamic State or al Shabaab, a Somalia-based militant group, since 2007, according to U.S. prosecutors.

“We have a terror recruiting problem in Minnesota,” U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger told a news conference.

Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19, Adnan Farah, 19, Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19, and Guled Ali Omar, 20, were arrested in Minneapolis. Abdurahman Yasin Daud, 21, and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21, were arrested in California after driving from Minneapolis to San Diego. All are U.S. citizens.

Three of them had traveled to New York by bus with another man, Hamza Ahmed, in November, when they were stopped from boarding international flights with the intent of reaching Syria, prosecutors said.

Ahmed was indicted in February on charges of conspiring to support Islamic State and lying to federal agents investigating recruitment by militant groups.

The group met regularly to plan the trips, prosecutors said. One unidentified member had doubts, changed his mind and recorded their meetings, Luger said.

“They are not confused young men, they were not easily influenced,” Luger said. “These were focused men who were intent on joining a terrorist organization by any means possible.”

They received advice and encouragement from another group member, Abdi Nur, who has stayed in contact with them since he left the United States last year and joined the Islamic State in Syria, prosecutors said. Nur was charged in November.

The men arrested in Minnesota were to appear in U.S. District Court in St. Paul on Monday afternoon, with the two arrested in San Diego due to appear in court there later.

(Additional reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Ted Botha and Doina Chiacu)

isis

Business Insider

Six people have been arrested in two states in connection with a terrorism investigation in Minnesota, where investigators have been tracking youths who have traveled or tried to travel to Syria to fight with militants, including the Islamic State group, authorities said.

Mohamed Farah, 21; Adnan Farah, 19; Abdirahman Daud, 21; Guled Omar, 20; Hanad Musse, 19; and Zacharia Abdurahman, 19, were arrested on terror-related charges, according to a criminal complaint cited by local television station KARE. They are all from Minnesota.

“We have a terror recruiting problem in Minnesota,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said during a Monday morning press conference.

“The problem will not go away unless we address it head-on,” he added. “It’s not a Somali problem, it’s not an immigrant problem. It’s our problem. It’s a Minnesota problem.”

Ben Petok, a spokesman for the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office, said earlier that the arrests were made Sunday in Minneapolis and San Diego and that there is no threat to public safety, Petok added.

Authorities say a handful of Minnesota residents have traveled to Syria to fight with militants within the last year. At least one Minnesotan has died while fighting for the Islamic State.

Since 2007, more than 22 young Somali men have also traveled from Minnesota to Somalia to join the militant group al-Shabab.

Four Minnesotans have already been charged in connection with supporting terror groups in Syria, including the Islamic State group.

One man, 19-year-old Hamza Ahmed, was stopped at a New York City airport in November as he and three others were attempting to travel to Syria. Ahmed has been indicted on charges of lying to the FBI during a terrorism investigation, conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State group, and attempting to provide material support. He has pleaded not guilty.

But there have been no public charges filed against his three companions, and little information had been released about them. An FBI affidavit said they are all between the ages of 19 and 20 and live in the Twin Cities.

Ahmed Abdirahim Abdi. Minneapolis police

 TC Daily Planet

Minneapolis police are asking for the public’s help in tracking down a 17-year-old male who has been charged in the murder of a woman.

A warrant has been issued for Ahmed Abdirahim Abdi. Police believe someone may be harboring him, though it’s not clear where he is, a spokesman for the police department said.

Abdi is suspected of fatally shooting Ayan Abdulahi, 21, on April 11. Minneapolis police responded to a report of shots fired about 2:15 p.m. at a residence in the 2400 block of Portland Avenue South, where they found the woman dead.

The medical examiner said Abdulahi died of a gunshot wound to the head and ruled her death a homicide.

Elder was unable to say what the relationship between Abdulahi and Abdi was or offer a possible motive for her murder. Abdi has been charged as a juvenile.

In a statement released last week, police said, “Officers interviewed those in the area and it is not believed to be a random incident.”

Asked how Abdi was tied to the shooting, Elder said he was unable to divulge much, but did say, “We identified him through a series of people who were talked to.”

Abdi is 6-feet1 and weighs 165 pounds. He has distinctive red and black dog paw print tattoos on the back of his hands with the word “BIG” on the back of one hand and “DOG” on the other, according to police.

Police also said in a statement that they will ” aggressively pursue charges against anyone who is found to have aided and abetted Abdi in attempts to hide from law enforcement.

The charge of aiding and abetting a fugitive is a felony.”
Abdi “is no stranger to police,” Elder said, and is considered dangerous.

“So we’re telling people don’t attempt to apprehend the individual,” Elder said. “Just call 911.”

Tips can be submitted via text to 847-411 (tip 411); enter MPD and the tip information. Or call the police tipline at 612-692-TIPS (8477). All texts are anonymous. The case number is 15-127232.

MINNEAPOLIS

NPR – The St. Cloud Area School District has once again caught the attention of the federal Department of Education over its treatment of Somali-American students.

Civil rights officials with the U.S. Department of Education and the Justice Department are visiting the district this week to check its progress on a four-year-old agreement in which the district declared it would work to reduce harassment. Their visit comes as the district is dealing with a fresh round of similar problems.

The federal visitors listened and took notes Monday night as parents and a few students described tensions between the district’s Somali and white students that sometimes dissolve into bullying and harassment.

“I get bullied because I’m black. Or because I’m Somali. Or because I’m brown. I get bullied because I wear a scarf. I pray — I’m a Muslim — and I get called a terrorist,” Nasteho Dini told the crowd. “You guys don’t know how that feels.”

Dini, a student at St. Cloud Technical High School, organized a walkout of her classmates in March after another student posted a photo on social media showing a Somali-American girl in a wheelchair with a caption suggesting the girl was part of the terror group ISIS. After the walkout, a task force of Somali community leaders met with school officials to demand the school board make changes to curb harassment.

“We need to make sure that every child, irrespective of their color or background or nationality … comes to school safe, and they leave the school safe,” said Hassan Yussuf, who is leading the task force. “The school needs to make sure that that happens.”

This is not the first time federal officials have studied what’s going on in St. Cloud public schools. The Department of Education investigated allegations of harassment and discrimination against Somali-American students in the school district five years ago. In a 2011 agreement with the department, St. Cloud schools pledged to work toward reducing harassment.

“At this point, I think it’s disappointing we’re still here,” said Dennis Whipple, chair of the St. Cloud school board. “I feel for parents and kids who really want student achievement and education and how critical that is to their lives. I really am hopeful that we’re going to work through this together. It’s going to take some time, but we’re going to come out stronger and better on the other end.”

aar maanta minneapolis

 TC Daily Planet – 

“To me, being a Somali is a blessing because there’s so much richness artistically. And I say it’s a blessing because most of us don’t actually realize how rich our heritage and our culture is.”

-Aar Maanta

“Somalia was always known as the nation of poets,” Aar Maanta said to the small audience at the West Bank’s People’s Center, during a relaxed Q&A session. An afternoon “mini-performance” and discussion was attended by mostly Augsburg students & faculty, as part of Aar Maanta’s week-long residency in Minneapolis, a joint effort hosted by Augsburg College and the Cedar as part of their longerMidnimo series. Aar Maanta promised to play an additional song if the audience danced, and by the last song of the lunchtime concert, the majority of them were on their feet and dancing.

Aar Maanta, born Hassan-Nour Sayid, has returned to Minneapolis this week for the first time since his 2012 performance at the Cedar. Aar Maanta’s time has been in high demand this week, between the residency events planned by the Cedar & Augsburg, and interviews with numerous local news sources. The residency will culminate in Aar Maanta’s final performance tomorrow evening at the Cedar.

Aar Maanta was kind enough to take some time in his busy week to sit with me and share some conversation about racial profiling, being an artist, and his role in facilitating conversations between communities of the Somali diaspora and the other communities around them.

 Corina Bernstein: Can you talk about your artistic inspirations? Are there artists who are influencing your work right now?

 Aar Maanta: Originally there was a band called Waaberi, the Somali word for “dawn”. And also Iftim, it means “the light”, and they were the Ministry of Education’s band. It was a blessing, but also it was a curse, because all of the Somali bands were government-funded. So every ministry or organization used to have a band, basically. So for example, the military band was called “Halgan”. That meant “strife” or “struggle”, so this is all that deep kind of rooted ideology.

The main band, Waaberi, were the most popular, and they had about 5,000 staff- they had musicians, they had composers, sound people, and they were like a theater group as well. So they used to travel, and every season they used to have a play. And all the plays had to be done in poetic dialogue. It had to be poetic… So I’m learning that stuff now.

CB: I read a media source doing research about you that called you the “voice of the Somali diaspora”. I’m interested in how you feel about that, I can imagine being representative of all things Somali can be difficult in some ways?

AM: I don’t really see myself as a spokesman of any causes or any particular community or even in general the Somali community, really, it’s too big of a burden. But at the same time, that quote is really… it encouraged me to do more, to find my own niche, my own sound. And also, to talk about specific things. That’s when it kind of dawned on me that I need to be talking about… the specific struggles of Somalis in the diaspora. That’s when it really hit me, you know, it’s good to be a singer, but at the same time, it’s good to be a singer that actually stands for something.

CB: I understand 2012 was the last time you were in Minnesota, and you had some pretty serious issues at the airport?

AM: Initially, my visit was delayed, but members of my band who are not Somali, their visas were approved automatically. The fact that it was delayed caused my first show to be rescheduled. So instead of coming in September, we came in January.

We arrived, and really the entry process for me just seemed a lot longer, even though I’m there with my instruments and members of my band with their instruments, they can see we’re playing together. But just because of my name, and my ethnicity is Somali, my faith is Islam, because of that, I was in, in my opinion, profiled. And I know the guys at the airport are not picking on me, but I feel like they were given orders to do this by the higher powers, so I’ve learned to deal with this kind of situation, and to be patient with people who are doing their job at airports.

And I think that patience paid off this time when I was coming because the same man by chance came to me and he’s like “I’ve seen you before,” then checked the system. “You were here in 2012- oh you’re fine now.” (laughing) So this time, this time it worked you know.

CB: And you have a British passport?

AM: Yes.

CB: I can’t imagine how frustrating that is.

AM: What’s actually more frustrating is, that I get treated like that, maybe even worse, in the U.K. When I go back to the UK, they are like “Where did you go? What did you do? You’re a musician, okay, why did you go there? When was the last time you’ve been back to Somalia?” “I haven’t been back to Somalia.” “Are you sure?” all this kind of stuff. I actually made a video about it. Just really reenacting it. I found really good actors who are able to act exactly how it was, it was like they knew, we didn’t have to tell them. Yeah, so that was the situation.

CB: Can you talk a little bit about making the video for Deeqa? It was powerful to me, some of the camera angles made me really feel your position viscerally. I felt it was a strong piece of art to bring you into your experience.

AM: I was lucky enough to work with a filmmaker, a friend of mine who’s really talented, his name is Ahmed Farah. He’s based in Kenya now, and he likes these kinds of ideas. I told him listen, I don’t want to be just a singer, I want to do stories that I relate to, or experience from people around me, things that happen to them. And I want to marry that music with film because I am really also interested in film and directing and all that kind of stuff. So we did that, and it came out really very realistic. So much so, that some friends of my mother, who are not familiar with the artistic side of me, saw it, and they actually thought it was news, and this actually happened to me. So they were calling my mother (laughing) saying “Your son has been arrested, he’s being interrogated!”

CB: So on a purely personal level, you’ve talked a lot about your identity as a Somali person in diaspora. Could you talk about what that means to you, to have that identity, to be coming to create these bridges in these various communities all over the world?

AM: To me, being a Somali is a blessing because there’s so much richness artistically. And I say it’s a blessing because most of us don’t actually realize how rich our heritage and our culture is. And the fact that there aren’t many of us that realize it and explore it, makes me a lucky person. That’s why I say it’s a blessing, the fact that I am able to do that. And I have a lot of ideas, and there’s always just so much to be done. Also saying blessing also means that not much has been done to tell that story, so that I am able to do that is really an honor.

ST CLOUD

TC DAILY PLANET – Somalis are under attack in St. Cloud because of their race (they are Black), their religion (they are Muslims), and their immigration/refugee status (they are perceived to be untrustworthy aliens).

In the 1990s Somalis began to trickle into the city, and now they are probably the largest Black ethnic group, surpassing the number of Black Americans. Like Black Americans, they also experience intense racial and cultural animus. As compared with the White population, Somalis are sharply different in four categories: race (White European vs. Black African), religion (Christian vs. Muslim), citizenship (American vs. refugee/immigrant), and culture (Eurocentric vs. Afro-Islamic).

This is a very volatile social mix. The Somali community continues to suffer numerous attacks at various levels and in all areas of social life including schools, stores, workplaces, housing, and the media. The first Somali market, mosque and community center in south St. Cloud was vandalized in 2002.

Furthermore, Somalis have been stigmatized as terrorists, pirates, religious fanatics, and bad neighbors. This historical background will help us understand the major systemic issues of the protest rally by St. Cloud Technical High Somali students on March 18, 2015.

In May 2004, students, parents, and members of the community gathered to discuss several incidents that were racially motivated at Technical High School in St. Cloud. The school’s principal, Roger Ziemann, said the fights were between Somali students and others at school and off campus.

The fights grew out of frustration. Somali kids were tired of being told to go back where they came from. St. Cloud police were called to Tech or the area 69 times in 2002 as compared with 128 times for all of 2003. They had been called to Apollo High School or nearby 71 times in 2002 and 138 times in 2003.

The basic issue that the rally and the Somali community are calling attention to is the systemic and continuous failure of the administration and board to seriously address the toxic anti-Somali climate and institutional racism in the school system. School administrators seem to view the complaints as issues of misbehavior of a few individual students. But the racial incidents are merely symptoms of institutional racism.

The schools were designed to educate and socialize White, Christian, American-born youth. With the recent influx of many Somali students who are Black, Muslim and African-born (or children of African-born parents), the schools are facing a clash of cultures. Many administrators and staff members and some board members do not seem to grasp the significance of the social transformation of their school system.

The biggest problem is the backwardness and ineptness of the leadership. The school board and the superintendent have not demonstrated a genuine commitment to the district’s five core values (excellence, learning, leadership, partnership and respect). And it is quite evident that they have done little in-depth strategic thinking about how to transform their school system to prepare their students for the profound changes in cultural diversity. This filters down to some culturally incompetent teachers who do not know how to deal with the changing cultural environment.

Their failure to properly educate our youth has dire consequences. One measure of the failure is the exceedingly high suspension rate of Black students. Minnesota Department of Education data showed that the St. Cloud school district suspended 1,125 students in the 2013-2014 school year, a 59.6 percent year-over-year increase. For Black students, the increase was 107 percent last year.

American society tends to stigmatize Black youth as young criminals, and many educators perceive them as disruptive, disrespectful, and prone towards violence. They believe these traits are endemic to Black youth, who are subsequently regarded as inherently pathological.

Suspensions rip the fabric of relationships among students, caregivers, and educators, resulting in distrust and compromising future interactions. They cause distrust at the level of family-school relationships that hinders the schools’ ability to educate students.

Educators who lack cultural knowledge can misinterpret Black youth behavior as maladaptive or disordered. The misattribution of negative labels to normative Black youth behaviors fosters an environment wherein Black youth identities are criminalized and punished.

The school system operates on White cultural norms, which are reinforced by a White standard code of student conduct. The conduct rules are enforced in a racially biased way to exclude many Black youth from the public school system.

Educators would benefit from the painful realization that Black youth are socialized in an oppressive society, and that dismantling prejudicial beliefs and actions is key to dealing with conflicts that result in suspensions, which feeds into the pipeline of juvenile detention centers to prisons.

Instead of denying that systemic racial problems exist, the board and administrators must act on the legitimate grievances of the Somali community and develop a strategic plan based on genuine diversity and social justice, and dedicated to systemically advocating, building and maintaining respectful, collaborative and reciprocal relationships.

Dr. Luke Tripp is a professor in the department of ethnic and women’s studies at St. Cloud State University. He welcomes reader responses to lstripp@stcloudstate.edu.

 

KARE11 – ST. PAUL, Minn. – If she was a professional baseball player she’d be batting a thousand.

Mounds Park Academy (MPA) senior Munira Khalif has a tough but awesome decision ahead, after being accepted to all eight Ivy League schools. She is also wanted by Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Minnesota (U of M).

“I was very surprised. The best part for me was being able to call family members on the phone and to hear their excitement,” said Khalilf. “This was truly a blessing from God. To me this news is reflective of the support and encouragement of my family, my school and my community.”

Mounds Park Academy says that in addition to a stellar academic record and a sky-high ACT score, Munira is a state speech champion and founder of MPA’s Social Consciousness Club. She is a tireless advocate to make education accessible for East African Youth, especially girls.

“Munira has thrived in MPA’s rigorous educational environment, where we challenge students to be intellectually curious and confident communicators,” said Randy Comfort, MPA’s upper school director. “She already is making a difference in communities across the globe, and I know she is ready to embrace the challenges that arise in our constantly changing world.”

Khalif has not yet made a final college choice, and says she will visit a few more campuses before making a final decision May 1. She plans to major in political science and continue working to make a positive impact on the world through public service.

“I am humbled to even have the opportunity to choose amongst these schools because they are all incredible places to learn and grow,” said Khalif.

The eight Ivy League schools are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University.

aar

Star Tribune – The Cedar Cultural Center recently set a challenging goal: get its Somali and non-Somali audiences to mingle.

By all accounts, London-based artist Aar Maanta, with his growing mainstream following, might be just the guy to make that happen. Maanta is in town as part of a partnership with Augsburg College to give local millennials a taste of Somali culture. Maanta’s music is rooted in issues facing his fellow Somali expatriates, but he also has a growing following outside the diaspora.

“There’s a lot of negativity associated with our community, and it’s because of cultural misunderstanding that these issues arise,” Maanta said. “These kinds of events bring people together.”

The Cedar and Augsburg launched the series of residencies late last year with a $200,000 grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. The partners dubbed the project Midnimo, the Somali word for “unity.” It features performances, workshops and classroom visits.

“This is an amazing opportunity for people to experience Somali culture and learn from the Somali community,” said Fadumo Ibrahim, the Cedar’s Somali cultural liaison.

Ibrahim says the center has looked for ways to bring together the Cedar’s largely non-Somali audience and its Somali neighbors in Cedar-Riverside. Some 500 people turned out for a concert by the Dur-Dur Band, a 1980s act that reunited for the occasion. About half in audience were Somalis.

“I had tears in my eyes that night,” said Ibrahim.

Maanta is one of few international Somali artists gaining notice outside the diaspora, Ibrahim said. His music blends traditional Somali influences with contemporary beats.

“I try to convey the beauty of Somali culture and the struggles of the Somali people in the diaspora,” Maanta said.

He said he was drawn to a project that blends music and conversations about these struggles, including a panel discussion on radicalization at Augsburg this past Monday. His residency culminates with an 8 p.m. concert at the Cedar on Saturday

mn

MINNEAPOLIS- CAIR-MN, a branch of America’s largest Muslim advocacy organization, is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate video where an officer can be heard “threatening” to break the leg of a Somali teen if he escaped.

The police stop in Minneapolis on Pillsbury Avenue and West 33rd Street is gaining a lot of attention “Plain and simple if you F— with me I am going to break your leg before you get a chance to even run,” the unidentified male officer can be heard saying. “I am being honest. I don’t screw around.”

Sometimes cellphones capture people at their best and their worst. Faysal Mohamed the phone his friend used to record the incident captured racial profiling.

Mohamed said he was never told why he and his friends were pulled over.

After the first threat, the teen responds with a question: “Who said I was going to run?”

The officer’s response: “I am just giving you a heads up, I am trying to be officer friendly right now.”

Mohamed, 17, was sitting in the backseat of the vehicle. The teen said it happened last month when he and his friends were pulled over. The 17-year-old emailed KARE 11 the video. He answered our questions by phone and via text. Mohamed said he believes he and friends were “racially profiled.”

Prior to the incident, Mohamed said the teens were playing basketball at the Blaisdell YMCA in South Minneapolis.

At one point, the Mohamed’s friend asked the officer why he was “getting arrested?”

The officer response: “Because I feel like arresting you.”

The officer can’t be seen on the video.

A spokesperson with the Minneapolis Police Department released the following statement:

The video is currently under investigation and we are unable to comment on the content of the video. MPD values our connection to the community and we strive to build public trust. This is why complaints against officers are taken seriously and investigated to the fullest extent. We will make information available to the public as soon as legally possible

Turns out, Charles Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota ACLU, said police are “not duty bound to give you a reason for the arrest.”

Samuelson says this incident highlights a report showing blacks are nine times more likely to be arrested for disorderly conduct that whites.

“There is a big problem in Minneapolis,” he said. “It is the worst city for racial disparities in the criminal justice system in the country.”

And while cell phones capture the best and worst moments, they help also raise more questions.

“I wonder how many white kids in Southwest Minneapolis have this same problem,” Samuelson said. “It is disappointing. Very, very disappointing.”

It is still not clear what led to the arrests. The teens were not charged.

Hearing on American Muslim radicalization in Washington

PRI — There’s no shortage of news coverage about ISIS recruiters preying upon naive Western youth. But the story of American and European teens being lured into Islamic extremist groups pre-dates ISIS by a long stretch.

Somali American Abdirizak Bihi remembers the night his nephew, Burhan Hassan, boarded a plane from Minnesota to join the Somali extremist group al-Shabab.

It was on the eve of Election Day in 2008, and Bihi wasn’t concerned at first. He thought his nephew was on the streets of Minneapolis, canvasing neighbohoods on behalf of Barack Obama.

“His mom, my sister, was worried that he didn’t come home as usual and she called me and other family members,” he remembers. “I told her, ‘Hey, he’s 17. Don’t worry about him. Maybe he’s out there door-knocking for the election.’”

But Hassan was on his way the Horn of Africa, becoming the youngest al-Shabab recruit among the 27 Minnesotans who joined the group.

“He refused to fight and or get the training,” Bihi says. “He became a liability to them, and he was killed by the son of the former al-Shabab leader.”

That was seven years ago. Now Bihi is worried ISIS is drawing on the same recruiting networks al-Shabab has spent many years honing on the streets of Minneapolis. A dozen residents of the Twin Cities have found their way to Syria in the past two years.

“We see challenged young people,” Bihi says. “They are challenged because they cannot find opportunities to find employment or join a positive programming like after-school.”

Bihi directs the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis. He says unemployment is rampant among youth in the Somali enclave in the Twin Cities called “Little Mogadishu.” About 40 percent of young men there face unemployment, he says, compared to 3 percent statewide. The lack of jobs means recruiters can make inroads.

“The key here is resources,” he says. “You have a community that’s really trying very hard to chase the American dream and at the same time that lacks the tools and the resources to reach that dream.”

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