It’s a bright sunny day, perfect for basketball for Abshir Jama at the Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.
But for 17-year-old Jama, who was in town visiting his cousin, the day will end too soon.
“I have to be home before dark,” he said.
His family has imposed stricter rules for him, in an effort to protect him from violence in the Twin Cities.
Jama’s aunt moved him to Willmar, Minn., to live with her so he could get away from the violence in the Twin Cities. But even in his new town, he says he still sees tensions between Somalis and Latinos.
Ever since the mysterious disappearance of young Somali boys from the Twin Cities — who are reportedly going back to Somalia to fight — life has changed for those left behind.
According to media reports, more than a dozen young Somali men from Minnesota have returned to Somalia to fight with extremist Islamic groups who are seeking recruits in the Twin Cities. There has been speculation that leaders at certain mosques convinced young men to fight. Before this, two young Somali men were killed in Minneapolis, shot by other young Somali men.
“News of the fighting in Somalia was talked about among the elders. It eventually spread to the youth and then among themselves. They decided they wanted to go back and help their homeland,” said Abdisalam Adam, Somali community specialist for St. Paul Public Schools. “I think it is blown out of proportion to think that it would be the mosques that are the reason for this.”
Even though the FBI isn’t saying much, Adam said that the FBI and government officials shouldn’t be pointing fingers at just anybody.
“It isn’t right for them to accuse the youth without evidence. It isn’t sincere,” Adam said. “They should start paying more attention to the youth, and parents should start being more aware of what their children do.”
According to Adam, some parents knew that the youth wanted to go back to Somalia to help out their country, but most parents didn’t know what happened to their sons and had to find out the hard way.
The Somali youth who remained behind have been greatly affected. Their reputation and future is unclear.
“It will get bad, (our) reputation will probably get worse,” said Mire Mohamed, 21, from Minneapolis. “People don’t really treat me differently, but I’ve heard a lot of talk about it.”
But life has changed for other young Somali men.
“Every time I get on the light rail, people are always looking at me funny. I don’t even want to ride on it anymore,” said Fahad Hashi, 23, from Minneapolis. “My brother has a full beard and when he walks around people think he’s going to do something bad. I’m always hearing people talking about how they think Muslims are going to blow stuff up. They always seem to be putting out degrading comments about Muslims.”
The same goes for Khadar Omar, 19, also from Minneapolis.
“There are those people who live in the suburbs who have never talked to a Somali in their whole life,” Omar said. “So once they watched the news and have seen what has been going on, they just have that assumption about all of us.”
The boys also seemed to have experienced some isolation.
“They look at me funny and you can tell that they are judging you. People think we are terrorists,” Omar said.
For Jama, whose rules have now changed, hanging out at the Brian Coyle Center has changed also. News reporters come to the center to interview young boys like him.
“We’re just sick of it,” said a supervisor from the Brian Coyle Center who wouldn’t give us his name. He was frustrated with the media attention and reporters. “They are acting like we are a one-stop shop.”
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