MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A quarter of ISIS recruits from the United States have come from Minnesota, as the state’s large Somali community is often targeted by terrorist recruiters.
At least 15 Somali-American men from Minnesota have left home to enlist with ISIS. Five are awaiting trial right now.
It’s left their families and the Somali community reeling.
That’s why the White House is backing a public-private pilot program which has raised nearly $1 million to help at risk Somali youth in Minnesota.
The nonprofit Youthprise has an after school program.
Ten percent of the students at Minneapolis Public Schools are Somali, and they struggle to fit in.
“Some people they make fun of it, because I have a scarf on,” student Sabrina Abdulkadir said. “It’s our culture, and we need to respect our culture and don’t make fun of it.”
New American Academy tutors students and finds them jobs.
Unemployment among Somalis is around 21-percent, about three times the rate for the general population.
Student Dahir Ali says sometimes people come up to him and call him a terrorist.
“I try to show my culture through my actions,” he said. “I try to be nice, courteous, use good speech so they know I’m not a terrorist or a bad person.”
Community leaders agree that stamping out anti-Muslim stereotypes is a priority.
“We have to meet young people where they are and help them understand their role and feel welcome, and I’m not sure if Minnesota has been as welcoming as it could have,” said Wokie Weah, the CEO of Youthprise CEO.
Work is just getting started.
U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger recently wrote about this very problem the Star Tribune, calling for an end to what he describes as “Islamophobia.”