I was not really prepared for “The terrorism trial is over — yet can we still get justice?” (June 7). Let me try to put the war on terror and its relationship with the recent terror trial into perspective.

The Somali community began to trickle into Minnesota 20 years ago. And contrary to the June 7 commentary’s claim, Minnesota has welcomed them. The Somali community’s resettlement in Minnesota is a daunting experiment, still in progress, involving challenges no other immigrants have faced before — in addition to being drawn into the “war on terror.”

The Somali community in Minnesota has contributed to the economy of the state. But of course, understandably, as with other immigrants who came before them, conflicts and misunderstandings have been unavoidable. Remember that years ago, Minneapolis was known as one of the most anti-Semitic cities in the Midwest, if not in the whole country.

I strongly disagree with the commentary’s narrative, describing the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as not a product of extreme religious ideology but a blowback from the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the brutality of Nouri al-Maliki and the Syrian regime. Yes, one can argue that the U.S. invasion destabilized an already volatile region, but to assert that ISIL’s is not an extreme ideology is ridiculous. Furthermore, to suggest that there is no jihadi pipeline here in Minnesota and that somehow we have failed these young men is an absurdity.

Since mid-2006, impressionable Somali youths have fallen victim to Al-Shabab recruitment. Since then, 40 or more have left and joined Al-Shabab, where half have been killed in battle. In 2012, ISIL surfaced and gained prominence, coming up with more sophisticated social media outreach to continue the recruitment of Somali youths in Minnesota, with success rates higher than that of Al-Shabab.

Yes, the jury has spoken, and the decision now is in the hands of Judge Michael Davis. Davis is well-versed in the current situation; he presided over most of the terror cases in Minnesota and went out of his way to reach out to a German expert for help in evaluating the circumstances.

The June 7 narrative is not helpful, but rather confuses and misleads. No doubt some members of our community believe as an article of faith that good will eventually triumph over evil, and they would rather portray the U.S. government as not worthy of trust. In fact, I am afraid that if aggressive, heavy-handed policies continue unchecked in the war on terror, this recent trial will be a Trojan horse to further recruit more kids to ISIL.

The Somali community is not in denial of the fact that a sizable number of its young men were killed in a far-off land. Now we, the Somali community, come to a fork in the road. We will either join hands in order to defeat murderous thugs wielding deadly ideology, or become pawns serving their ultimate goal.

It will be, eventually, up to us.


Omar Jamal is a Somali community activist in St. Paul and CEO of the Somali Human Rights Commission.