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Jamal Abdulahi runs for Congressional District 5

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.

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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.

To learn more about Jamal Abdulahi’s campaign visit Jamal for Congress or join his Jamal for Congress Facebook Page.

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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© Copyright 2005-2018.  Fedwa Wazwaz, All rights reserved.

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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Flying while Muslim at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

By Lori Saroya, Star Tribune

Saroya_Lori_circleMugThe 4-year-old boy stood as still as he could. His knees were shaking. His arms were raised up high; “hands up, don’t shoot”-style. His eyes were shut tight. The lady with the purple gloves patted his head. Then she moved her hands down to his neck and shoulders. She patted his tummy and worked her way down. She touched him everywhere. There was a momentary pause when the little boy’s father threatened a lawsuit (he later told me that he knew there wasn’t a case). A fourth police officer was called. They were officially a scene. They were the Minnesota Muslim family traveling to Washington, D.C., to visit the Lincoln Memorial and the Natural History Museum.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is a hotbed for religious profiling. Some Minnesota Muslims would rather drive 7 hours and fly out of Chicago than endure the profiling, humiliation and degradation they are often subjected to at MSP. I can relate.

From January to April 2015, I took five domestic trips and one international trip. My visibly Muslim family and I were “randomly selected” for extra screenings every single time we flew out of MSP. It’s not random.

Sometimes the TSA agents are ignorant and rude. Like the agent who started patting my hijab after I was cleared by the full-body scanner. She had to “make sure there aren’t any explosives” inside it, she said.

Or the agent who wouldn’t let me pass security unless I removed both layers of my hijab and showed her my hair.

We all want to be safe while traveling. I fly frequently. I use carefully crafted language with my family before every trip, making a special point of saying how much I love them. I’m scared just like everyone else.

But profiling people based on their religious dress and religious names does not make us any safer. While TSA agents are fixated on hijabs, beards and Arabic names, they overlook concerning behavior that requires scrutiny.

Continue reading at Star Tribune…

Lori Saroya is a civil rights activist, nonprofit leader, writer and mother. She has received several awards and recognitions for her community work including a Congressional Tribute, the Governor’s Distinguished Service Award, and the Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans. She is writing her first memoir, a reflective piece on her identity as an American Muslim woman and the civil rights challenges facing her community.

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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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WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

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.)

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