Arrests trigger flood of emotions in Minnesota’s Somali community

By Jamal Abdulahi

The recent arrest of six Somali-American young men, suspected of trying to join an overseas terror organization, has triggered a flood of emotions in Minnesota’s Somali community. Fittingly, community leaders are floating proposals to help everyone cope with these emotions.

The sorrow of heart-broken mothers touched many in in Minnesota’s Somali community. A mother of two suspects wept while trying to answer a question from a reporter. Her excruciating pain percolated to two daughters, who also wept as they accompanied their mother to court.

A suspect’s brother unleashed loads of disgust and frustration upon the informant who helped authorities. “I’m mad,” he told a flock of reporters covering court proceedings. A seventh man was arrested after posting a series of menacing messages on social media.

Friends and family who packed the courtroom during the detention hearing were dismayed to learn that the suspects were being held in solitary confinement, with ankles and wrists shackled, invoking images of Guantanamo Bay. About 200 supporters of grief-stricken families showed up at a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol and questioned the utility of shackling.

Continue reading at Star Tribune…

Jamal Abdulahi is an independent analyst. He writes about politics, economy and Minnesota’s Somali-American community. He also blogs at

The ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ program institutionalizes injustice against Somalis

By Kadra Abdi, Ayantu Ayana, Ramla Bile, Mohamed H. Mohamed, Julia Nekessa Opoti

Norm Coleman’s “In the Land of 10,000 Terrorists” Op-Ed that appeared in the Star Tribune on April 24, 2015, has offended many progressives and members of the Somali community alike. However, something even more egregious is receiving blind support from Minnesota’s progressive community. Under the leadership of U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, the Department of Justice has launched a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program in Minneapolis.

Like Coleman’s Op-Ed, the CVE program promotes seriously flawed theories of terrorist radicalization, as well as unjustified fear toward Somalis. Terrorism is not defined by a single cultural group or a faith system – yet the Department of Justice’s program exclusively targets Muslim Americans, and, in Minnesota, it specifically targets Somalis, cashing in on the tired and racist cliché that Islam and Muslims are inherently violent. The reality? According to the FBI, six percent of all acts of domestic terrorism are attributed to Muslims, which means that the CVE program will ignore the source of 94 percent of threats to homeland security.

While progressives have come out strong against Coleman’s Op-Ed, progressive leaders continue to throw their support behind the CVE, which enjoys bipartisan support.

Continue reading at MinnPost…

The authors are Somali and East African community activists who reside in the Twin Cities.


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We also welcome your commentary at Engage Minnesota.

The Essence of Beauty

By Malak Sabbah, Engage Minnesota

I’m sure you all have heard the simple, yet profound saying of Confucius: “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” This galvanizing quote has for centuries transformed the spiritual lives of people, creating an aura of creativity and imagination in the way we perceive our world today. It is a shift in our understanding of life, encouraging us to seek beauty through our own distinct lens.

Society  has long programmed our perceptions and outlooks, whether it’s about our physical features, inner beauty, or our world and everything in between, to the point where conforming is the only gateway to happiness, so they say. But this quote or better yet, state of mind, can really uplift the spirit, guiding us towards finding beauty in nearly everything.

This quote teaches us that a deformed rose stem is beautiful if only we learn how to shift our focus on the enriching red color of the pedals above. It teaches us that when you peel open a grapefruit, don’t quickly rush to devour it; rather notice the fine tuning of how it’s split perfectly, and notice the natural order of its structure and vibrant color. Or it teaches us to look at the flock of birds flying harmoniously together in groups, where each bird dares to fly out of the line, to learn about teamwork and standing together amongst the rigid winds.

Read more »

Righting the Misconceptions – Not all Terrorists Are Muslim

By Sarah Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

Same hate, different target. Almost every minority in the United States has faced discrimination. The same hate has been transferred over and over again, to different targets. (CAIR-MN). A few decades ago, and somewhat still persistent, it was the African Americans, and now it’s the Muslim-Americans. CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) conducted a poll asking the public, “On a scale of 1-10, with one being an America free of Islamophobia and 10 being the worst possible situation for Muslims in America, how would you rate the state of Islamophobia in America today?” The average answer turned out to be 6.4 out of 10. People blindly believe in erroneous views about Muslims being projected by some media outlets.  In my opinion, the biggest misconception about Muslims is that all terrorists are Muslim.

Read more »

Texas congresswoman Molly White needs to reaffirm her allegiance to the US and apologize to all Americans

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

Yesterday’s fiasco by Texas congresswoman Molly White is diagnostic of her deep bitterness toward American Muslims as well as, perhaps, her own temperament challenges. However, not all anger is unjustified. In fact, sometimes anger is required. But in the case at hand, White should get ready to contend with Americans being rightfully angry at her. Read more »

Anti-racism does not conflict with the freedom of speech

By Boraan Abdulkarim, Engage Minnesota

There are more than two perspectives on the recent happenings in France. If you want to wave two flags, do so undauntedly, even if one is raised higher.

One of the latest headline and conversation-dominating topics is the recent shooting in Paris. Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published another addition to a long line of cartoons that make a joke out of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, and this prompted gunmen, who claimed to be avenging the Prophet, to kill 12 Charlie Hebdo staff members.  Both bitter racism on behalf of Charlie Hebdo  and an infringement on Freedom of Speech on behalf of the gunmen were committed. In order to take a stance on the issue, individuals must ask themselves which of these wrongs is more immediate.

That’s where things get messy.

Pullquote Photo

— Chief Visual Editor, The Rubicon, Boraan Abdulkarim

It’s slowly evolved to become a fight to mark the good guys and the bad guys, and make the bad guys pay.”

Read more »

If you think the world is going crazy, you need to understand wartime media


By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

The CEO of the company I work for likes to send e-mail commentaries about world events every now and then. His last mass e-mail was in regards to the recent terror attacks in Paris. In addition to lamenting (rightfully) on how horrifying the attacks were, our CEO kept repeating his bewilderedness at the mindsets of the attackers. How could they be so cruel? So devoid of humanity? What’s going on in the world? Why is this happening to us? Read more »

What Does Our Faith Say About Power and Oppression?

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

In 2013, the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota began a dialogue series called “Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!”

Over several dialogues we brought in speakers who helped us to explore and share with each other their faith tradition and perspectives on Abraham, the Angels, Adam and Eve, Jesus, Moses, David, and Prophet Muhammad, upon them peace and blessings.  For Muslims, all prophets are spiritual brothers, with Prophet Muhammad being the last and final messenger of God in this long chain of prophets.  The discussions were quite interesting and the series helped to throw a pebble, creating a tiny ripple of understanding between the faith traditions.

This Sunday, December 21st, we are moving past this series to a new dialogue:  Faithful Response:  What does our faith say about how we respond to issues of power and oppression?

I will share my perspective with another speaker, Dr. Cameron B. R. Howard, assistant professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Continue reading here…

Blaming mosques for ISIS recruiting misses the issue

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

Mosques inside the United Stated, including Minnesota mosques, are receiving extra news coverage as of late in connection with a few Muslims deciding to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian Baathist regime of Bashar Al Assad. The news coverage includes what’s being done by Muslims and their law enforcement partners in curbing recruiting, charges being brought, details about recruits and their journeys, and sometimes negative connotations about mosques themselves, such as Fox 9’s recurring disingenuous depiction of mosques as being places for terror incitement.

Something, however, is being completely overlooked here, and it’s not exactly a subtle thing. In fact, it’s the single most important piece of the story: Bashar Al Assad’s regime’s continuing atrocities against Syrian Muslims.

Read more »

An Increasingly Diverse Religious Landscape

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

The religious landscape in the U.S. is changing. Our country is getting more religiously diverse. This change calls for a fundamental change in the way we approach interreligious understanding and outreach. In my very first blog entry, I had outlined the tremendous efforts that are happening in Minnesota. Since then, these efforts have definitely increased by many orders of magnitude.

Read the rest of Zafar’s article here.

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

“… the angels said, “O Mary, indeed God gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to God].”

Read the rest of Zafar’s Star Tribune piece here.

Rep. Ellison and Rep. McCollum Take a Stand Against Human Rights Abusers

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

India is facing a stern test for its much vaunted democratic values as it prepares for general elections to be held in April 2014. Should we as Americans be concerned about the impact of these developments in the world’s largest democracy? The answer is an emphatic yes.

read the rest of Zafar’s Star Tribune piece here.

St. Cloud Times on the proposed Islamic center

Come 6 p.m. Tuesday, all St. Cloud residents will learn more about a proposed zoning change to property on Clearwater Road that has many folks already fuming.

Read the rest of the St. Cloud Times editorial here.

CAIR-MN Launches New Community Safety Training for Mosques

By A. Lori Saroya

CAIR-MN has launched a new community safety training initiative for mosques and other institutions serving minorities.

The interactive training discusses security steps to take and how to assess an institution’s vulnerability to attack. It includes safety preparation and planning, details on security equipment, how to deal with an armed intruder, procedures for handling bomb threats or suspicious packages, and links to security resources available from private and government sources.

CAIR-MN is also setting up on-site safety checks to provide site visits by community safety officers.

The new training is offered following the publication of CAIR’s new “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety.” The booklet was distributed to more than 50 mosques and organizations in Minnesota this week.

Drafted by a leading security consultant, it seeks to better equip the community with the knowledge necessary to protect against racial and religious bigotry or attacks. The booklet was produced in response to recent bias attacks targeting American Muslim institutions.

In addition to an increase in discrimination against Muslims in areas of employment, public accommodation and law enforcement profiling, CAIR-MN has seen an increase in hate crimes. At a time when a very vocal minority is shaping national sentiment on Islam and Muslims, safety training is urgently needed.

CAIR-MN handled more than 180 cases of hate, harassment and discrimination involving Minnesota Muslims and other racial and religious minorities last year.

Institutions serving minority communities can contact CAIR-MN at 612-206-3360 or to request the “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety” booklet, arrange a Community Safety Training or set up an On-Site Safety Check.

This training is made possible by a grant from the Elmer L. and Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation.


Ramadan: Honoring Religious Accommodations


How to effectively interact with your Muslim employees, students, colleagues and clients

Fasting: Every year in the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from the break of dawn until sunset, abstaining from food and drink. The fast is considered an act of self-purification which brings one closer to God.

This year, Ramadan began on July 8, 2013. It will end approximately on August 7, 2013. The fasts are almost 17 1/2 hours long each day.

Each year, CAIR-MN sees a rise in religious accommodation cases during Ramadan. Below are some ways you can accommodate your employee, co-worker, student, or client during Ramadan:

  • If a Muslim employee’s work shift occurs during the time of the pre-dawn mean or at the time of breaking the fast (after sunset), provide them a break at this time. Adjust regularly scheduled meal breaks to correspond to the necessary times.
  • Some Muslim women may start wearing the hijab (headcover) in Ramadan. Muslim men may wear a kufi (head cap). In most cases, the religious dress must be allowed.
  • Some Muslims may find it difficult to participate in lunch meetings; be mindful of this.
  • Fasting students should be allowed to go to the school library instead of the cafeteria during lunch.
  • Fasting students should be excused from strenuous physical activity as they will not be able to drink water.
  • Eid ul Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, will fall around August 7. Anticipate time off requests.

Take the time to also wish your Muslim friends, “Happy Ramadan.”

Please note: The above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Should you have any questions about the material herein or about a specific case, please consult with your attorney.

Request a Diversity Training

Increasing the understanding of Islam, Muslims and religious accommodations helps to ensure that Muslims’ rights, like those of other Americans, are upheld in the workplace, at school and in other public areas. These interactive trainings offer a safe space for questions about Islam and Muslims. CAIR-MN has developed a variety of trainings and tailors each to fit the needs of the client. Some of trainings we offer are listed below:


Our interactive trainings, “Positive Interactions,” provide managers, human resource personnel, and associates with information they need to understand the practices, beliefs, and cultural nuances of their Muslim employees and colleagues._ In addition, we discuss the laws pertaining to religious accommodation in the workplace, highlighting the legal obligations of employers while generating creative industry-specific options. We have trained almost every major corporation in Minnesota.


Our school training educates school officials, administrators, teachers and support staff on the beliefs and practices of their Muslim students and colleagues. We discuss laws pertaining to accommodating religious practices and provide information to understand cultural differences.

Media Professionals

CAIR-MN holds an annual Media Breakfast and also meets with individual news outlets. Journalists are provided with information on American Muslims and areas of consideration when reporting on Muslims.

Public Service Agencies/Government

Our public service trainings reach out to professionals providing services to the Muslim community, educating service providers on Islamic beliefs and culture as it relates to their industry needs.

In addition to these trainings CAIR also produces guides for various professions, which include:

– Employer’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices

– Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices

– Health Care Professional’s Guide to Islamic Practices

– Know Your Rights Pocket Guide

– Journalist’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims

– Law Enforcement Officer’s Guide to Muslim Community

– Correctional Institution’s Guide to Islamic Practices

Request a Training or Guide

If you would like to schedule a training or request a guide, please: call our office at (612) 206-3360, send an email to or submit your request online at

Pope Francis Opens a New Chapter in Catholic-Muslim Relations

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

My relationship with the Catholic community goes back to the time when I was 3 years old. My parents sent me to a Catholic school, a 150 year old institution in Hyderabad, India. I studied there from preschool to high school. This was an experience that would shape my view of Catholics and Christians at-large. I cherish the time I spent at the Catholic school and remember vividly the positive interactions I had with the Catholic Brothers, teachers, and fellow students. During the moral science class at the school, even though I was a Muslim, I was very much on a common ground due to the many similarities that Islam and Christianity share. This provided me with an enriching experience that would spur me on to pursue interfaith relations as a priority.

Read the rest of Zafar’s article here.

Points to consider before being suspicious of the next random Muslim you meet

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

You’ve probably seen a Muslim in a public place at some point in time. Given the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the US, you probably went through the brief discomfort associated with the questions: “Is it wrong to feel suspicious about this guy?” and “How do I know he/she isn’t plotting something?”

Right wing pundits wish to make you believe that you’re being forced under the pressure of illogical “political correctness” to treat Muslims with equality. I’m here to tell you that you can put all notions of political correctness aside and simply look at the facts:

Read more »

Bacteria-fighting viruses may offer critical help against infection

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

One of my high school friends grew up to become an orthopedic surgeon. He works in a busy hospital in which he sees all kinds of cases — from trauma to congenital malformations to tumors. When I asked him what he considers the most difficult cases to treat, he said that the one thing that raises the hair on the back of his neck is not seeing a tumor on a radiograph; it’s being able to see bone through the skin.

Read the rest of Hani’s piece here.

African American Muslims – An Integral Part of U.S. History

By Zafar Siddiqui, Engage Minnesota

African American Muslims make up a large part of the American Muslim community, constituting at least 30% of the population. You may be familiar with African-American Muslims of the twentieth century, but Muslims were here long before that–nearly as long as Europeans. Black History month gives us a great opportunity to look back at the rich history of the Muslim African American presence in our country.

Read the rest of Zafar’s piece here

The NRA is MIA where liberty is truly at stake

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

Arms and liberty. There is an accepted connection between the two, a connection perpetually repeated by pro-gun pundits. Soon after the Sandy Hook tragedy, pro-gun activists took to the airwaves and the internet in a frenetic frenzy, warning the populace that their freedom is at stake and that they should stock up on all kinds of weapons before it’s too late, especially borderline-illegal heavy duty artillery that is just waiting to be outlawed by nature.

The frenzy worked.

Read more »


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