The February 25 open house at the Somali Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center was intended to invite the surrounding community in, but it also gave members of the mosque and greater Somali community an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns about the way their place of worship and the Somali diaspora are seen by the local media and greater community.
“It seems the media only focuses on the negative perspective of the Somali community,” Aqiya Mohamed, a University of Minnesota and mosque member said. “They tend to focus on more of the dramatic or more of the interesting news.”
Mohamed said that instead of focusing on only the “newsworthy” stories, the media should show the greater community all aspects of the Somali Diaspora.
The Abubakar mosque has been under increased scrutiny in the past few months, after the news broke that several Somali men from Minneapolis who returned to Somalia to fight in the country’s civil war attended the mosque.
Abdirahman Ahmed, the Imam of the mosque, said the open house was an attempt at transparency and to show the mosque had a place in the greater community.
“All the mosques, all the Islamic centers, they are part of this society. They are contributing good things to the society,” Ahmed said. “They are not a place of radical ideas. I want [Minnesotans] to see that we are immigrants, but we are [also] Minnesotans.”
Saddiq Macalin, a member and volunteer at the mosque for ten years, explained why Somalis are every bit as American as native Minnesotans.
“You are born here, you have no choice [but] to be here. I had a choice to come here,” Macalin said. “I struggled to be here…everyone [in Minnesota] is an immigrant from somewhere else, unless you are a Native American.”
Imam Ahmed reiterated that nothing the mosque taught or preached influenced the young men’s decision to leave for Somalia. “I don’t think the teachings here affected them,” Ahmed said. “They are Islamic teachings. They are not radical teachings. I do not know where it came into their minds to leave the country.”
Amina Saleh, a mosque member who is also a Somali community organizer with Family & Children’s Service echoed the Imam’s statements, and said it doesn’t make sense for the mosque to recruit young Somalis for war.
“We left our country because of war, we don’t want to bring hatred. We preach peace,” Saleh said.
Nathaniel Minor is a student at St. Thomas University and an intern at the Twin Cities Daily Planet.