On the Somali “Minnesotans”

In the incredibly unlikely case that you have not yet heard, Jihadist terrorists based out of Somalia  struck a mall in Nairobi, Kenya — with death tolls running quite high. Then came the uncomfortable news that three of the terrorists were from… Minnesota. After that, the media chips fell where you would guess — the Somali-American community officially condemned the attack, then there was fear of reprisal, then Ms. Pamela Geller threw a polemical fit.  What would you expect?

Moving beyond pundit reactions, it is worth noting some of the background to this. Like the rest of America, Minnesota started receiving an influx of Somali immigrants in the 1990s, and quickly became host to more of them than anywhere else in the New World. Since, “those of Somali descent are not asked about their ancestry during the census,” the exact number of them is hard to determine, some say 30 or 35 thousand, others say at least one hundred thousand — regardless, most of whom live in Minneapolis. Despite the media’s best attempts to portray these recent events in a “how could this happen?!” way, this is not the first time Somalis from the Twin Cities have gone to Africa for the glory of Allah. The list keeps getting longer too, and with each new addition, the ones preceding it must be forgotten. For example, the recruitment video specifically targeting Somali Minnesotans that came out last month  is now being described as having “caused little stir.” The video’s obvious ineffectiveness is of course being noted now that there is something to indicate the opposite; much like how the conviction of four Somali Minnesotans earlier this summer for aiding al-Shabab has been completely forgotten.

The doublethink regarding what we might call the “Somali Issue” is never ending. In March of 2009, then-President of Somalia Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (a moderate, apparently) proposed a bill that would bring about Shariah Law in his homeland, which passed unanimously the next month. That October the president himself was in Minneapolis, addressing a cheering crowd of Somalis and joined on stage by local liberal politicians, such as Senator Al Franken. In January of this year, Somalia’s new president (Hassan Sheikh Mohamud) visited Minnesota, and although most of his speech was in Somali, it was understood that his main thrust was to convince “Somalis living in Minnesota to help rebuild their war-torn homeland.” Commenting on the newly normalized relations with Somalia, then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had said, “Progress was halting at times, but it was unmistakable.” All of this came just months after a Somali mosque janitor in Minnesota had been convicted of aiding al-Shabab.

Throughout all of this, Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s African-American (the term is useful when differentiating from Somalis) Muslim congressman, has remained fairly mute. Elected in 2006 (the same year as Michelle Bachmann, ironically), he survived the revelations of his past ties with the Nation of Islam and has been re-elected comfortably ever since, despite being attacked for his past by the usual suspects — Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

Last February the congressman visited Somalia, and shortly thereafter said terrorist recruitment of Somali youth in his state had more or less stopped. Generally more focused on liberal talking points such as jobs and green energy, little lip-service is paid to the issues of terrorist recruitment, crime, and growing resentment between Somalis and African-Americans. Though it seems likely that sooner or later a talking head will declare that given his race and religion, Keith Ellison is the perfect politician to fix all these problems, it becomes more and more clear that he has no interest in doing so.

As someone currently living in Minneapolis, I can tell you that little has changed on a day-to-day level. The idea that there would be reprisals over dead Kenyans was ludicrous to begin with, and if something was going to happen, it would have happened. The women can still be seen covered from head to toe during the daytime, only to disappear at night. The elderly men still stay out late chain-smoking and arguing over cheap cellphones. The middle-aged men still prowl around college hang-outs suddenly without their wives and speaking better English than usual. As a general rule, I am more concerned with what Somalis are doing in my neck of the woods than anywhere else, and no event of this week has made me think otherwise.

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