With the “Big Brother” season coming to an end, I was elated that I was able to watch the second-to-the-last episode Saturday night. With some Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream in hand, I snuggled up in my afghan blanket and was ready to indulge myself for the next hour — until, that is, I got a news notification that multiple people were stabbed at the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud.
In disbelief, I quickly thought of the many people I knew who lived in St. Cloud. Desperately trying to get more information, I made the mistake most people make, which is reading the comments online. Even before the news broke that the suspect was a young Somali guy, the comments were filled with racism and disdain for the Somali community in St. Cloud. Comments like, “Probs one of those f*** Somalis. They all need to be rounded up and shipped off,” filled the news article’s comment section.
I could feel my heart pounding. Why was I so scared that this suspect could be a person of color or a Muslim? Because I knew the backlash would travel all the way to me, a 19-year-old Somali girl who was born and raised in Minnesota.
I graduated with a 3.9 GPA and with multiple extra-curicular activities under my belt. Why do my achievements matter? Because, somehow, the actions of the people of my ethnicity and/or religion reflect on me — an innocent girl who was planning on watching her favorite TV show the night that the attack occurred.
I quickly turned on the local police scanner, hoping to get some information that would suggest that it was not a Somali or a Muslim. But it seemed the racists wanted desperately for this to have been caused by a Somali Muslim. Sadly, they got their wish.
This was the first time I had cried in a long while. I couldn’t look people in the eye as I went to work the next day. I even contemplated not wearing my hijab, but decided I should anyway.
I cried seeing an elderly Somali woman this morning being called a “A dirty terrorist ni**er who needs to be run over” by a white man in a gray truck, even though, in our community she is known to have lost her son and husband to a terrorist attack carried out by Al-Shabab years back.
I cried because I remembered the racism I dealt with from my white friend’s parents because they “believed” I was in a relationship with their son. Can you imagine getting a text message from grown adults saying that their son could never be with a “Somalian” and hurling racist abuse toward a 14-year-old girl?
I cried because I was preoccupied with fear about the suspect being someone of my race/religion, rather than taking the time to mourn for the victims who would be dealing with this trauma for the rest of their lives. I cried to the point where there weren’t any more tears.
I’m done feeling the need to apologize — something I and many thousands and even millions of Muslims feel the need to do every time something terrible happens. The irony of this tragic event at the Crossroads Mall is that people are reacting exactly the way terrorist groups like ISIL hope to encourage — which is hatred and division.
The community of St. Cloud will come out stronger and more vigilant. I pray for the victims to find peace within their lives.
As for the perpetrator of this attack, Dahir Adan: if you knew anything about Allah you would know that he said, “Whosoever does a righteous good deed, it is for the benefit of himself, and whosoever commits an evil deed, it is against his own self, and your lord is not unjust to his worshippers.” Your actions, Dahir, only represent yourself and not the thousands of Somali Americans, and the many I know personally, who love this country and the state of Minnesota.
I pray for St. Cloud and I pray for this chaotic world.
Hamdi Abdi lives in southern Minnesota.