Somalis? in Minnesota?!People from Somalia don't come to Minnesota for the climate (a winter storm is winding down as I write this, in central Minnesota). It's because this is a good place to find jobs. Particularly if you're new to America, and are still developing English language skills.
Nothing new here: I think Minnesota - and America - will benefit as people with a new set of ideas and traditions settle in.
Investigations of Violent Crimes Start at HomeThe FBI was questioning Somali-Americans in Minnesota because a Somali-American disappeared, and then showed up in pieces in Somalia.
There was enough left of Shirwa Ahmed to identify through DNA analysis. His remains were sent home, so his family could give him a decent Islamic burial here in Minnesota. My sympathies, by the way, to the family.
His death had to be investigated, because he seemed to have been a suicide bomber. And, one of quite a few young Somali men from Minnesota who had dropped out of sight.
Investigations of violent crimes start, I understand, with the people most closely associated with the victim. That generally starts with family and works its way out through the neighborhood and community.
Shirwa Ahmed was a Somali-American. Unless he was a really odd person, quite a few of the people he knew were probably Somali, too. I'm not being racist: just realistic. America isn't so much a melting pot as a crazy quilt: people tend to choose others with similar interests. And tastes in food, for that matter. I don't have a problem with that: I like an America where everybody isn't exactly alike.
Let's Get HypotheticalLet's say that someone named Jim Eriksson was recruited by a group of radical Scandinavians who were blowing up things and people in defense of lutefisk and lefse. (In case a Jim Eriksson is reading this: I don't mean you! This is hypothetical, remember.)
Anyway, Jim joins the radical Swedes' Ragnarokathon. (Remember, I'm making all this up.) Then he gets killed. The FBI starts investigating.
Remember, Jim was a Swedish-American.
Would it make sense to start questioning Minnesotans at random? Or start with Acadian-Minnesotans and going alphabetically until you hit the Swedes? I don't think so. In this hypothetical case, I'd start by questioning those tall, pale, blue-eyed Minnesotans with last names ending in -sen and -son. Nothing racist about it: it's just that those were the people Jim hung out with, by and large.
Sensitivity to Ethnic Distinctions, and Common SenseA local paper seemed to assume that Somalis in Minnesota were the victims of bias and persecution. I think this perception may be why the disappearance of so many Somalis was covered so quietly - when it was covered at all. From the point of view of the traditional journalists, they probably thought they were protecting that particular socio-economic mass from white racism.
I'm not that sensitive. When it looks like somebody's making Minnesotans drop out of sight, I think it's a problem for all of us.
Recruiting Minnesotans for TerrorFrom what came out in last year's news, it looks like Somali-Americans are being recruited by terrorists. My guess is that young Somali men were targeted because they're Muslims and dealing with the sort of stress that most immigrants have felt.
Think about it: if you were a terrorist recruiter for an outfit like Al Qaeda or the Taliban, who would you concentrate on: young Somali-American Muslims, or young Swedish-American Lutherans? Take your time.
I'm not saying that all Somalis in Minnesota are terrorists just waiting to go berserk. But I do think the FBI was sensible, concentrating its investigation on people who might have been involved, instead of delicately ignoring the victim's ethnic heritage.
The War on Terror: It's Us vs. ThemAs judgmental or harsh as "the War on Terror" sounds, I think it's a fairly accurate way of describing the conflict between people who want to impose their quaint version of Islam on others, and those who would just as soon stay alive, and choose what clothes they wear.
Although there are many non-Muslim terrorists, like the Tamil Tigers, it's Islamic terrorists who are a threat to Muslims they don't approve of, and non-Muslims, around the world.
It's a matter of "us" vs. "them."
Just who is "us" and who is "them" isn't quite what old-school journalists seem to think, though: and the border doesn't run along ethnic or religious lines.
- "Recruiting for Terror? Somali Minnesotans Missing, One Found Dead"
(December 4, 2008)
- "Somalis in Minneapolis fall under FBI suspicion"
The Associated Press (March 10, 2009)
- "Grand Jury Convenes in FBI Terror Case Against Somali-Americans in Minneapolis, Sources Say"
FOXNews (March 10, 2009 )
- "FBI director: Mumbai attack raises questions about terrorism in U.S."
CNN (February 23, 2009)