Minnesota is ground zero in the recruitment of mostly young Somali men and women by radical Islamic terrorist groups whose principal aim is to attack and destroy America and its allies.
Over two years, more than 20 Somali-Americans from Minnesota have left the state to fight with ISIL/ISIS or Al-Shabab.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, in announcing the most recent arrests, made a statement that should rocket past frightening and straight into alarming.
“To be clear,” he said, “we have a terror-recruitment problem in Minnesota. … This case demonstrates how difficult it is to put an end to recruiting here.”
When the U.S. attorney tells the nation that Minnesota has a terror-recruitment problem, it is time for Minnesota to do something.
In particular, it is time for the governor and the Legislature to raise more than concern about our potential status as the Land of 10,000 Terrorists.
We have seen among our European friends what happens when significant portions of a population are radicalized and political correctness takes the place of common sense.
Once the Pandora’s box of terror is opened, it is nearly impossible to close it. It’s time Minnesotans brace for the reality that the Global War on Terror has reached our state.
That young Somali men and women are prime targets of terrorist recruitment does not make this a Somali problem. It is a Minnesota problem.
Minnesota has been a haven for immigrants from other nations since its inception. In recent decades, our state has seen an influx of Hmong, Somalis, Eritreans and others.
In large part this is because our state has experience in being a place where immigrants have flourished and contributed significantly to the quality of our life.
Yet this is not the time to be squeamish about the fact that a specific population — Somalis — is the target of terrorist groups around the world.
Minnesotans need to know of the evil that is lurking among us and what can and should be done to defeat it.
The governor should appoint a statewide task force to begin reviewing what our options are as it relates to this crisis in our midst. The Legislature should begin holding hearings to hear from experts in and outside of Minnesota who are focused on this growing threat to our state and national security.
Somali parents and children should have the opportunity to share their concerns and their perspectives on what has made their community the target of those who seek nothing more of their people than to train them to be weapons of terror.
As much as this is not a Somali problem, it is also not a Minneapolis problem. From one corner of Minnesota to the other, Somali residents are thriving and contributing.
Terrorists don’t care about city or regional or county boundaries any more than they recognize national boundaries. What they care about is finding disaffected young men and women and tantalizing them with false prospects for greater glory.
Policymakers should not seek to fan the flames of fear and mistrust, but to seek input on how Minnesotans can work together to address this epidemic.
Minnesotans ought to be given the facts about who is recruiting our young people, what they are seeking, and what entices a young man or woman to leave the safety and comfort of Minnesota to travel to dangerous and violent regions of the world to fight alongside terror groups.
Minnesotans should know that these trained terrorists could return home and put their skills to work in Minnesota and throughout America.
The Global War on Terror is not taking place in some amorphous “over there” any longer.
It is taking place in our own back yard, in the heartland of America, and it’s a grave danger to our state.
It’s time the governor and the Legislature brought all of Minnesota into the conversation about the battle taking place across the state. In this war, we have to be all in it to win it.
Norm Coleman is chairman of the Minnesota Action Network and the American Action Network, and a former U.S. senator.