Burhan Mohumed is a Somali American Cedar Riverside resident, and works as an advocate at the Brian Coyle Center. He also helps lead the Brotherhood Program for young Somali males. Here are Mohumed’s thoughts about the Cedar Riverside fire that destroyed a halal market and apartment complex, and left 14 injured.
When and how did you find out about the fire?
“I was dead asleep and woke up around noon. One of my friends called me saying, ‘Hey did you know one of the halal stores burned down?’ And I was like what? After I got off the phone I got on social media and people were talking about it.
What were people saying?
In conversations I’ve been having with some locals, [people are saying] it’s really random, it’s weird. Everybody’s really worried. There’s always that worry that someone is dead or badly hurt. You’d never expect this. It feels like people’s lives at risk, like there is pressure…
What do you mean by “pressure”?
We’re really losing our sense of security here [in Cedar Riverside], we’re not at ease anymore. In our neighborhood, you always expect something bad to happen and you sort of prepare for that. And when I first heard about [the fire], I was like, “Ahh, here we go again.” It’s really scary to be honest with you. And there’s always a tension with all this nonsense about Al Shabab.
Do you feel like your community is under scrutiny?
If you look at how much [media] coverage we’ve been getting… we’re getting used to how much attention is put on us. It freaked me out because one of my friends and relatives [from out of state] texted me and asked me if we’re ok. It is sort of a big deal in that people were hurt and jumping out the windows. But, I’m sure fires happen all over the country and they don’t get this much attention; they’re not under that media scrutiny.
Do you feel like the local/national media scrutiny is tied to people trying to make connections with terrorism in the Somali community?
It’s a fall out from all the connections they tried to make in the past couple of months with Cedar Riverside [and Al Shabab’s recent mall attack in Nairobi]. So every little move and happening in this neighborhood is now being paid a whole lot of attention to. If you already have a reputation, no matter if it’s good or bad, [the media are] right there waiting for you. They’re watching you, their eyes are on you. I believe we do get unnecessary attention.
Did you see people saying Islamophobic or racist things on social media related to the fire?
There was one guy on Twitter who was saying things, about how this has to do with terrorism in the Somali community… and he’s not the only one. I know, in the future, people are going to start coming out of the woodworks. Personally, I don’t feel safe [with the scrutiny]… I’m worried, because if you keep talking about something, you will talk it into existence. You really have to pay attention and not get carried away…
[I think] there’s still not much of a relationship or understanding between the Somali immigrants here and the other Minnesotans. There’s a disconnect. The thing is white Americans walk around [Cedar Riverside] and eat at our restaurants, there are well-meaning people. But for some people to think like that [guy on Twitter] scares me.
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.