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 Omar Alansari-Kreger, Engage Minnesota
Rather than focusing on simply raising awareness on the pain and suffering of persons displaced by war, why not take one step further? What if families across Minnesota were encouraged to adopt refugees and displaced persons from around the world as their own?
Look around the Twin Cities and you will find highway billboards with pictures featuring sad-looking dogs. An appeal is made to the inner humanitarian in us all to act on an injustice. The world is becoming an inferno with no end to the madness. In Syria, Aleppo was recently recaptured by forces loyal to a tyrannical war criminal, yet we continue to stand idle as atrocities unfold on our newsfeeds. Women, children, and the elderly made a last chance escape out of Aleppo hoping to find sanctuary in neighboring Turkey. The sad truth is that a great deal of Syrian civilians will never make it to safe ground under an unrelenting clout of civil war. Here is a proposition we should all consider, what if those highway billboard signs began featuring the tearful faces of Syrian children in addition to other war-battered peoples? On the surface, the main idea would be directed toward raising awareness generally.
Nowadays, it is all too easy to block out a world of sad, but inconvenient truths. We have the ability to remove, block out, and unsubscribe from trends that are unsettling to us. That is nothing but selective attention which desensitizes us to a reality of ominous truths. Rather than focusing on simply raising awareness on the pain and suffering of persons displaced by war, why not take one step further? What if families across Minnesota were encouraged to adopt refugees and displaced persons from around the world as their own? Does such a proposition carry too much controversial baggage? It is all too sensible to argue that human lives are invaluable; therefore, society should mirror that all too universal standard. There are many different ways to adopt refugees and displaced persons fleeing war zones. There is the traditional method of direct adoption; this is where one child or family is brought into the United States through programs of state-sanctioned sponsorship.
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.
By Omar Alansari-Kreger, Engage Minnesota
Be one of us or one of them.
Assimilation is a difficult thing to experience. Some choose to live insular lives which leaves very little room for external engagement. As a matter of principle, the ways of the old world are traditionally followed without question. The children of refugees find themselves in a very difficult position. There is this underlying belief suggesting that a way of life must be chosen. Either embrace the ways of the old world or become part of the new. That decision carries with it a weighty proposition. For a great deal of expatriated youths living across the United States, there is this feeling that a choice must be made between parents and their external surroundings. For example, parental refugees may choose to maintain minimal proficiency with the English language in addition to their newly acquired surroundings. Their children generally function as bridges which assist in overcoming barriers of language and culture. That eventually leads to a conflict of interest which materializes in a clash of ideas.
Youths experience a world that is fundamentally different from that of their elders. Such conflicts originate from cauldrons that brew oppositional antagonisms with old world traditions. An ongoing trend among refugees finds a need to keep assimilative forces at an arm’s length. The rationale behind that is supported by an analogy of fear.
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?