It’s no secret that U.S. law enforcement wants American Muslims to be the eyes and ears of radical elements in their communities.
But the bigger question is: What should Muslims do if they suspect someone of harboring extreme views, but have no idea if that person poses any real security threat?
In my story yesterday about an assault that took place at a Minneapolis mosque, Nimco Ahmed, a Somali community member who has been involved with counterterrorism discussions with the Department of Homeland Security, raised an interesting point. Somali-Americans are still trying to figure out what their role is in reporting suspicions, she said.
“If we have people inside of our community who are radicalized, what do we need to do to identify them? What identifies a radical individual? I think all of that is not really clear.”
Community members may come across someone who seems to sympathize with, say, the terror group al-Shabab. But that in itself is not a crime. Ahmed noted that some people who might seem radical due to mental instability might be in need of an intervention, not necessarily an investigation.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security launched a campaign last year called: “If You See Something, Say Something.”
The U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, B. Todd Jones, has been meeting with young Somali-Americans since early this year as part of a broader effort to engage community members. His office recently hosted a civics training with young Somali-Americans (pictured above, courtesy of his office.)
And in March, Jones hired Michelle Tran to fill the new role of community relations specialist. She coordinates many of the conversations between the office and young Somali leaders.
Tran agrees that not everyone feels comfortable calling the FBI.
“A lot of people are afraid to bring it to that level,” she said. “They’re worried about someone who’s young and might be impressionable. That’s something we’re trying to build a bit a little more — having a space where people can ask questions without feeling they’re going to be investigated.”