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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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Pushing Back Vicious Political Attacks

By Jamal Abdulahi, Minnesota Civic

 

Abdulahi_Jamal_colCircleWhile the political views expressed in Scott Johnson’s essay “Islam and Minnesota: Can we hear some straight talk for a change?” are wrong and extreme in nature, the ability of Somalis to pushback forcefully and effecively is hindered by the author’s unstated premise.

The author’s premise is that Somalis are disloyal to America and politically more loyal to Somalia. This view has support in mainstream Minnesota and Somalis re-enforce it with more passion for Somalia politics.

Trying to explain attacks in the essay as part of the broader hostilities towards American Muslims is insufficient. Nor is it sufficient to cast them as general stereotypes held about immigrants.

Minnesota’s Somali political situation is unique and must be treated as such. There are set of nuances which sets a part.

Continue reading at Minnesota Civic…

Jamal Abdulahi is long time community organizer and an independent analyst based in the Twin Cities. He can be reached by via email Abdu0037@umn.edu or on Twitter @fuguni.

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Somalis are resilient Americans, not terrorists

By Abdirashid Ahmed, Pioneer Press

As part of my daily routine, I read the local daily news clips every morning. I often find more than one article about the Somali community in Minnesota. Though some articles are positive, many frame the community negatively.

For example, on Monday, July 13, 2015, there were two articles about the community: one, titled “Minnesota’s Somali-Americans urge new treatment for would-be terrorists,” appeared in the Pioneer Press, and “Study: African immigrants’ economic impact untapped in Minnesota” appeared on ABC Eyewitness News Channel 5.

Surprisingly, the article with the term “terrorist” attracted the attention of many fellow Minnesotans, many of whom chose to post negative, un-American, unpatriotic, and clearly racist comments. One commenter asserted, “The only way to deradicalize (Somalis) is to not let them in here.” Another commenter stated, “Send them all back to the craphole from which they originated in Africa. These people are completely alien to Western Society and don’t belong here. They are a violent threat shoved into our midst by those whom (sic) would destroy us all.” And another commenter wrote, “Somalis have learned how to game the system and take advantage of the lefty dim wits in Minneapolis. These guys are no different than any street gang members. Do the crime, do the time.” Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any reasonable comments in response to this article. I have been reading, reviewing, and tracking these negative posts for some time and feel it’s my moral obligation to intervene positively.

Continue reading at TwinCities.com

Abdirashid S. Ahmed of Maplewood currently works for the City of Minneapolis as its East African community specialist. A public policy analyst, he has previously worked with public assistance programs in Ramsey, Hennepin and Dakota Counties. He has also worked with Metropolitan Council and Lutheran Social Services. He has a master’s degree in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree in human services administration from Metropolitan State University.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

With social media, moms aim to end racism in St. Cloud

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400Natalie Ringsmuth and Kelly Meyer have an ambitious plan for St. Cloud: to create a united community, despite longstanding racial and religious tensions between black and white residents here.

The idea struck the pair following the Tech High School incident in March, when more than 100 students — many of them Somalis — walked out of their classes to protest alleged discrimination and mistreatment.

As tensions grew at Tech, the flood of messages on the St. Cloud Times comment section left Ringsmuth and Meyer bewildered.

“It wasn’t until I read the comments that I really understood that this was highlighting a larger problem in our community,” said Ringsmuth, a Waite Park mother of three.

“When you come to this country and you’re told to go back to where you came from,” she continued with tears clouding her eyes, “how would you feel?”

Like Ringsmuth, Meyer said she was astounded how people reacted to the Tech incident and the misconceptions many had about Somalis.

“I feel like if you’re not speaking up and doing something to better it, you’re part of the problem,” said Meyer, a St. Cloud mother of two. “I didn’t want to be part of the problem.”

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

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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