Sunday, March 22, 2009

Somalia, Minnesota, and Common Sense

Somalis in Minnesota are in the international news again. A Somali man, one of around 20 who disappeared, was spotted at the Minneapolis Mall. Or someone who looked like him, anyway. Those news accounts are, in my opinion, hovering around the borders of 'some-guy-told-me-he-heard' credibility.

The Abubakar As-Saddique Mosque in Minneapolis, on the other hand, is getting investigated: by the FBI, which I think makes sense; and by the Senate, which is what Senators do, I suppose.

A "nonprofit journalism enterprise" wrote:

"Some Somalis say the mosque invited scrutiny and suspicion by helping to radicalize young Somali men for jihad in their homeland. Others say the mosque is a wrongly accused victim of the politics of war in East Africa." (Minnesota Post)

"If U.S. counterterrorism agencies took these commendable measures to correct President George Bush's myriad blunders in the war on terror, it was mindboggling to note the complete disregard of these suggestions in a recent meeting between Minneapolis-St. Paul Somali community and staff for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman. This three-member group stated its mission as a fact-finding one to shed light on the recent disappearance of young Somali men from the Twin-Cities and the allegations that these men returned to Somalia to join Al-Shabab, an organization listed as a terrorist group with the United States government.

"An ongoing FBI investigation is looking into how young men like Shirwa Ahmed, who is considered the first known American suicide bomber in Somalia, came to become 'radicalized.' While there have been very few details as to what the FBI has uncovered thus far, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, referring to the Somali community in the Twin-Cities, stated that 'the prospect of young men, indoctrinated and radicalized in their own communities … is perversion of the immigrant story.'

"Lieberman's staff coming to the Twin Cities to correct 'the mishandling of this investigation' by the FBI and to get the story straight from the horse's mouth for a Senate hearing on the issue of terrorist cells in America was initially viewed by many Somalis who attended these meetings as a commendable first step to stop the media hysteria surrounding this story. This perception changed, however, once members of this staff started their queries with 'What is radicalizing young Somali men?' in the Twin Cities. This framing of the problem, and its unbounded generalization not as a problem of a handful of individuals among a community of 30,000 or more, was the first indication that gaining the trust of the Muslim community in America, let alone winning the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world, was far from the agenda these men." (Minnesota Post)
(I try to avoid huge block quotes like that: but I wanted the MP's remarks available in context.)

Obligatory Bush-bashing notwithstanding, the MP may have a point: The Senatorial staff's "What is radicalizing young Somali men?" line is, if not offensive, entirely too broad. Only 20 or so young Somali-Minnesotans have disappeared. That reminds me of the 'good old days' that I'm (thank God) too young to remember, when this country's best and brightest might have asked "what makes Irishmen drink too much?"

On the other hand, I must be terribly insensitive: I don't see how the FBI's statement - that someone could be radicalized (the MP put it in quotes, apparently they see something dicy about the word) in his or her own community - is naughty. The FBI fellow said that radicalization like that is "perversion of the immigrant story." He did not say that it's what happens with Somalis. Or, if that's what he did say, the MP should have included that quote.

And, for that "...there have been very few details as to what the FBI has uncovered thus far...," business: This is an on-going investigation. I'd be worried if the FBI was publicizing who they suspected, where they got their information, and exactly how much they knew. People who talk people into blowing up other people are not nice, and might skedaddle if they knew the jig was up. That's a best-case scenario. If the 'suspects' were smart, they'd kill whoever ratted on them, or might know too much, and then leave the area.

As for what's going on in Minnesota, I'm glad that the investigations are not entirely in the hands of Senators out on a junket. There appears to be a real problem in my state: Minnesotans are disappearing, probably radicalized by some of their neighbors

Shirwa Ahmed is one of the young Minnesotans who disappeared. A great many pieces of him showed up in Somalia, with enough DNA to identify him. He's back with his family now, "...buried simply as a Muslim man...." (FOX 9 (December 3, 2008))

What happened to Shirwa Ahmed is wrong. What he apparently did is wrong. And, I think, investigating how he and - almost certainly - others were radicalized is right. Even if members of Senatorial staffs need to be reminded that there are a whole lot of 'funny-looking Americans' around these days.

As I've written before, "there's a war on."

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.