This afternoon, about two dozen people presented a spirited defense of a Minneapolis mosque against rumors it had something to do with the disappearance of an estimated seven to 20 Somali boys, who may have returned to Somalia to fight on behalf of Islamic extremists.
“We condemn extremist ideologies,” said Abdirashid Abdi (left above), a member of the board of directors of the Abubakar Assadique Islamic Center. “It is unfortunate that some individuals in the Somali community unfairly accused Abubakar Center to have links to the disappearance of the Somali young men. We strongly deny these unsubstantiated allegations. Abubakar Center didn’t recruit, finance, or otherwise facilitate in any way, shape, or form the travel of these youth.” (His entire statement can be found here).
Abdi said it was “difficult to know” how many Somali youth at the center have left to return to Somalia, or why they would. “Youth have a lot of resources, it’s very hard to minimize the way they receive information,” he said.
Abdulahi Farah, who coordinates youth programs at the center said the allegations are “victimizing young Somalis who are active in their community. We have made America our new home and we are grateful to the people of Minnesota and to the people of this country who give us the opportunity as young people to be educated here and make our lives here, but when a few people polarize us or make us think that sometimes we are not…every young people are being affected by this.”
The speakers made clear that while they believe the Somali community “is united,” they are convinced that the people responsible for the rumors are, themselves, Somali.
“What is at stake is your very existence,” Murshid Barud of the Somali Leadership Council said, directing his comments to the Somali community. “This is not a simple allegation. It’s not a simple thing that will go away in a day, a week, a month, or a year. It will affect the way we work and raise our children in the state of Minnesota. You have a choice: Either you fight against your own children and yourself, or you come out and tell the truth.”
When I asked Barud what “individuals in the Somali community” he and others were referring to when pinpointing the source of the allegations, he identified the head of a Somali advocacy organization, whose leader is often cited as a spokesman for the Somali community.
MPR’s Laura Yuen
will have had more on the story tonight on All Things Considered.