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For the first time, Mohamed is among the most popular baby boy names in St. Cloud, Minnesota



The most popular name for newborn boys in St. Cloud is now Henry. But closing fast is a name that reflects the central Minnesota city’s growing diversity — Mohamed.

For the first time, Mohamed cracked the most popular boys’ names in 2017 at the St. Cloud Hospital, which delivers nearly 3,000 babies a year. Sixteen newborn boys went home from the hospital last year with the name Mohamed, which tied with Liam for second place. Eighteen baby boys delivered at the hospital were named Henry.

And for the first time, Salma, an Arabic name, cracked the top 10 list of popular names for newborn girls, coming in at No. 9.

“Our community is really growing and you can see that in hospitals,” said Hudda Ibrahim, who wrote a book on Somali immigration to central Minnesota. “People are keeping those traditional names.”

Mohamed has several variations and is one of the most popular names worldwide for Muslim parents.

The St. Cloud area has the largest Somali population in the state outside the Twin Cities. Somali-American families name their firstborn sons after the prophet with hopes that their child will take after him, Ibrahim said.

At the St. Cloud Hospital, which has the largest birthing center in Stearns County, the name Mohamed has steadily climbed the list of most popular baby names. It first made the list in 2015, when it was the sixth-most popular name. A year later, it climbed to No. 5.

The St. Cloud area isn’t alone in noticing a spike in the number of baby boys named Mohamed. Of more than 6,000 boys and girls born at HealthPartners hospitals across the region in 2017, Mohamed was the 13th most popular name.

In Minnesota, which has the largest Somali population in the U.S., Mohamed first made the list of the state’s 100 most popular baby boy names at No. 98 in 2013 and rose to No. 94 two years later, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration. But it didn’t crack the top 100 in 2016, however, the most recent year statistics were available.

Pediatrician Marilyn Peitso said she isn’t surprised by the trend in St. Cloud after watching the baby nursery growing increasingly diverse in recent years. Parents searching for baby names are also choosing more variety than in years past, she said.

“There’s sort of an evolution,” Peitso said. “Not all names come back.”

Tim and Emma Provo, of Monticello, Minn., studied lists of top baby names to make sure they didn’t give their daughter a name that was trendy now. Rather than name their daughter Ava, the most popular name in St. Cloud in 2017, they picked Molly, which didn’t make the hospital’s top 10 list, for their girl, who was born on Monday.

“I wanted something different but simple,” Emma Provo said from her St. Cloud Hospital room. “We wanted our kid to be unique.”

In Minnesota, Evelyn and Henry were the top names for babies in 2016 while in 2015, Olivia and Henry were No. 1, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration.

The popularity of baby names often reflect sociological patterns, with parents taking inspiration from celebrities or hit movies and TV shows. Even economics can play a role, with parents tending to choose more common names during bear markets and more unusual names during a booming American economy, according to one study.

A record 2,957 babies were born at the St. Cloud Hospital in 2017

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Minneapolis team keeps immigrants informed during Super Bowl



AP — MINNEAPOLIS — Military Humvees, officers in combat gear and the occasional F-16 flying over downtown Minneapolis are all part of the beefed up security measures that come with hosting the Super Bowl. But those images can be scary for some immigrants and refugees who are worried about terrorism, deportation or even a war they can’t forget.

A special team with the city of Minneapolis has been working for weeks to reassure immigrant communities that all the extra muscle is here to keep them safe. The team is reaching out through radio and television broadcasts, social media and in-person meetings with elders and community members. The goal is to keep communities informed about everything from security to transportation issues, and let them know they can also participate in the fun.

“It’s a welcoming place … for people to come downtown and enjoy,” said Michael Yang, a southeast Asian community specialist with the city. “You shouldn’t have to fear anything.”

Minnesota has been a welcoming state for immigrants over the last several decades, thanks in part to its social service programs. The state is home to the largest Somali community in the U.S., roughly 57,000 people according to the latest census figures, most of whom live in the Minneapolis area. The state also has the second-highest Hmong population, behind California.

The team of community specialists in Minneapolis does outreach in immigrant communities all year, but is working with more partners and intensifying efforts in the lead-up to the Super Bowl. Officials believe they have created a model for future Super Bowls or other large events. Among other things, the team is broadcasting weekly radio programs in Spanish, Somali and Hmong and is contracting with others to share social media messages in Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Vietnamese, Oromo and Lao.

The messages are being tailored to each community because while one community might believe armed guards are preventing a terror attack, another might see those same officers as an immigration raid.

“Every community has their own take on the event and their own fears and concerns and we address them by giving them the right information, telling them what’s going on,” said Rose Lindsay with the community relations unit in the Joint Information Center set up for the Super Bowl.

Yang said that even though Hmong immigrants have been in Minnesota for decades, images of the war they left behind are still fresh. Some people he’s met tell him that the armed officers remind them of the military taking over the streets of Laos. Others expressed concern about helicopters or other aircraft flying overhead, saying it reminds them of enemy aircraft.

“With some members of the Hmong community, people are really fearful that there is war,” he said.

The Hmong have also expressed fear of a terrorist attack or hate crimes, and weeks ago elders were asking families to stay away from the Super Bowl activities. Yang said his work has helped ease fears. Other team members agree.

Abdirashid Ahmed, an East African community specialist, is working to explain the Super Bowl to community leaders, faith leaders and other community members. In addition to face-to-face meetings, he’s also monitoring social media to see what the community is talking about.

After a car caught fire in a Somali neighborhood this week, many community members went to social media and asked if there was a terror attack. Ahmed said because of the infrastructure that’s been set up, officials were able to respond within minutes to let the community know it was a mechanical fire and they had nothing to worry about.

When asked if there is fear of racial profiling in a community where some members have been the subject of terror investigations, Ahmed said there is always that concern because of the current climate. But as far as it relates to the Super Bowl, “people are not asking the same kinds of questions they were asking me a month or two months ago.”

“We have been explaining everything,” Ahmed said. “The law enforcement agencies coming to Minneapolis … they will be here to protect everyone, not to harm.”

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Willmar woman speaks out against Islamophobia



WILLMAR, Minn. — A Willmar woman who has been urging city officials to adopt a welcoming city resolution offered her voice in support of a statewide coalition calling on people of faith to fight Islamophobia.

Hamdi Kosar of Willmar joined Muslim and Christian faith leaders Thursday, Feb. 1, at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington for a rally also aimed at encouraging people to attend their precinct caucuses. The effort was sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, ISAIAH, and the ISAIAH Muslim Coalition.

The rally follows controversy over reports that state Reps. Cindy Pugh and Kathy Lohmer had posted a statement on Facebook that there is a plan to “mobilize Muslims to infiltrate our Republican caucuses on Feb. 6.”

According to a Star-Tribune report, Pugh and Lohmer implied in their Facebook post that the Muslim-Americans at a mosque caucus training were not Americans and had a hidden agenda to enact their own laws.

Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner and Republican candidate for governor, on Wednesday in a podcast complimented Pugh for notifying Republicans of the alleged Muslim effort to influence Republican caucuses.

Jessica Rohloff, a leader with ISAIAH in Willmar, said the organization has held caucus training sessions in Willmar for those in the Latino, Somali and traditional white communities. People attending the sessions learned how they can speak to their faith values by participating in the caucus of their own choosing, she said.

Many political parties, civic and religious groups conduct caucus training sessions to help citizens understand and practice the Minnesota method of choosing party leaders and formulating the party platform at precinct caucuses.

The caucus process on Tuesday, Feb. 6, will be the first step in a political process that will lead to endorsing candidates for office.

Kosar said the charge that Muslims are seeking to be “infiltrating” caucuses as well as statements that denigrate immigrants are attempts to intimidate.

At the rally in Bloomington, she spoke of how because of her Somali heritage, she was told she did not have a “right” to speak to her city council. She told about how she has heard disparaging comments and, at one time, had her hijab forcibly removed.

“I believe in possibilities,” said Kosar at the rally, emphasizing that she is an American citizen with the same rights as everyone else.

She has not let the negative comments get in the way of her belief in the Willmar community she calls home, and its people. Kosar told those at the rally: “Alongside the angry and fearful people, there are also those who stand besides me.”

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Ilhan Omar, First Somali-American State Lawmaker: Trump’s SOTU was “Disgusting” & “Fascist”



DEMOCRACY NOW — During President Trump’s first State of the Union address Tuesday night, he repeatedly tried to conflate immigrants, including DREAMers, with terrorists and gang members—the latest in a string of racist or xenophobic statements Trump has made throughout his time in office.

Yet, on Tuesday night, many lawmakers with the Congressional Black Caucus protested against Trump’s racism—and his recent comments calling African nations “shithole countries”—by wearing traditional African kente cloth. For more on the State of the Union, we speak with Minnesota state Representative Ilhan Omar, the highest-elected Somali-American public official in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, as we look at President Trump’s first State of the Union, spending the hour on it. On Tuesday night, some Democrats in the chamber booed when President Trump used the term “chain migration” and tried to link terrorist attacks to policies allowing recent immigrants to sponsor relatives.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration. Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children.

This vital reform is necessary not just for our economy, but for our security and for the future of America. In recent weeks, two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration. In the age of terrorism, these programs present risks we can just no longer afford. It’s time to reform these outdated immigration rules and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Trump at his State of the Union.

Joining us now, Minnesota state Representative Ilhan Omar, former refugee, Muslim, the highest-elected Somali-American public official in the United States. You were in Washington, D.C., from Minnesota, to attend one of the alternative State of the Unions, Ilhan Omar. Can you respond to what President Trump said last night?

REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah, thank you, Amy, for having me. I was just sort of listening to that little bizarre bit about our immigration programs being outdated, and the only thing I could think about was his fascist ideas being outdated.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk specifically about these linkages he made, continually, this line he drew between young people coming to the United States over the border and MS-13 killing people.

REP. ILHAN OMAR: I mean, it is really disappointing, and it saddens me, but it doesn’t surprise me, that this person can’t comprehend how dangerous it is to create a link between people who might be committing some atrocious crimes to immigrants that are coming to this country seeking a brighter future for their children, and the countless people from Central America and South America who are coming to this country for opportunities, that my family came here for, and many of the immigrants before us came. It is unbecoming of a president and a leader to be able to make those kind of disturbing and disgusting links.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a part of a group, as a young Somali-American Muslim legislator, of America’s Cabinet, a nonpartisan project launched by young elected officials. Can you talk about what this is?

REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah. We realize that, this past year, we could be in the streets, we could resist some of the horrendous ideas that are coming out of Washington, or we could—or we could get involved as young electeds who have fluency and understanding of what our constituents need. We believe we have bold ideas that are going to lead our country to be able to keep up with fulfilling its promise.

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