Leaders of the Somali and Muslim communities came out in a united front February 10 to address what they called “the inaccurate and unfair portrayal of our mosques and Imams.” Mid last year, about 20 Somali men were reported to have gone back home to fight a holy war. The Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center was rumored to be connected to their disappearance.
“It is unfortunate that some individuals in the Somali community unfairly accused the Abubakar Center to have links to the disappearance of the Somali young men,” said Adbirashid Abdi, one the board of directors for the center. “We strongly deny these unsubstantiated allegations. Abubakar Center didn’t recruit, finance or otherwise facilitate in any way shape of form the travel of those youth.” Full text of statement
“This is a trying time for not only the Somali community, but the Islamic community,” said Imam Makram El-Amin of the Masjid An-Nur mosque. “We need to show our solidarity.”
The leaders accused the media of reporting statements (for a summary, see MPR’s news cut blog) from individuals with personal biases against the mosque and said this has presented many problems for the Somali community. Some called for the investigation of those who have an interest in destroying the mosque. Abdirashid Abdi explained that after the allegations, the authorities stepped in, and the mosque had to “back off” from helping or talking with the families of the disappeared men. The families have been going to the mosque.
Travel plans for many Somalis have been frustrating since then. Speaking for the first time in public since being barred from getting on a flight last year, Abubakar Center youth coordinator Abdullah Farah complained about his experience.
“I was denied of boarding a flight to do my religious duties without any answers to this day,” he said. “Our community is overwhelmed and confused and want to solve this as much as you do.”
President of S.Y.N.C (Somali Youth Network Council) Osman Mukhtar was held up at the Chicago airport for two and a half hours on a trip back to Minnesota from Europe, where he was visiting his family. “The media needs to listen to all sides of the story,” Mukhtar insisted.
Mukhtar was friends with two of the missing men. “I knew them by different names, so I was shocked to see their pictures in the paper.” One of the men, whom he knew as Abdi Salam, gave him a ride to the Brian Coyle Center just a few days before his “disappearance.”
“Our conversation was regular talk, he asked me how I was doing and I asked him how he was doing,” he said. He did admit that there had been a change in the other man’s character right after Ramadan., saying, “He listened to the Quran all the time.”
Mukhtar explains the dilemma facing many young Somali men, “They can’t get a job, they are confused and have been kicked out by parents for being in gangs. Some say to themselves, I did these bad things in the past, how do I cleanse myself? Maybe that’s why they would go back to fight a holy war.”
But that’s not the story for all troubled Somali youth. Farah Mohamed had a dark past, but now works with youth at the Abubakar Center.
“Abubakar means the world to me,” he said. “I used to be in gangs and even went to prison. Abubakar helps us grow,” he added, drawing cheers from the crowd.
Nelima Kerré is a Twin Cities writer who contributes to MinneAfrica, Mshale and the TC Daily Planet.