Monday, July 13, 2009

Somali-American Jamal Bana: You are Missed

A third Minnesotan has turned up dead in Somalia.

Jamal Bana had been a top student at Washburn high School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, before he began studying engineering. Then, last November, he disappeared.

His parents found a photo of his body, quite dead, online. He had been killed in Somalia.

Somali-Americans, particularly people in families of the young Minnesotans who have disappeared recently, aren't at all happy about what's happening.
"The family of a Somali-American man who died in Somalia have said they want to know who is responsible for recruiting him to join an al Qaeda-linked Islamist insurgency.

"Jamal Bana is the third Somali-American from the city of Minneapolis to head to Somalia and die there. He is one of more than a dozen missing Somali-American men whose families believe have gone back to fight.

" 'Someone must have put something in his mind,' Omar Jamal of Minneapolis' Somali Justice Advocacy Center said at a Sunday news conference with Bana's family.

" 'He must have been somewhat disillusioned and indoctrinated because he didn't have any clue about Somalia at all. So someone somewhere must be responsible for his disappearance.'

"The same day as the family's news conference, Somalia's president -- a former member of the Islamist movement himself -- issued a plea to Somali-Americans not to join the fight in his country...." (CNN)
I'm none too pleased with the situation, myself.

Minnesotans Recruited for Terror: Why I Take it Personally

My ancestors left the general vicinity of Somalia over 85,000 years ago, most likely (November 1, 2007, in another blog), so I don't have much of a family connection with people whose immediate ancestors lived there.
Getting Used to New Neighbors
Today, Somali-Americans (as well as other hyphenated Americans) are fellow-Minnesotans, my neighbors. It looks like many settled in Minnesota for economic reasons, not because they liked the climate: just like many of my ancestors.

They're the families who shared a waiting room with me.

They're the people who go to the Somali Cafe, and are involved in the Somali Student Association, down in St. Cloud.

I haven't checked, but if there isn't a Somali family or two living in Melrose, the next town east and south of here, there will be soon: Minnesota's poultry industry has a few employment opportunities there.

I've read, in learned writings, how racism and cultural gaps abound in "mono-ethnic" towns in this area. There's probably something to that. I've had to deal with the issue of being half-Irish: not often, but it's happened. And, on top of everything else, Somalis aren't, by and large, either Lutheran, Baptist, or Catholic. Many or most follow Islam.

That makes a difference, sort of. Being Muslims and Muslimas, they're the people who go to the Islamic Center in St. Cloud, the professor who made invited a class which included one of my daughters to come and observe Friday prayer.

Of course, there's racism in Minnesota. As I've said elsewhere, there are jerks everywhere. central Minnesota included.

The point I'm trying to make is, the Bana family are my neighbors: at least to the extent that we both live in Minnesota. What hurts them hurts me, albeit indirectly.

The Banas, the Hassans, Everyone, are People: Not a Demographic or The Masses

Despite the sad news of another Minnesota family dealing with a dead son, I was relieved to read a news article that recognized new Minnesotans as individuals: people who were members of families; sons, fathers, mothers, daughters.

After reading about ethnic refugees who came to America, were involved with a capitalistic institution, became disillusioned, and subsequently decided to return to Somalia, the CNN article's focus on one of the young Minnesotans was a relief.

It some of America's subcultures, it's too easy to forget that those who aren't members of one's own circle aren't "the masses": They're people, each with his or her own hopes, challenges, and family background.

Related posts: In the news: Background:


Anonymous said...

Not to be callous but it seems now that a somali son has been killed in somalia at the hands of what appears to be Al-Queda is now a front page story. I have read in the news for years about Al-Queda recruiters being in that area with zero help from the public. Where was all the sympathy for the countless citizens killed in the name of Al-queda up until now. I feel for the family but to ask for the govt's help now when none has been given seems a little disingenuous. Just a concerned american citizen who does not have symapathy for one, but for many.

Brian H. Gill said...


I rather expected something like this. I'm not sure what "that area" is, in your view, or what "zero help from the public" means.

I'll agree that the majority of Somali-Americans in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area of Minnesota have no sympathy for Al Qaeda - and that the recruitment appears to be centered around one Islamic Center/mosque.

As for "government help" - The FBI became involved when it became apparent that there was a pattern in missing persons cases in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area.

I'm glad that you have sympathy for "the many" - but some non-Norwegian Minnesota families are hurting, too.

Anonymous said...

That area does mean the "St Paul, Minneapolis" area. I say this because I am out here on the west coast and I dont know the area specifically. Zero help from the public does specifically mean a Mosque/Islamic center. Meaning the people that do know what is happening are not cooperating with the authorities. Now is the time they choose to exercise inalienable rights by telling the authorities they need a warrant before anyone speaks. I am not norwegian either but it still does not help me understand your comment?

Brian H. Gill said...

I'm glad you clarified those points.

"Zero help from the public" meaning "the people that do know what is happening are not cooperating with the authorities" may not be quite as clear a statement as you feel it is.

Since some people at the Abubakar As-Saddique mosque may very likely be directly or indirectly responsible for the disappearance of about 20 Minnesotans and the deaths of at least three, it would be a trifle unusual for those individuals to be completely candid with the authorities.

"The public" however, even if it the term is limited strictly to Somali-Americans residing in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota, is not synonymous with attendees and staff at the Abubakar As-Saddique center.

In my opinion, traditional news media, from Minnesota Public Radio to The New York Times, has done a miserably inadequate job of reporting on the matter of recruitment for terrorism in Minnesota.

Somali-Americans are not a monolithic block, a homogeneous demographic segment, or a part of 'the masses.' They're people who, for the most part, came from Somalia, or whose immediate ancestors came from there.

And, there it is highly probable that a few of them have been engaged in illegal activities: activities which have outraged many if not most of their neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mom...if you dont raise your kids ...someone else will...Democrats say 'It takes a Village '....that way its not the parents fault. Read my book, it explains all of it.


Leslie said...

Somali-American, I understand that people should keep their background and support their homeland, but if you are going to live in the United States, there should be loyalty to the US. The customs that sometimes keep the people in their religions, may turn them against this country, and our ideas. I respect your believing in your world, but happened with this young man to turn him into a terrorist. God Bless His Soul.

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous of 5:03 PM,

Perhaps the parents of the missing Minnesotans are to blame for their sons' actions.

However, I doubt that it's quite that simple.

Anonymous said...

Every dollar donated to the mosque is being shared by the mosque with charity organizations for community purposes and for jihad purposes, is that too hard to digest? All madrassas in the world do this 'holy' duty. Bana family probably were involved indirectly in financing the kids journey to somalia and thence to hell. This is crash and babel coming to life in a terrible way.

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous of July 24, 2009.

"All madrassas in the world do this 'holy' duty."

The Muslims and Muslimas I've correspond with do not seem to share this assumption about their faith. I'm a bit dubious about the 'Islam = terrorism' assumption, myself.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the German call to arms that took place early in the 2nd world war. Young men of German descent left their adopted homes in places as far away as South America to fight for the Fatherland.

There is a high degree of glory, prestige and in many cases religious or cultural duty fulfillment in these acts. Education and "de-romanticizing" is the key to preventing this. These young, gullible people need to know that the people who are encouraging and directing their actions are victimizers.

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous of July 24, 2009,

You may have a point there. Problem is, it seems that an Islamic center (not all Somali-Minnesotans) - is at the center of much of the trouble.

And, when people who look a lot like your neighbors and who know how to push your buttons lie through their teeth - not everyone realizes that there's a truth deficit.

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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.