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Refugees, an undeniable element of the American dream

By Omar Alansari-Kreger, Engage Minnesota

It seems rather reasonable to argue the United States owes the millions of people it has displaced, directly or indirectly, amnesty through a program of refugee resettlement.

Wherever there are immigrants, there are refugees. The United States is a nation of immigrants, but is it also a nation of refugees? The Puritans were one of the earliest European settlers that arrived in the New World. They fled the Old World to escape bigotry and persecution for their beliefs. They found solace at Plymouth Rock because it offered a place free of bigoted persecution. Therefore, would that make the Puritans America’s first major batch of refugees? At the time, issues surrounding the drama of immigration were not there because as a nation, the United States was nonexistent.

It cannot be stressed enough. The United States is a nation built on the bedrock of immigration. It can be argued that every major wave of immigrants were the refugees of their time. They escaped subsistence by means of serfdom. The foundation of the nation is supported by the promise of providence; a staple of the American Dream. The United States is a grand experiment ceaselessly working toward its optimization. It is the civic responsibility of every generation to impartially define the American Dream. Each definition can be used as an existential nuance to repatriate its foundations to the present.

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Inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich?

By Fedwa WazwazEngage Minnesota

The camel sees all of the other camel’s humps but never his own.
–Bedouin Proverb


Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, taught Muslims that a society should not “inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich.” This is not just an Islamic teaching–it has also been a teaching of those noble Americans who have nurtured our country to a higher understanding of human dignity and value.

Yet, with ISIS, we seem again to be forgiving the rich and focusing the brunt of our punishments on the poor.

In a newly aired PBS “Frontline” documentary, titled “The Secret History of ISIS,” produced by Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser, and Jim Gilmore examines how ISIS or Daesh came to be.  The documentary discusses how the US contributed to the rise of ISIS through many mistakes, as well as lies, told to create a link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein so that we could make a case for Iraq.

Experts, including CIA officials, discussed how mistakes, lies and exaggerations were told along the path to a U.S. war on Iraq, which in turn gave rise to ISIS, also known as ISIL or Daesh.

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Meet the attorneys representing Somali-American terror suspects

By Jamal Abdulahi, Star Tribune

Abdulahi_Jamal_colCircleTrials for the seven Somali teens arrested for attempting to join ISIS are scheduled to begin in September. The suspects could spend years in prison if convicted. Defense attorneys have said little outside of court, but one thing is certain: The deck is stacked in favor of the prosecutor.

When Reverend Al Sharpton eulogized the late defense attorney Jonnie Cochran, he told mourners: “With all due respect to you, Brother Simpson, when we heard about the acquittal, we weren’t clapping for O.J., we were clapping for Johnnie. We were clapping because for decades our brothers, our cousins, our uncles had to stand in the well with no one to stand up for them. And finally a black man came and said, ‘If it don’t fit you must acquit,’”

Sharpton went on. “Johnnie Cochran was to this era what Thurgood Marshall was to the era before.”

Sharpton was making a broader point about the American judicial system. The difference between walking free and serving lengthy prison sentences depends largely on the rigor of the defense.

And of course, quality of defense is often tied to wealth or lack thereof.  O.J. Simpson was enormously wealthy.

The seven Somali-American teenagers are standing in a deep well alone. The current political atmosphere in America makes it nearly impossible to defend charges of conspiracy to provide “material support” to a designated terrorist organization. The defendants’ identities only deepen the well.  The combination of being black, Muslim and immigrant amounts to three strikes and you’re out in post-September 11 America.

These teenagers and their immigrant families are not wealthy. In addition to the most serious charge of conspiracy, two of the defendants are charged with financial fraud by resorting to withdrawals from their college financial aid funds to allegedly finance their travel plans. This underscores the point: The defendants can’t afford a Cochran-style defense.

When defendants are not able to afford attorneys, the government provides a public defender. The problem is, the federal public defender system is plagued by chronic budget shortfalls, including a $52 million in 2013.

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

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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.

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