By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota
When two Somali-American Muslims compete for the same Congressional Seat, it is a measure of the healthy political growth of our community.
Once upon a time, when a Muslim ran for office or Congress – they were up against a tornado of hatemongers, having to prove they are not tied to extremists and an opposing candidate who used their Muslim faith against them.
In Congressional District 5 (CD5), we have something new. Minnesotans just love to lead in opening doors. Congressman Keith Ellison who held this seat, left to run for Attorney General and a few candidates are running for CD5.
The excitement is we have two Somali-American Muslims competing with other candidates for this seat.
- Jamal Abdulahi
- Margaret Anderson Kelliher
- Frank Nelson Drake
- Ilhan Omar
- Patricia Torres Ray
Wow! This reminds me of when Norm Coleman and Paul Wellstone, both Jewish, ran for the same Senate Seat. It is great to see more than one candidate running for the same seat.
Ilhan Omar, the nation’s first and only Somali-American lawmaker is running.
Jamal Abdulahi, a community activist, blogger, and the founder of Somali-American DFL Caucus officially launched his campaign to represent Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District as well.
Like many Somalis, Jamal’s story is a story of struggle, overcoming obstacles, working hard and giving back to the community he loves.
Jamal shares that “on arriving in America, he took a Greyhound from California to Minnesota, worked minimum wage jobs to put himself through school and when he became eligible transferred to the University of Minnesota’s prestigious Institute of Technology and earned a degree in electrical engineering.
As committed DFL’er, Jamal has knocked on thousands of doors, chaired a committee charged with making recommendations on updating the DFL’s technology infrastructure and founded the Somali-American DFL Caucus which has taken as its mission to organize one of Minnesota’s most politically marginalized communities.
As a community advocate, Jamal has written extensively about the Somali community for mainstream publications and worked closely with legislators to draft legislation addressing gaps in mental health care, medical professionals trained overseas to be re-certified in Minnesota and a pilot program at Augsburg College to help inspire teachers of East African heritage to become licensed educators.
Jamal earned his M.B.A. while working full time and raising a family and developed his policy and leadership skills as a Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute.
Jamal and his wife Sahra Ali are raising four daughters and continue to serve the community just as Jamal has done his entire adult life.”
Try to engage all candidates and invite them to Somali and Muslim get-togethers to encourage more Muslims and Somalis to participate and vote. I think the best way to advance the conversation when a Muslim or Somali runs, is to have more than one candidate running for the same seat. This will highlight the issues they want to address instead of focusing mainly on responding to bigotry and Islamophobia.
Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. She was the chair for the Interfaith Relations at Islamic Center of Minnesota. She has completed training in restorative justice at the University’s Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking. She was a 2008-2009 policy fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. She is a public speaker and writer and lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
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By Amber Michel, Engage Minnesota
So often we feel powerless to address the immense suffering of our fellow human beings. Those feelings
of helplessness have become especially oppressive as we see hundreds of thousands of our Syrian sisters and brothers struggling, fleeing, starving, and dying.
My name is Amber and I am an organizer with CISPOS (Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria).
When I talk about Syria, one of the comments I hear most often is, “I don’t even understand what’s happening over there. It’s just so complicated.” People frequently follow that up with, “It’s so sad but what can we really do?” It is tempting to simply leave it at that, change the television channel, go back to homework, and busy ourselves in the activities of daily life.
Instead, I encourage us to give serious consideration to those two sentiments.
1. It’s just so complicated.
2. What can we really do?
By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times
The childhood friends who grew up in the dusty and arid Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya also picked St. Cloud to be closer to their families here — and to Minneapolis, which has a vibrant Somali-American presence and serves as the capital city for Somalis in North America.
“It’s a small place,” Ali said of St. Cloud. “Anywhere you want to go in the city is just about 10 minutes away. People really like that.”
Mohamud added: “St. Cloud is really a nice city. It’s promising for young Somalis … many kids are graduating from colleges and high schools.”
Before their arrival in St. Cloud, Mohamud and Ali spent more than two decades in Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world.
Both escaped the civil war in Somalia — which erupted in 1991 — and sought refuge in the camp, which has more than 400,000 people. They initially thought the war would end sooner and planned to return home in a matter of months.
That wasn’t the case, however.
The civil war in Somalia stretched into decades. For Ali and Mohamud, this meant living more than 20 years in dire conditions in the camp.
Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.
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