Islamophobia in one state (5)

On what seems like a daily basis, Minnesotans are lectured against the evils of “Islamophobia.” In October, Gov. Mark Dayton weirdly instructed “white, B-plus, Minnesota-born citizens” to suppress their qualms about immigrant resettlement in Minnesota, according to the St. Cloud Times. If they can’t, they should “find another state,” he added.

Andrew Luger, the United States Attorney for Minnesota is a paragon of political correctness who has inveighed against “the current wave of Islamophobia” and has stayed on the attack. Yesterday Luger and others gathered at the prestigious Minneapolis law firm Dorsey & Whitney to decry “Islamophobia.” Walter Mondale is of counsel at the firm and was a featured speaker at the event. The Star Tribune reports on the proceedings in “Minneapolis legal community, Somali-Americans latest to unite to confront Islamophobia.”

The Twin Cities have received thousands of Somali Muslim immigrants in the past 20 years or so. Their presence is conspicuous, yet signs of bigotry against them are virtually nil.

The star victim on display at the Dorsey & Whitney conference yesterday was Asma Jama (middle name Mohamed, by the way). Jama was assaulted by a patron at a local Applebee’s who “flew into a rage because she spoke a foreign language.” Jama speaks Swahili.

The perpetrator of the assault on Jama was one Jodie Burchard-Risch. Burchard-Risch is a nut who has probably had to push 1 for English one too many times. The Star Tribune provides no evidence for deeming her an anti-Muslim bigot. (MPR has a good account of the assault here, with photos.)

So far as I can tell, “Islamphobia” had nothing to do with the assault. Indeed, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess wildly that alcohol was a substantial contributing factor to the incident. And when it comes to “Islamophobia,” this was the best they could do, so to speak.

“Islamophobia” is a concept fervently promoted since 2000 by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It seeks to stigmatize expressions of disapproval of Islam as irrational manifestations of fear and prejudice. Implicitly, it raises the question of whether any fear of Islam is necessarily crazy. It also raises the question of whether some fear of Islam might be rational, but it instructs us to keep any unapproved answer to ourselves. It seeks to make us afraid to talk about perfectly reasonable fears. Andrew McCarthy has more on the provenance and uses of “Islamophobia” here.

Since the early 1990s, Minnesota has been flooded by waves of Somali Muslim refugees and immigrants. The number remains in doubt; official sources place it at something like 35,000. Unofficial estimates put it at well over 100,000. Whatever the number, it is large and growing.

Politicians like Dayton have proved highly effective in inhibiting public discussion of legitimate concerns about Minnesota’s Somali community. When I sat down to interview Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek in his office this past November, he bristled in response to my question about security issues related to the Somali community. Why was I focusing on that community? I referred to the congressional task force report recognizing Minnesota’s responsibility for 26 percent of the American fighters joining or seeking to join the ISIS. “I just came from an FBI briefing this morning,” Stanek told me at the time. “They told me we’re 20 percent.”

OK, but that still leaves Minnesota at No. 1 in a ranking where we would like to be No. 50.

Ten Minnesota Somalis have now been charged by Luger’s office with seeking to join or support ISIS. Four have pleaded guilty. The charges represent the culmination of a 10-month FBI investigation.

Reading the criminal complaints and underlying FBI affidavits supporting the charges in these cases is an alarming experience. The young men who have responded to the call of ISIS are full of hate for Americans and for the U.S. If they choose to act it out somewhere closer to home than Syria, we will have a major problem on our hands. After the massacre in San Bernardino, you’d think it might be time to talk about it.

The 10 men present something of a case study that belies the clichés around the subject of “radicalization.” These men were “connected” to schools and jobs. Their cases demonstrate plenty of opportunity for advancement and financial support. One of the men even maxed out his federal student loan account with a $5,000 withdrawal before seeking to depart Minneapolis for Syria.

Unnamed local mosques figure prominently in the cases. Islam is, of course, a common denominator. The 10 men are all Muslims seeking to join the jihad waged by ISIL.

Hillary Clinton actually had a useful observation buried in her Minneapolis speech this past fall on the subject of terrorism. She quoted Deqa Hussen, the mother of one of the 10 Somali men charged with supporting ISIS. Addressing other parents, Hussen said: “We have to stop the denial. … We have to talk to our kids and work with the FBI.” Clinton herself added: “That’s a message we need to hear from leaders within Muslim-American communities across our country.”

Which raises a question or two: Why don’t we hear that message more often from leaders within the Somali community? For that matter, why don’t we hear more expressions of gratitude from within the Somali community for their rescue from Third World disorder by the U.S. or for opportunities afforded to them in Minnesota?

Kyle Loven is the Minneapolis FBI’s chief division counsel and media coordinator. Speaking about Somali-related law enforcement issues to the National Security Society in Richfield in October, he conceded that the community gave rise to special challenges for law enforcement. “We walk a tightrope” with this community, Loven observed. “Every time we have to indict somebody, you should see the remarks we get. … Every time we have to make an arrest, it is a setback [in our relations with the Somali community].”

Luger is nominally responsible for a pilot program to prevent “radicalization” of Somali-Minnesotans. The program goes under the name “Building Community Resilience,” a classic euphemism of the Obama era. The program is to funnel as much as $1 million to support Minnesota’s Somali community. The memorandum of understanding between Luger and Minnesota Somali leaders reflects the wariness of Somali-Minnesotans. It stipulates that the program will not be used for surveillance purposes by any law enforcement agency or by any person working for or on behalf of any law enforcement agency.

You can see why the authorities might want to shut down discussion of reasonable concerns raised by Minnesota’s Somali community. They really would prefer not to talk about them. They would prefer to sweep them under a well-worn rug.

NOTE: This post is adapted from my December Star Tribune column “Islam and Minnesota: Can we hear some straight talk for a change?” I hope that was a rhetorical question. The answer is obviously no.


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