MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There is no denying there is a terror recruitment problem in Minnesota. A problem made evident by the guilty plea of a teenager on Wednesday.
Hanad Musse, 19, is one of seven young men charged with trying to leave Minnesota to fight with ISIS. He told the court, “I committed a terrorist act, and I am guilty.”
“The recruitment of a single resident from our city is unacceptable,” Minneapolis City Councilman Abdi Warsame said.
Preventing Somali teens from trying to leave Minnesota to fight for ISIS is at the heart of the Building Community Resistance, a collaboration between the Somali community, government and private partners. The million-dollar local program includes a pilot mentorship program for Somali youth through Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“They will hopefully be an important part of making sure that in the future, we’re not sitting in a courtroom listening to a young man or young woman talk about joining terrorists,” U.S. Attorney Andy Lugar said.
Organizers say its main goal is to help guide kids in the right direction, not to profile community members.
But the Council on American-Islamic Relations questions its effectiveness.
“You cannot have one hand that prosecutes and the other hand that says, ‘I’m going to feed you.’ That is unacceptable,” Sadik Warfa with the Global Somali Diaspora.
CAIR calls the government-initiated program by a different name, “Countering Violent Extremism,” and says it sounds more like a cover for spying on the community.
“They will assume that these programs are actually part of a greater surveillance,” Jaylani Hussein with CAIR said. “Therefore that will automatically make the program ineffective.”
But leaders say it’s the opposite.
“We’re in the business of mentoring and we accept no one who comes to us and says they want to do anything like monitor our kids or do that,” Gloria Lewis, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cites. “We don’t do that. We have a brand to stand by and we have a reputation to stand by.”
“I think everybody here today is committed to turning the problem around,” Lugar said.
Other programs include an education and job training resource center within the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. The whole point is to create other opportunities so young people don’t see ISIS as a good option.