We’ve got a problem in the Twin Cities that is based in our large and still growing population of Somali immigrants. Somalis have been immigrating to Minnesota for more than twenty years now. They have taken advantage of all the services that our state and local institutions offer. They have been welcomed with open arms, in Minnesota’s characteristic style.
Yet Minnesota’s Somali community — a/k/a “Minnesotans” — is the most fertile ground in the United States for the recruitment of terrorists by foreign terrorist organizations in Africa and the Middle East. We are concerned that they may choose to return “home” to Minnesota if they don’t get killed first. What is to be done?
Aside from monitoring imams and mosques, the first thought that occurs to me is freezing Somali immigration to the United States. I think this would give us the opportunity to get a handle on the problem while assuring that we don’t needlessly aggravate it.
Star Tribune reporter Chao Xiong covered the recent Minneapolis forum devoted to the problem confronting us in Minnesota. Ibrahim Hirsi covered it for the online news outlet MinnPost. The stories offer complementary accounts of the forum.
Reading Xiong’s and Hirsi’s stories, I get the sense that Somalis are assimilating to the local culture. Some translation is required, and mine may be imperfect. Hirsi quotes two local Somalis, each of whom makes his own pitch for what I understand to be a “show me the money” approach:
Putting a stop to the romanticization of extremist ideologies is more than investigating and prosecuting folks, said Mohamud Noor, a community activist and Minneapolis school board member. Radicalization will always be alive so long as the immigrant youngsters remain marginalized, without access to adequate education, employment and other opportunities, he added.
“When so many young people are looking for opportunities and they’re denied…because of their color, my dear friends, there is no simple solution,” Noor said. “When we’re trying to find simple solutions to a complex situation, we’re not going anywhere.”
Activist Ilhan Omar noted the community has been combating radicalization for many years, urging officials to invest in anti-recruitment youth programs. “And it needs to happen now,” Omar said. “The longer we wait, the longer our silence will be used as a recruitment tool. The time is now. Let’s act. Let’s put our kids first.”
Minnesota United States Attorney Andrew Luger provided a preview of the government’s thinking in the Age of Obama. I think he announced that the money is on the way:
The Department of Justice has recently announced that the Twin Cities area is participating in a yearlong pilot program aimed to engage at-risk communities to combat recruitment of Muslim youth. Community members hope this pilot program will enable the youth to create some opportunities and integrate them into the society.
Luger said he plans to discussion solutions for the radicalization and recruitment problems with leaders in Washington next month. “The Somali community in Minneapolis and St. Paul will benefit greatly from the additional resources we expect to receive as part of the pilot program,” Luger in a statement.
“Our Somali friends deserve to prosper in Minnesota in peace and security, and this program seeks to make that happen, and create a blueprint for the country for how to prevent the radicalization of vulnerable youth.”
Luger also appeared in part to reassure the Somalis that law enforcement efforts are benign. As quoted by Xiong, he also offered a “root cause” approach to the underlying problem based on the usual liberal theory of causality involving “discrimination.” If this reflects the current thinking of law enforcement, and not just the pap that must be served up for public consumption in the Age of Obama, we are screwed.
Xiong quotes neighborhood community center director Aman Dube. I don’t know if Dube is Somali, but he too has assimilated to the local culture. According to Dube, more afternoon programs are the ticket. “If we have…programs like that, no one will choose negativity,” Dube said. Right.
Xiong’s article is a little superficial, a little indirect and even incomprehensible. In his account, “activist” Ilhan Omar (as both Hirsi and Xiong describe him) is the voice of sober reality. Let’s take a look at the whole thing:
Dozens of Somali community members concerned about the recruitment of local youth into extremist groups called for more resources to help combat the radicalization of their children.
More than 60 people at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis on Sunday heard Somali leaders, an imam and U.S. Attorney Andy Luger call for more expanded efforts to support Somali youth, more mentorship of youth by elders and increased partnerships between the community and law enforcement.
Minneapolis resident Ali Hayle said previous pledges by authorities to work with the community left him jaded when they didn’t seem to follow through with action. But Hayle said he left Sunday’s town hall meeting optimistic about the community’s future and the speakers’ sincerity.
“Hopefully, things will change,” Hayle said.
Several Minnesota youths recruited to fight in Somalia or Syria have died on those battlefields.
Hayle and other speakers said a key to fighting the recruitment of youth into terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaida-linked group, is creating an environment in Minnesota where Somalis and other immigrants feel welcomed and have opportunities to succeed.
Amano Dube, director of the Brian Coyle Community Center, said investing in education and after school programs will give youth the skills and opportunities to pursue other avenues in life.
“If we have … programs like that, no one will choose negativity,” Dube said.
Activist Ilhan Omar said that conversations about fighting radicalism often focus on younger children, when most of the approximately 20 people recruited out of Minnesota were older than 22 at the time. Omar said many youths become vulnerable during high school when they face an identity crisis about what it means to be Somali, Muslim and an American.
She urged community members to take it upon themselves to combat radicalization.
“We shouldn’t just think about financial resources,” Omar said, “but about how each of us can be a resource for that young person who is struggling.”
Luger told the crowd that quashing the discrimination Somalis face here will help address the “root cause” of radicalization.
He said some Somalis have expressed concern about treatment at the airport, prompting a meeting with community members and the Transportation Security Administration at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that Luger called one step in many toward ending the recruitment of Somali youth.
Luger pledged to take community members with him to a meeting at the White House in October addressing the recruitment of Somali youth.
“I want you to know this is not an attack on the Somali community,” Luger said of the fight against radicalization. “This is something we’re doing together.”
Luger’s ascription of alleged Somali mistreatment by TSA at the airport as a cause of the problem beggars belief. Somalis are ubiquitous in service positions at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, including TSA. Indeed, one of them was recruited by ISIS. They heighten the usual sense of the theatrical absurdity that is attached to airport security.
In short, I take it from the two articles devoted to the forum that we don’t have a clue and that nothing useful is going to be done.