Let’s call the whole thing off

Minnesota Democrats attended their local precinct caucuses last night. At the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis a fight broke out among Democrats in search of peace and love. Backers of newly elected school board member Mohammud Noor apparently sought to unseat 21-term incumbent state Rep. Phyllis Kahn. Noor also serves as the interim executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, “helping to connect new immigrants with social welfare programs, housing, health care and education services.”

According to the Pioneer Press, arguments arose when the Somali Democratic caucus began selecting delegates for committees representing the Cedar-Riverside area that is home to many Somalis. The caucus convened at 7:00 p.m. Police called the whole thing off at 7:45.

By far the most detailed account I can find of last night’s events is this one by James Nord (at MinnPost). I’m not sure that further explanations will be forthcoming. As with the New Year’s day conflagration that gutted a building in the neighborhood, averted eyes are generally the order of the day.

One can deduce from Nord’s account and the accompanying photos that Minnesota Somalis are staking their claim to a piece of the political pie. That’s an old story with a new twist.

The Minnesota Daily reports that, because of Noor’s strong backing from the Somali community, Kahn finds Noor’s campaign “more complicated” than campaigns of past challengers. Kahn’s characterization suggests there might be a little more to it than the traditional jockeying for the political spoils. It seems to me that last night’s melee may also also represent one round in a fight between feminism and multiculturalism among Minneapolis Democrats.

One of the ironies of multiculturalism is its inconsistency with the other tenets of the articles of the liberal faith. The cultural subjection of women violates the creed of sexual equality. How can the creed be reconciled with respect for other cultures that don’t buy it?

Rep. Kahn is one of Minnesota’s leading feminist politicos. Twenty years ago she supported enactment of a criminal law prohibiting female genital mutilation in Minnesota. Her feminism trumped her multiculturalism.

Female genital mutilation was not much of a problem in Minnesota before the Somali influx of the 1990′s. The Center for Reproductive Rights pays tribute to the pioneering 1994 law:

Minnesota was the first state to enact legislation related to FGM. In 1994, the state amended its criminal code to declare that “whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates, in whole or in part, the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris of another is guilty of a felony.” Thus the statute prohibits the performance of FGM on adult women, as well as on minors. Consent to the procedure by a minor on whom it is performed or by the minor’s parent is not considered a valid defense. Exceptions to this ban include surgical procedures performed by a licensed physician that are deemed necessary for the health of a person, or are performed for medical purposes on a person who is in labor or who has just given birth.

Minnesota also enacted legislation in 1994 requiring the commissioner of health to carry out “appropriate education, prevention, and outreach activities” in communities that traditionally practice FGM. The aim of these activities is to inform such communities of the “health risks and emotional trauma” resulting from FGM, as well as to inform them and the medical community of the criminal penalties associated with the practice.

(Footnotes omitted.) The law must have done its job. We haven’t heard much about the practice lately, although as of 2010 the Minnesota Daily was still agonizing over it. In any event, we may have our own version of a culture war brewing here, as last night’s melee suggests.

UPDATE: Daniel Pipes fits the caucus story into a larger pattern.

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