On what seems like a daily basis, Minnesotans are lectured against the evils of “Islamophobia.” In October, Gov. Mark Dayton weirdly instructed “white, B-plus, Minnesota-born citizens” to suppress their qualms about immigrant resettlement in Minnesota, according to the St. Cloud Times. If they can’t, they should “find another state,” he added.
Andrew Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, took to the pages of the Star Tribune (“Minnesota must meet Islamophobia head-on,” Nov. 3) to inveigh against “the current wave of Islamophobia” and has stayed on the attack. A group of local leaders and Muslim leaders recently gathered in a Minneapolis mosque to decry “Islamophobia” following recent terrorist attacks.
Even Hillary Clinton piled on during her recent visit to the University of Minnesota to unveil her program to bolster homeland security; she decried “anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
“Islamophobia” is a concept fervently promoted since 2000 by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It seeks to stigmatize expressions of disapproval of Islam as irrational manifestations of fear and prejudice. Implicitly, it raises the question of whether any fear of Islam is necessarily crazy. It also raises the question of whether some fear of Islam might be rational, but it instructs us to keep any unapproved answer to ourselves. It seeks to make us afraid to talk about perfectly reasonable fears.
Since the early 1990s, Minnesota has been flooded by waves of Somali Muslim refugees and immigrants. The number remains in doubt; official sources place it at something like 35,000. Unofficial estimates put it at more than 100,000. Whatever the number, it is large and growing.
Politicians like Dayton have proved highly effective in inhibiting public discussion of legitimate concerns about Minnesota’s Somali community. When I recently sat down to interview Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, he bristled when I asked him about security issues related to the community. Why was I doing that? I referred to the congressional task force report recognizing Minnesota’s responsibility for 26 percent of the American fighters joining or seeking to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). “I just came from an FBI briefing this morning,” Stanek said. “They told me we’re 20 percent.”
OK, but that still leaves Minnesota at No. 1 in a ranking where we would like to be No. 50.
Ten Minnesota Somalis have now been charged by Luger’s office with seeking to join or support ISIL. Three have pleaded guilty. The charges represent the culmination of a 10-month FBI investigation.
Reading the criminal complaints and underlying FBI affidavits supporting the charges in these cases is an alarming experience. The young men who have responded to the call of ISIL are full of hate for Americans and for the U.S. If they choose to act it out somewhere closer to home than Syria, we will have a major problem on our hands. After the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., you’d think it might be time to talk about it.
The 10 men present something of a case study that belies the clichés around the subject of “radicalization.” These men were “connected” to schools and jobs. Their cases demonstrate plenty of opportunity for advancement and financial support. One of the men even maxed out his federal student loan account with a $5,000 withdrawal before seeking to depart Minneapolis for Syria.
Unnamed local mosques figure prominently in the cases. Islam is, of course, a common denominator. The 10 men are all Muslims seeking to join the jihad waged by ISIL.
Clinton actually had a useful observation buried in her Minneapolis speech. She quoted Deqa Hussen, the mother of one of the 10 Somali men charged with supporting ISIL. Addressing other parents, Hussen said: “We have to stop the denial. … We have to talk to our kids and work with the FBI.” Clinton herself added: “That’s a message we need to hear from leaders within Muslim-American communities across our country.”
Which raises a question or two: Why don’t we hear that message more often from leaders within the Somali community? For that matter, why don’t we hear more expressions of gratitude from within the Somali community for their rescue from Third World disorder by the U.S. or for opportunities afforded to them in Minnesota?
Kyle Loven is the Minneapolis FBI’s chief division counsel and media coordinator. Speaking about Somali-related law enforcement issues to the National Security Society in Richfield in October, he conceded that the community gave rise to special challenges for law enforcement. “We walk a tightrope” with this community, Loven observed. “Every time we have to indict somebody, you should see the remarks we get. … Every time we have to make an arrest, it is a setback [in our relations with the Somali community].”
Luger’s office is in the process of implementing a pilot program to prevent “radicalization” of Somali-Minnesotans. The program goes under the name “Building Community Resilience,” a classic euphemism of the Obama era. The program is to funnel as much as $1 million to support Minnesota’s Somali community. The memorandum of understanding between Luger and Minnesota Somali leaders reflects the wariness of Somali-Minnesotans. It stipulates that the program will not be used for surveillance purposes by any law enforcement agency or by any person working for or on behalf of any law enforcement agency.
Call me crazy, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say we would be better off without Building Community Resilience.
Scott W. Johnson is a Minneapolis attorney and contributor to the site Power Line.