“Minnesota men” go to trial (17)

Well, I went to the trial yesterday and a fight broke out. Waiting in the hallway to enter the courtroom at the appointed hour, the hallway was thick with those of us wanting to take a seat inside. I stood directly behind a young Somali lady wearing a hijab. As she started pushing and shoving, she repeatedly dropped the F-bomb at maximum volume within shouting distance of the jury. One of the many FBI agents on hand dropped her to the floor and handcuffed her hands behind her back. And here I thought I’d seen it all.

The fight, as it turns out, was between the mother of Abdirizak Warsame and her daughter, Warsame’s sister. As Warsame was about to resume testifying against the three defendants under a cooperation agreement with the prosecution, daughter took went after mother. The conflict represented their divided loyalties in the case. The Star Tribune’s Stephen Montemayor picks up on the trial’s undercard here. Warsame’s sister put up a better fight in the hall than Warsame did on the stand.

Warsame was the third and weakest of three key witnesses called by the government. He completed his testimony yesterday. The government seems to me to be ending its case on a low note. That’s generally not how you’re supposed to do it.

Without going into details, it seemed to me that defense counsel Bruce Nestor turned Warsame to use on behalf of his client, Abdirahman Daud. I may be missing something, but I’m not sure whether, on balance, Warsame was more helpful to the government or to the defense.

Warsame made me reflect on my understanding of the case against the “Minnesota men.” In a sense, they are products of the vacuous America of 2016. They have been Americanized in that sense. These young men had boundless opportunities of a conventional sort before them, yet they chose to squander them. They are talented and resourceful, yet they represent a great threat. They are seriously misguided young men. What happened?

Warsame is a graduate of the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy in Inver Grove Heights. With a little help from the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the school has now been shuttered. I wore out a keyboard writing about the school before it closed. For years the school operated, illegally in my opinion, as a publicly funded Islamic charter school.

From TIZA Warsame proceeded to Heritage Academy, a mostly Somali high school in Minneapolis. This year the Minneapolis school district moved to retake control of Heritage from its board.

After high school Warsame attended a local community college and worked for several employers. Indeed, he worked for two on the tarmac at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport while he was pursuing his interest in ISIS.

Islam filled the life of Warsame and his friends. It filled the vacuum now served up by American culture to immigrants. The “Minnesota men” could have succumbed to drugs or alcohol in a pattern that has devastated the lives of so many American families. In this case, however, they fell prey to Islam. It was Islam that intoxicated them.

Judge Davis himself took up this point with Warsame yesterday. “You understood that if you committed jihad you would die,” the judge said. “What attracted you to that?”

“The reward you would get and the fact that this life is temporary,” Warsame said. “If you were to go sacrifice yourself and go fight in jihad, the reward would be bigger. You’d save your family and save yourself.”

America, what you got for that?


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