At Somali town meeting, a show of solidarity..


Halkaan ka akhri somali-Minneapolis

Several hundred people, mostly of Somali descent, gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Saturday in a show of solidarity for a community that is often misunderstood by many Minnesotans.

The town meeting came at a sensitive time for the Somali community, currently at the center of a far-reaching federal counterterrorism investigation into whether young men from Minneapolis have been recruited by terrorists to fight in their homeland.

“The Somali community has been under a microscope for the wrong reasons,” said Sharmarke Jama, a spokesman for the nearly two dozen community and religious groups that sponsored the event. “This has been guilt by association. We want to demystify our community.”

Minnesota is home to one of the largest Somali communities in the world. While census figures indicate about 25,000 Somalis live in Minnesota, some estimates put the actual number at two to three times higher.

Several members have recently criticized law enforcement officers for allegedly using coercive tactics in the terrorism investigation.

At one point Saturday, attendees were advised on what to do if they are approached by the FBI or if they receive a subpoena. (Get the names and affiliations of the officers, and call a lawyer.) Postcards with more detailed instructions were handed out.

But most of the afternoon was devoted to educational speeches, as well as comments from several politicians, including Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner and former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, both DFL gubernatorial candidates.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress, urged the group to organize itself into a powerful political, economic and social force in America.

“You understand what it is to be firmly rooted in one country and still care very deeply about another,” he said. “If you are Somali, that [feeling] doesn’t take away from being an American.”

Jama said the biggest misconception about Somali-Americans is that they are a “suitcase population. We are here for the long haul. Our roots are here in Minnesota.”

Source Star Tribune

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