Faith

Somali Mosque Is 'A Few Steps Away' From Super Bowl Stadium

A general view of U.S. Bank Stadium the site of Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, in Minneapolis. (Perry Knotts via AP)

This coming Sunday, Super Bowl LII will take place within spitting distance of a mosque in Minneapolis, Minn. The surrounding Muslim community is notorious for radicalism. Two men in the community tried to join the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2016 and one Somali refugee in the area went on a stabbing spree yelling, “Allahu Akbar!”

Naturally, Reuters covered the story — from the Somalis’ point of view.

“Some Somali residents worry about being a target of the heightened security that always surrounds one of the biggest sports events – but especially this year, when fear and suspicions about Muslims and immigrants in general are running high,” Reuters‘ Chris Kenning reported. “Somali residents say they are concerned about the potential for harassment or random violence directed at members of the Somali community, long vilified as a hotbed of extremism.”

The Minneapolis area is home to America’s largest population of Somali immigrants and their children. “Little Mogadishu,” named after the capital of Somalia, is home to over 50,000 Americans of Somali heritage.

As Reuters admitted, Somalia has endured decades of political instability and militant attacks from the radical Islamist terror group Al-Shabaab. More than 20 Somali-Americans have left Minnesota to join extremist groups overseas, including ISIS and Al-Shabaab. Open Doors USA has ranked Somalia the third-worst country in the world for persecuted Christians.

For these reasons, Somalia is one of the countries on President Trump’s infamous “Muslim Ban” executive order restricting immigration from countries of terror concern. Immigration from Somalia dropped when Trump signed the order, even though judges temporarily halted it from going into effect.

Five Somali Americans were arrested for attempting to join the Islamic State in 2015. Ten were indicted in the case, which found at least three guilty.

In 2016, Somali refugee Dahir Adan walked into a shopping mall and started stabbing shoppers — after asking if they were Muslim — and shouting “Allahu Akbar!” ISIS claimed the attack, but the media still played dumb about Adan’s motives, a full year after the attack.

The recent Reuters report admitted these things, but then went on to emphasize the “stigma” against Somalis, as if it were an unfair and unwarranted fear.

“Our community has been labeled as a national security threat. We live in constant apprehension,” Kamal Hassan, founder of the Somali Human Rights coalition, told Reuters. “Every day you hear social media threats against our community.”

A few attacks have indeed occurred. Last August, a bomb damaged the Dar Al-Farooq mosque, but no one was hurt. No arrests have been made, and the damage was restored this month.

“We are vulnerable. We are a few steps away from the stadium,” Mohamed Omar, executive director of the mosque, told Reuters. “It’s very scary now, the climate we live in.”

No potential threat justifies violence against the innocent, but suspicion of Minneapolis’s Somali community is unfortunately justified. Super Bowl LII attendees should remain alert and watchful.

It is impossible to tell how many Somali Americans in Minneapolis believe in Islamist teachings and want sharia (Islamic law) enshrined in local and state law. Most members of this community may be peaceful and patriotic Americans, and it is their duty to restrain any violent impulses in their community.

That said, the threat should be taken seriously.

About 60 public agencies, including the FBI and the Minneapolis police, are taking part in security operations for the Super Bowl, a “Tier 1 event.” Planning began two years ago, and authorities plan to exhibit a massive show of force including uniformed police, bomb-sniffing dogs, undercover officers, intelligence, and surveillance to counter any threat.

The FBI denied that the Somali community was under any special scrutiny for the Super Bowl, claiming it never investigates people or groups based solely on ethnicity, race, or national origin. A colorblind policy may be good, but it is important to note that the Somali community’s past unfortunately justifies special scrutiny.

Super Bowl LII will involve the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots. These two symbols may make it one of the most patriotic Super Bowls in history, and therefore a natural target for any Islamist radical intent on damaging America — or targeting the thousands who will attend in person.

It is important to emphasize that not all Somali-Americans — or perhaps even most — are or should be considered a threat. Many immigrants can be even more patriotic than those born in America, and many Muslims have shown themselves true patriots. That said, the Somali community in Minneapolis has a tragic history, and it is their duty (as much as it is the duty of every American) to inculcate a culture of peace and tolerance for others.