Sunday, July 12, 2009

Somali-Americans in Minnesota: According to The New York Times

The New York Times article led with these words:
"MINNEAPOLIS — The Carlson School of Management rises from the asphalt like a monument to capitalist ambition. Stock prices race across an electronic ticker near a sleek entrance and the atrium soars skyward, as if lifting the aspirations of its students. The school’s plucky motto is 'Nowhere but here.'

"For a group of students who often met at the school, on the University of Minnesota campus, those words seemed especially fitting. They had fled Somalia as small boys, escaping a catastrophic civil war. They came of age as refugees in Minneapolis, embracing basketball and the prom, hip-hop and the Mall of America. By the time they reached college, their dreams seemed within grasp: one planned to become a doctor; another, an entrepreneur.

"But last year, in a study room on the first floor of Carlson, the men turned their energies to a different enterprise. ..." (The New York Times)
I could be wrong about this, but the first part of the article seems to reflect a perception of reality that's fairly common among the more 'sophisticated' set: that armed conflicts are either an effort by Big Oil and other nefarious elements to maintain their plundering of Mother Earth; or a People's struggle against capitalistic oppressors of the proletariat. Or both.

A deviation from that familiar approach appears in the 15th and 16th paragraphs:
"...The case has forced federal agents and terrorism analysts to rethink some of their most basic assumptions about the vulnerability of Muslim immigrants in the United States to the lure of militant Islam. For years, it seemed that 'homegrown' terrorism was largely a problem in European countries like Britain and France, where Muslim immigrants had failed to prosper economically or integrate culturally. By contrast, experts believed that the successful assimilation of foreign-born Muslims in the United States had largely immunized them from the appeal of radical ideologies

"The story of the Twin Cities men does not lend itself to facile categorizations. They make up a minuscule percentage of their Somali-American community, and it is unclear whether their transformation reflects any broader trend. Nor are they especially representative of the wider Muslim immigrant population, which has enjoyed a stable and largely middle-class existence...." (The New York Times)
The rest of the article contains quite a bit of detail on the background and activities of Minnesotans who have been recruited by terrorists. I'm not at all sure how many Somali-Americans in Minnesota actually buy into the FBI-vs.-African-minority attitude that seems to lie behind some of the narrative. On the other hand, a Senatorial staff did manage to give the impression that they saw all young Somali men as jihadists, or as terrorists-in-training. It hasn't gotten all that much press, but asking "What is radicalizing young Somali men?" was just plain dumb. (July 1, 2009, March 22, 2009)

Yesterday's article in The New York Times is an interesting look at some of the issues that Somali-Americans face. I think it is also an example of the difficulty that old-school journalists and other traditional information gatekeepers have, dealing with a post-Cold-War world.

About two years ago, I discussed how the educational and professional background of some terrorists in England didn't conform to either the traditional 'oppressed proletariat' or 'poverty causes crime' cognitive models.

The consternation of discovering well-educated medical professionals among the perpetrators of the London-Glasgow attacks seems to be dissipating. And, although incidents of knee-jerk reaction to non-WASPs in America still happen ("Muslim Family Talks Safety, Gets Booted From Flight (January 2, 2009)), I like to think that most Americans are learning not to fear the latest wave of immigrants.

As I wrote for this blog's description: "The 19th and 20th centuries' class conflicts and colonial issues are behind us." Of course, we will be dealing with some results of England's factory system for a very long time: just as a dispute over a family inheritance several thousands of years ago is behind much of the trouble in the Middle East.

But this isn't the 19th century any longer. In the West, at least, the Workers won: although even the Big Three bailouts probably won't preserve all their gains.

Elsewhere, although there's probably an economic side to the jihad against the West, I don't think it's so much a class struggle, as the efforts of people with a particular set of values to force their views on at least part of the world.

Meanwhile, I think it will take a very long time for some Western traditionalists to get used to the idea that the world has changed since Walter Durante wrote his articles.

Related posts: News and views
A tip of the hat to markstoneman, for drawing my attention to The New York Times' article.

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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.