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Meet Ruhel Islam

By Tea Rozman-Clark, Green Card Voices

The best way to respond to extreme vetting, a term presidential candidate Donald Trump refers to in the debates is to amplify the voices of Muslim immigrants in their own words.

Upon the request of his sister, who was moving to the U.S. with her American-businessman husband, and due to the hostile political climate of his home country, Mr. Islam left Bangladesh for the U.S. in 1996.

The fourth of seven children, he moved from his rural, childhood village of Sylhet to a larger urban area in pursuit of a college degree in commerce and accounting. Upon the completion of his degree and while still in Bangladesh, he started a farm – growing it from just two chickens to over two thousand.

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Meet Nemeh Al-Sarraj

By Nemeh Al-Sarraj, Engage Minnesota

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For six years, Nemeh Al-Sarraj struggled with university. “I was at North Hennepin,” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she said. “And I kept changing my major every week. I picked almost every major possible.”

“My family was so annoyed.”

School was always a struggle for Al-Sarraj, who wasn’t properly diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) until she was nineteen. After that, she said, life began to grow a lot clearer, but she still had a lot to learn about herself and others. She also had to learn to come to grips with her diagnosis, and to “stop hiding the fact that I have a disability.”

There was a long struggle, and then “I took a year off. I transferred to Metro State and looked at all the degrees.”

It was at Metro State, Al-Sarraj said, when education finally clicked. “I took my first disability-awareness class. And loved it.”

Last fall, Al-Sarraj triumphed in her long struggle, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Human Science degree in Disability Studies. But even before she graduated, Al-Sarraj’s life had markedly changed. She had seen how much a diagnosis changed her life, and how she’d struggled before she’d gotten it. As a Palestinian-American, a Muslim, and a person with cognitive differences, she knew how much work there was to do in disability awareness. She wanted to contribute.

Al-Sarraj didn’t want to wait until she had her degree. Clearly, once she has a clear idea of what she wants, Al-Sarraj sets about getting it done. She has difficulties with communication, reading body language, and social situations. But, through this, her single-minded determination shines.

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In wake of attack, activists working to reduce tensions in St. Cloud brace for ‘a long winter’

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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Each time a tragic or controversial incident strikes the Somali-American community in St. Cloud, Yusuf Haji is one of the first people to get to the scene.

Over the past several years, Haji has recounted numerous stories of high-profile events and boiling racial tensions through written and video postings for his Facebook audience of nearly 4,500 — making him one of the most visible activists in the city.

The latest episode came on the weekend after a knife attack turned a typical Saturday night at the Crossroads Center mall into chaos and confusion when a 20-year-old Somali-American, Dahir Adan, allegedly stabbed 10 people before he was fatally shot by Officer Jason Falconer of the Avon Police Department.

The incident began to unfold at the shopping mall at about 8 p.m. In less than an hour, Haji was on Facebook, posting images and videos of the center, speaking to witnesses about the incident that has shocked many in the Somali-American community.

Hours later, Haji appeared on a Facebook Live video with a woman named Natalie Ringsmuth to call for unity, and to discuss the possibility of retaliation against the Somali-American community, “It’s a very sad night for us here in St. Cloud,” Haji said in the video, which had “We’re praying for the victims … it’s going to be very shocking and a very sad night for all of us. It doesn’t look good for our community. It’s going to be really bad.”

The incident — which the FBI is investigating as a potential act of terrorism — delivered a major blow to Haji and Ringsmuth’s years-old effort to bring together the diverse residents of St. Cloud, a city that has seen a string of incidents hostile to its Somali-American community and other racial and religious minorities in recent years.

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Ibrahim Hirsi can be reached at ihirsi@minnpost.com.  Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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Meet Zaynab Abdi

By Tea Rozman-Clark, Green Card Voices

Since arriving in the United States, Zaynab Abdi has set goals for herself. She wants to have the best future possible.

Zaynab was born in Aden, Yemen. She grew up in a large household with her extended family. Her mother immigrated to the United States through the Green Card Lottery when Zaynab was very young. After sixteen years, her mother was eligible to sponsor her for a visa, and Zaynab made plans to immigrate.

Before she could move, a revolution erupted in Yemen, disrupting her plans. She moved to Egypt with her sister. After two years, Zaynab’s visa arrived but not her sister’s; she would have to find another way. As another revolution began in Egypt, Zaynab went to Minnesota. It was difficult for Zaynab to adjust to life in the United States. Not only was she introduced to American culture, but she had to learn about her mother’s Somali culture as well. However, Zaynab was glad to be reunited with her mother.

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