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Thursday, April 30, 2015

'Land of 10,000 Terrorists' article was pure fear-mongering | Star Tribune

'Land of 10,000 Terrorists' article was pure fear-mongering | Star Tribune

More than 100,000 Somalis and East Africans call Minnesota home and want desperately to be part of the American dream.
Recent days have been trying for all of us in Minnesota. We have heard stories about terror recruitment problems and the arrests of six young men who were attempting to leave the country. We have seen the grief-stricken faces of mothers on news broadcasts and on the cover of our major newspapers. On April 24 as I read the Star Tribune’s Opinion Exchange page, I came face to face with words of hatred. Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman’s direct statement that Somalis in Minnesota constitute a “land of 10,000 terrorists” was fear-mongering of the worst sort.
Let’s start with the facts: Six young men with connections to our state were arrested and prevented from traveling to a very dangerous and unsettled part of the world. Apparently, these young men were enticed to join violent extremists in a fight based on a perverted sense of radical views. Actions like these are crimes against our country and must be punished according to our laws. But how Coleman conflates the actions of six young men to tens of thousands of Minnesotans is beyond any form of rational mathematical reasoning.
Despite his intentions, I understand that, as a politician, Coleman — who is also a former St. Paul mayor — was extremely adroit at exacerbating racial divisions and at playing the fear card, especially at election time. But his implication in the April 24 article that there are 10,000 terrorists among us was racist, alarmist and just plain false.
Let me assure the Star Tribune readers that there are not 10,000 terrorists among us. More than 100,000 Somalis and East Africans call Minnesota home. Nearly all of these people are citizens of the United States. For more than 20 years, East Africans have found new homes in this great state. We’ve integrated, have contributed to the economy, have educated our children here, and have tried to create a better future for our families and our fellow Minnesotans and countrymen. We work every day in some the most challenging and lowest-paid jobs in transportation, health care and building maintenance. We do so because we want desperately to be part of the American dream. We are proud, loyal and dedicated Minnesotans and Americans.

allAfrica.com: Somalia: Former Sen. Norm Coleman Criticized - MPLs. City Council Member Seeks Apology

allAfrica.com: Somalia: Former Sen. Norm Coleman Criticized - MPLs. City Council Member Seeks Apology

Former Senator Norm Coleman faces criticism over a Star Tribune editorial that a Minneapolis City Council member calls "racist" and "hateful."
Council member Abdi Warsame said the title of Coleman's editorial, "Land of 10,000 Terrorists," is "unbelievable and characterizes all Somali citizens in Minnesota as terrorists."
Warsame said the piece is "shocking and I am asking Senator Coleman to apologize to all Somali citizens in Minnesota."
Warsame said he agrees with many of Coleman's points in the editorial and he has a great deal of respect for the former senator, but he said, "I cannot accept the overall message that he is putting out, because it is hurtful and counter-productive."
Warsame said there are Somalis in his ward who are Republicans and "they've even called me and told me they reached out to the party telling them this is unacceptable and they want an apology."
We reached Coleman, by phone, in Washington, D.C. and he says he stands by his editorial. He told us "we have to raise this issue to another level, because the consequences of failure are just too great." Coleman also praised U.S. Attorney, Andrew Luger, for his hard work in bringing suspected terrorist sympathizers to justice in Minnesota.
Coleman did say the Star Tribune wrote the headline for the piece, but Warsame said Coleman used the phrase "Land of 10,000 Terrorists" inside the editorial, even if he did not write the actual headline.

IRIN Africa | Kenya backpedals on closure of Somali refugee camp | Kenya | Somalia | Conflict | Refugees/IDPs | Security

IRIN Africa | Kenya backpedals on closure of Somali refugee camp | Kenya | Somalia | Conflict | Refugees/IDPs | Security

Kenya appears to have softened its stance on the imminent closure of a camp hosting more than a third of a million Somali refugees, weeks after the deputy president announced it would happen within three months, as he reacted to the massacre at Garissa University.
“While we are committed to the return of the refugees, you will not see us holding them by the head and tail and throwing them across the border,” Ali Bunow Korane, who chairs Kenya’s Refugee Affairs Commission, said Wednesday.
Korane was addressing a forum where officials from the UN, aid agencies and civil society discussed the implications of closing Dadaab refugee complex, where more than 330,000 Somalis live.
He acknowledged that, while it was Kenya’s policy to encourage refugees to go back to Somalia, the country, “does not provide a conducive environment for mass return.” This is also the position of the UNHCR, the UN’s agency for refugees, and most aid agencies working in Somalia.
Korane said Kenya was working to mobilise international support to improve security and build up social infrastructure, such as houses, schools and hospitals, in order to make potential areas of return more viable.
On 11 April, Deputy President William Ruto announced that the Kenyan government had asked UNHCR, “to relocate the refugees [in Dadaab] within three months, failure to which we shall relocate them ourselves.”
Ruto spoke shortly after 148 people, mostly students, were murdered in a university in the northern town of Garissa, in an attack claimed by al-Shabab. Although al-Shabab is primarily a Somali jihadist insurgency, it has recruited many Kenyans, including, by many accounts, some of those who carried out the university killings.
But Korane said of the attackers: “They stayed in the (Dadaab) refugee camp, they assembled the arms there.”
“Kenya has very serious security challenges that have a direct bearing on refugees,” he added.
Voluntary return?
In 2013, Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement in which all parties committed themselves to the principle of voluntary return. Kenya remains engaged with the tripartite process and, according to the UNHCR, on 29 April took part in a technical committee meeting convened to discuss the agreement’s implementation.
“The only way forward is to continue working for the implementation of the tripartite agreement,” UNHCR’s Senior Regional Protection Officer Eva Camps said at the gathering.
Camps noted that a pilot project launched in December to assist refugees returning voluntarily from Dadaab to three locations in Somalia had not delivered “satisfactory results.” Of a target of 10,000 returns by June, so far just 2,048 have gone back under the project.
Several thousand others have however left Dadaab for Somalia with no involvement of the UNHCR.

Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks.  Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.  The owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.

Along the Somali coastline sits the Jazeera Beach Hotel, one of the finest beach resorts in Mogadishu.
It is part of The Village hotel and restaurant chain, owned by Ahmed Jama.  Originally from Britain, many in Somalia now refer to him as Ahmed Village because of his thriving businesses. A chef by profession, Ahmed enjoys cooking for his ever-increasing customers.

He recalls the risks he took coming back to invest in a country once regarded as a failed state.

“When I left my restaurant business in London, everyone was surprised. When I opened up a hotel at Jazeera beach everyone was also surprised.  But now it’s evident that all who followed my lead and invested back home have changed the narrative. And we look forward to more developments for Somalia in the near future," said Jama.

With Somalia's thriving fishing industry, Ahmed’s clientele are assured of a good meal at any of his chain of hotels across the capital.
A major source of employment, Ahmed has hired scores of Somalis to work at his establishments.

“In this restaurant alone, I have 58 employees. At least 20 others work at my other restaurant in Hawa Tako. I have employed more than 100 people in Mogadishu alone. I have opened up a beach restaurant in Hobyo that has more than 20 employees. This is something I hope to expand all across the country if security prevails," he said.

Ahmed’s restaurants in Mogadishu have been attacked numerous times by extremists. But this has not deterred Ahmed, who instead urges other Somalis in the Diaspora to return home.

“It is human beings who create both conflict and peace. So as to develop Somalia, we shouldn't be afraid.  It's wise if we come back and invest here instead of elsewhere.  Those you offer employment opportunities to will help in creating peace and stability.  The instability and challenges will come to an end one day, so it is best we stay and invest here," said Jama.

In 2013, the Somali government launched the Office for the Diaspora Affairs.  The agency has been holding a series of conferences with Somalis across the globe in a bid to increase their involvement with the East African nation.

Ahmed Jama’s case is an example of the brave hearts who have returned to Somalia and are slowly changing a nation that was once mired in anarchy,  but is now slowly settling down, and reviving.

United Nations News Centre - Somalia registers record export of livestock in 2014 due to trade boost with Gulf States

United Nations News Centre - Somalia registers record export of livestock in 2014 due to trade boost with Gulf States

Somalia in 2014 exported a record five million livestock to markets in the Gulf of Arabia thanks to heavy investments in animal disease prevention backed by the European Union and the United Kingdom, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
This is the highest number of live animals exported from Somalia in the last 20 years. The FAO data indicates that Somalia exported 4.6 million goats and sheep, 340,000 cattle and 77,000 camels in 2014, worth an estimated $360 million. Livestock is the mainstay of the Somali economy, contributing 40 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). “This shows that despite the challenges, the Somali people are successfully working to improve their economy and food security,” said Richard Trenchard, head of FAO’s office for Somalia. “FAO and our partners are committed to remaining engaged and involved in supporting those efforts.” Buyers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates have all taken advantage of Somalia’s thriving livestock scene and its improved disease surveillance and control mechanisms. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has contributed to steadily rising exports over the last six years, following a move to lift a nine-year ban on the import of livestock from Somalia. Transboundary animal diseases have been a major concern because they can kill large numbers of animals, resulting in food shortages, market disruptions and trade and export barriers. Every year, FAO vaccinates an average of 12 million animals in Somalia against peste des petits ruminants (PPR) – a highly contagious and often deadly viral disease of goats. Another 12 million goats are treated and vaccinated every year against Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), a source of major losses among Somali livestock producers. In addition to animal health campaigns, four modern slaughterhouses, four meat markets and three livestock markets are also boosting local livestock trade across Somalia. “There is no doubt that livestock is, and will remain for a long time, central to the Somali economy,” said Mr. Trenchard. Continued investment in building Somali livestock institutions is key to boosting incomes, reducing the vulnerability of rural households, and steering the future growth of the sector, according to Mr. Trenchard, who says the livestock sector is at a tipping point. “An investment in livestock means an investment in economic growth for the whole of Somalia,” he said. In May 2015, FAO will start training 150 Somalis in curing leather, a potentially lucrative opportunity for the entire livestock sector, while an EU-funded programme is underway to improve milk quality in northwestern Somalia, one of the country’s main milk production regions. The 2014 figures represent an optimum level of live animal export for Somalia, according to FAO experts, who urge producers to shift focus towards export of meat and other by-products. A livestock certification system developed by FAO along the Galkayo-Bossaso livestock corridor will further help to ensure high quality livestock for local consumption and export.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Somali Refugees Fear Being Thrown Out of Kenya

Somali Refugees Fear Being Thrown Out of Kenya

Authorities want the U.N. to close Dadaab refugee camp, which they say is used by al-Shabab to attack targets in Kenya.

allAfrica.com: Kenya: Somali Man Charged With Making a Fake Refugee Certificate

allAfrica.com: Kenya: Somali Man Charged With Making a Fake Refugee Certificate

A Somali man was charged yesterday in court for making a fake refugee certificate.
He however did not plea to the charges as a Somali interpreter was not in court.
Mohamed Abdi Ali, 34, allegedly forged the certificate on April 1, 2011, within Nairobi CBD.
The court heard on April 14 this year at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport entrance, Ali was arrested by police officers while trying to get out of the country.
During interrogation, he produced the certificate to show he is a refugee.
Ali was charged in court and the magistrate ordered him to be escorted to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for his status to be verified.
It was later established that he was not a registered refugee by the UNHCR.
His case will be mentioned tomorrow when he will plead to the charges.

Somali community center being developed in Minneapolis

Somali community center being developed in Minneapolis

A Somali organization has signed an agreement to purchase a 24,000-square-foot-building for a future Somali community center in Minneapolis.
The Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota announced the purchase agreement for the new center Tuesday. Executive Director Mohamud Noor says the center will be a "one-stop-shop" for his group and others to deliver programs and services to "transform the Somali community."
Benjamin Fribley, the group's communications and development manager, says the building's price is $1.9 million. He says the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota is currently fundraising.
The building at 2639 Minnehaha Ave. will house early childhood education programming, youth development activities, workforce development and technical training, social and recreational activities and cultural programming.
Fribley says the hope is that the center will be able to open this fall.

Somali police recruit leaves class over head-scarf rule | The Columbus Dispatch

Somali police recruit leaves class over head-scarf rule | The Columbus Dispatch

Ismahan Isse has wanted to be a police officer for years.
She prepared herself by earning an associate degree in criminal justice and entered the Columbus police academy in December. She lasted until March 16.
Isse, 29, is a Somali-American and a Muslim. The Police Division does not allow officers to wear head scarves and refused to change its policy for her. When she dropped out of the academy, “I told them the main reason was the scarf,” she said.
She would like to return, but her head covering, or hijab, is important to her identity.
“I want to remain myself,” she said.
Other police departments in U.S. cities have made accommodations for head scarves as they try to recruit candidates from increasingly diverse communities.
Mayor Michael B. Coleman has asked Columbus safety officials to re-examine the city’s policy after The Dispatch inquired about it for this story. Coleman thinks the policy could affect recruiting, his spokesman, Tyneisha Harden, said. “We are trying to diversify the police unit. We want to take a look at what other cities are doing.”
That’s appropriate, said City Councilman Zach Klein, who leads the public safety and judiciary committee. The city should always aim to maximize diversity because a workforce that reflects the community “is one of the many solutions toward improving police and community relations,” Klein said.
•    •    •
Columbus police spokeswoman Denise Alex-Bouzounis said the division does not allow head scarves for two reasons: so officers look the same and portray an “impartial appearance,” and for safety. Officers are required, at times, to wear helmets and gas masks, and the gas masks won’t fit over and around head scarves, Sgt. Rich Weiner said. A scarf also could be used to try to strangle an officer, Weiner said. Male officers wear clip-on ties to avoid that danger.
Napoleon Bell, executive director of the Columbus Community Relations Commission, said he was saddened when Isse left the academy.
Her trainers “said she was doing really well — just as well and even better than some of the guys,” Bell said. “I’m hopeful she’ll change her mind, because she would be a great example for others.”
When members of his staff talked to Isse about why she had dropped out, she didn’t mention the head scarf but spoke of family obligations — she has three young children — and possibly wanting to choose a different career, Bell said.
Columbus has struggled with recruiting minority candidates, including African-Americans, immigrants and refugees, Bell said.
A Somali man made it into the Columbus police academy before Isse but failed some of the training requirements, Bell said.
“We really want to remove the barriers so more people of different backgrounds and from all over the world apply to our fire and police forces,” he said.
•    •    •
Columbus has the second-largest Somali population in the U.S. — an estimated 40,000 — but the Police Division has never had a Somali officer, said Hassan Omar, who leads the Somali Community Association of Ohio. “The city hasn’t embraced or encouraged new Americans of any nationality to be a part of its police presence, and that’s disgraceful,” he said.
The Franklin County sheriff’s office does not have any Somali deputies, but it has a male cadet training to be a jail guard. He is expected to be assigned to one of the jails on May 8.
Sheriff Zach Scott said in an email that he would be open to addressing the issue of head scarves.
“We are looking forward to having a discussion regarding revisions of this nature to our uniform policy in order to accommodate potential female Muslim applicants for deputy positions,” he said.
Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, said Drew Dennis, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.
Employers must make reasonable accommodations, he said, but the interpretation of reasonable often becomes a sticking point.
“It has turned out to be highly dependent on a given situation,” Dennis said.
A few police agencies have allowed officers to wear religious garb for decades, he said. In 1994, for example, an African-American officer in Chicago won the right to wear earrings bearing the ankh, an ancient Egyptian symbol of life.
Other religious accommodations are more recent, as the country has become more multicultural.
In February in Houston, the Harris County sheriff announced that a Sikh officer would be allowed to wear his faith’s traditional beard and turban while on patrol. The Houston area is home to one of the nation’s largest communities of south Asian Sikhs.
“Deputies need not only understand, respect and communicate with all segments of the population, but represent it as well,” Sheriff Adrian Garcia said in a statement this year.
The Washington, D.C., police force offers similar accommodations for Sikhs.
But in 2007, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled that the city’s police department didn’t violate the civil rights of a Muslim officer when it forbade her from wearing a head scarf.
The judge said “prohibiting religious symbols and attire helps to prevent any divisiveness on the basis of religion both within the force itself and when it encounters the diverse population of Philadelphia.”
•    •    •
The police department in Edmonton, Alberta, does not have any female Muslim officers but has designed a uniform to accommodate candidates. It includes a hijab that snaps off when grabbed, similar to the clip-on ties Weiner referred to in Columbus.
A Somali woman training to become a transit officer in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area wears a snap-off scarf. That’s no problem for Metro Transit, spokesman Howie Padilla said. “The expectation in the workforce will be that she does have a hijab.”
She also was allowed to wear the head covering when she was a civilian community-liaison officer in St. Paul.
The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations pushed for and received an allowance last year for a corrections officer in Cleveland to wear her hijab at work, staff attorney Romin Iqbal said.
During the past 20 years, CAIR has helped employees reconcile their religion with their workplace in several fields, spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. “I can’t recall a case where we haven’t been able to reach a reasonable accommodation.”
Kulsoom Abdullah of Atlanta is a Pakistani-American who broke barriers when she became the first woman to compete in a hijab as well as a bodysuit during the World Weightlifting Championships in 2011. She believes that allowing women officers to wear head scarves will help in recruiting.
“I think that would be more encouraging to someone who has never considered that field of work,” she said.
epyle@dispatch.com
@EncarnitaPyle
mferenchik@dispatch.com
@MarkFerenchik

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sicilian Court Convicts 20 Somalis of Migrant-Trafficking - ABC News

Sicilian Court Convicts 20 Somalis of Migrant-Trafficking - ABC News

A court in Sicily on Monday convicted 20 Somalis who had received political asylum in Italy of a role in a vast criminal organization focused on migrant-smuggling.
Prosecutors in Catania said that the defendants were part of an international migrant-smuggling ring that demanded "large sums of money" from migrants from Kenya and Somalia to enter Italy. They then helped them continue their journey to destinations in northern Europe, especially Sweden.
Their convictions bring to 42 the number of people found guilty of involvement in the same smuggling ring, which was operating throughout Italy.
Italy, which has saved some 200,000 migrants at sea since the beginning of 2014, has sought to crack down on human traffickers to help deal with the huge influx of migrants reaching its shores.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday joined Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on a brief visit to an Italian navy ship involved in border control operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
"Unfortunately, recently, due to political instability, in some parts of Africa, particularly North Africa, this sea has sadly become a sea of tears, a sea of misery," Ban said in a statement. "I think it seems to be the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War."
He said he recognizes the situation is a huge challenge for European governments.
"Not a single country - like Italy - can bear all this responsibility. In that regard, I welcome and commend the leadership of the European Union. They were united and showed their solidarity to address this humanitarian crisis and to give a better future for many people," Ban said.
He added that U.N. agencies are ready to work with the EU to prevent human trafficking and to find a political solution to the instability in northern Africa.
Renzi told Italian news agency ANSA that the visit underscores that "the entire international community is aware that this is a global problem and not a question that regards one country."

Friday, April 24, 2015

At least 14 migrants killed in Macedonia train horror

At least 14 migrants from Somalia and Afghanistan were killed in central Macedonia when they were hit by an international passenger train, officials said on Friday.
The tragedy is the latest loss of life involving migrants seeking a new life in Europe after around 750 people drowned last Sunday when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean.
The train driver reported seeing several dozen people sitting on or near the track late on Thursday but was unable to stop in time, a local prosecutor said in a statement.
Emergency service workers described a "scene of horror with body parts scattered some 150 metres along the railroad".
"The driver tried to alert them by horn and stop the train. Many managed to escape but 14 were killed," the statement said, adding that the victims were from Afghanistan and Somalia.
The accident occurred on a mountainous part of the line passing through a canyon near the central town of Veles, so the migrants could not get out of the away.
A group of migrants walk near to the railroad tracks …
The bodies were taken to a chapel at the local cemetery in Veles, police said.
Eight migrants were detained, while others fled the scene, police spokeswoman Anita Stojkovska said.
In the past six months around a dozen migrants had been killed in similar incidents on the same stretch of line, Stojkovska added.
Migrants from impoverished and war-torn countries in Africa, the Middle East and central and south Asia walk through Macedonia along the line to reach Serbia as they head north from Greece in the hope of crossing the European Union border into Romania, Hungary and Croatia.
According to the latest report of EU border agency Frontex, Macedonian smugglers charge between 120 and 200 euros ($130 and $215) for passage as far as the Serbian border.
Similar networks have sprung up on the Greek-Albanian border, owing to greater security on ferry crossings between Greece and Italy.
Traffickers charge half the price for the land route through the western Balkans into northern Europe, around 1,800 euros compared to 3,000 euros for the direct sea or air route, according to Frontex.
Detections of non-EU migrants on the border between Serbia and Hungary rose by 338 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to Frontex.
The latest tragedy in Macedonia comes as EU leaders on Thursday agreed to triple the funding for the bloc's search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean in a bid to curb the soaring number of migrants dying as they seek a better life in Europe.
Already, more than 1,750 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean this year -- 30 times more than the same period in 2014.

Minnesota Mother Shocked That 2 Sons Face Terror Charges - ABC News

Minnesota Mother Shocked That 2 Sons Face Terror Charges - ABC News

Adnan Abdihamid Farah's parents took his passport away last year when it came in the mail, and his mother would later tell authorities she feared her son would "disappear."
She also stopped the 19-year-old from traveling with his brother, Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, when the siblings told her they were going to Chicago. Mohamed — who was older and given more freedom — made the trip and instead ended up in San Diego, where authorities say he was bound for Mexico and ultimately the Islamic State group in Syria.
"I cry all day," their mother, Ayan Farah, said Wednesday. "I don't know what happened."
The brothers are among six Minnesota men of Somali descent charged this week with terrorism-related offenses, accused of attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group. Family members have expressed shock to see the men caught up in a terror investigation, but people who track such cases say it's not uncommon for sibling relationships to play a role in recruiting.
William Braniff, executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), said an intimate relationship — like that of family members — is often the key that will lead someone with extremist views to action. He said it's hard to conspire with others over the phone or in emails or meetings without getting caught, but much easier to make plans with a sibling at home.
"The current security environment lends itself to that kind of tight-knit conspiracy," he said.
Authorities said another man charged with the Farah brothers, Guled Ali Omar, is the younger brother of Ahmed Ali Omar, who joined al-Shabab in 2007 and remains a fugitive. A court document says Guled Omar also had tried to go to Somalia in 2012 to join al-Shabab, and has made at least two attempts to travel to Syria in the last year.
U.S. Attorney Andy Luger described the group charged this week as friends and family members who recruited and inspired each other. He said the recruiting was "friend-to-friend, brother-to-brother."
Former prosecutor Anders Folk, who handled the initial al-Shabab cases in Minnesota, said younger siblings often look up to their older brothers or sisters.
"I don't think it provides any kind of excuse or diminishes at all their potential dangerousness or potential commitment to the cause, but it is certainly context for how people can get involved," Folk said, adding: "Who better to keep a secret than a sister or a brother?"
Ayan Farah said she thinks her sons were set up. Her reaction echoed that of some in the Somali community who suggested the role of an FBI informant in the case was entrapment.
She said her sons, two of seven children, still lived in the family home with her and her husband. Mohamed, 21, graduated from high school in 2012 and was studying at St. Paul Technical College with plans of becoming a science teacher. Adnan graduated from high school last year and planned to marry this summer, she said.
She said both are religious and frequently attended the mosque. They never strayed far from home, and liked basketball and soccer.
"The kids, they have a beautiful life," she said. "So I did not see anything for the problem."
She said Adnan told her he wanted to go to college in China, but she thought he was too young and she wanted him to stay in the U.S. She said she did not believe he wanted to join the Islamic State group.
"I keep the passport because Adnan, he's young. That's why," she said. "(I) say, 'Hey, you're not going anywhere.' ... And he listened."
According to an FBI affidavit, the mother took Adnan's passport because she "was fearful he would disappear and that they would 'not know where (he) went.'" The affidavit also says Adnan posted jihadist images on Facebook and last year told an informant, "There's nothing for me in this world, bro."
Ayan Farah said she saw her sons' activity on Facebook and nothing alarmed her.
The affidavit also says Mohamed was among four men who took a bus to New York City and were stopped at JFK Airport last November while trying to travel to Syria. During conversations recorded by the FBI informant, Mohamed allegedly said that he tricked his grandmother to get his passport.
On another occasion he said that "the American identity is dead."
"Even if I get caught, I'm whatever ... I'm through with America," Mohamed said, according to the affidavit. "Burn my ID."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Obama's grandma arrives for Umrah

Obama's grandma arrives for Umrah

Sara Omar, grandma of US President Barack Obama, has emphasized the significance of the Prophet Muhammad exhibition in Makkah and said it reflects the moderate teachings of Islam that calls for tolerance and rejects violence.
Sara has come to Makkah with her son Saeed Obama, uncle of President Obama and her grandson Mousa Obama to perform Umrah.
She commended the Saudi government’s efforts to expand the two holy mosques.
Sara and her family members visited the Prophet’s show, which is located in the Naseem district of Makkah, for two hours. “I am very happy to visit this exhibition, which is a good example for the propagation of Islam in a modern way, supported by scientific and authentic documents.”
Obama’s grandma also expressed hope that the exhibition would visit other countries with the support of the Saudi government in order to remove the misunderstandings about the divine religion.

Somalia's Premier Bank to bring ATMs, debit cards to Mogadishu | Top News | Reuters

Somalia's Premier Bank to bring ATMs, debit cards to Mogadishu | Top News | Reuters

Somalia's Premier Bank has struck a deal with Mastercard and will issue debit cards and install ATM machines in the capital of the war-ravaged country, the Islamic lender's top executive said on Wednesday.
    The east African nation has struggled for more than two decades with civil war and containing an insurrection by Islamist militants which has meant even basic infrastructure has been beyond most of the country's 10 million people.
Yet with al Shabaab militants driven out of the capital Mogadishu and other major strongholds, business and consumer demand has grown for services which would be taken for granted in many other parts of the world, including banking."Somalia is a very under-penetrated market with less than 3 percent of its population banked," Mahat Mohamed Ahmed, managing director of Premier Bank, which received a licence from the central bank last year, told Reuters in Dubai.    Carrying local currency in Somalia, a de facto dollarized economy, is cumbersome as $1 is worth 21,000 Somali shillings, and the only note in circulation is 1,000 shillings. For wealthier Somalis and visiting foreigners, carrying cash can be a dangerous task in cities rife with crime and awash with guns.Ahmed said in an interview that the Islamic lender, one of a handful of banks in Somalia, will soon start distributing Mastercard-administered debit and prepaid cards to customers. It plans to have 15,000 cards issued by the end of 2015 and says its ATM machines will also accept cards issued abroad.MasterCard's spokeswoman for Africa said it had licensed Premier Bank to go live with their cards and machines.MOBILE MONEYHowever, Somali banks may struggle to convince the local population to sign up to debit cards, which might charge for withdrawals, as most Somalis use ubiquitous cheap, or free, mobile money technology to pay for goods and services.Premier has bought five ATM machines and will install them in various locations with high security in Mogadishu, Ahmed said. With a withdrawal limit of $1,000 a day, the cards can be used online and abroad. Salaam Somali Bank installed the sole ATM in Somalia in an upmarket hotel in Mogadishu last year. However, central bank sources and hotel visitors say it does not work.Salaam did not respond to requests for comment.Creating a banking system from scratch is proving problematic for Somalia. The U.S. terms al Qaeda-aligned al Shabaab a "terrorist organisation" and this has raised concerns in international banking about the risk of fines if money channelled through them ends up in the hands of the militants.Premier has one of Somalia's four registered SWIFT codes but Somali lenders are struggling to build networks of correspondent banks for cross-border transactions due to fears about money-laundering and terrorist financing. "Anti-money laundering is a huge issue for dealing with international banks. They don't want to deal with Somali banks," Ahmed said.Somalis have traditionally dealt with informal and unregulated money transfer firms. But these money transfer firms that send much of diaspora remittances to Somalia are also struggling as correspondent banks shut their accounts, driven by the same worries about funding militant groups.Yet despite all the challenges, Ahmed believes the security improvements in Somalia have heralded huge business opportunities: "(It) has encouraged Somalis overseas to come back and invest in the country."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

US designated two top militant leaders as 'terrorists'

US designated two top militant leaders as 'terrorists'

The United States government has formally designed two top Al-Shabab leaders as terrorists following deadly attacks in Somalia and across East African region.
The state Department added Ahmed Diriye, the new Al-Shabab leader who replaced Ahmed Abdi Godane who was killed in a US air strike last year and Mahad Karate, his deputy to the terrorist list on Tuesday.
Announcing the designation, State noted that Diriye "shares Godane's vision for al Shabaab's terrorist attacks in Somalia as an element of al Qaeda's greater global aspirations.", after the group's fighters
attacked Kenyan University in a deadly siege which killed at least 147 people, mostly students.
The group also carried out numerous deadly attacks across Somalia.
In the statement, the state Department said Diriye or Karate has any interest is blocked and any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with Diriye or Karate, or to their benefit.
Al-Shabab claimed the responsibility for the 2010 Kampala bombing attacks in Uganda, the 2013 Westgate attack in Nairobi.
No comment could be reached from Al-Shabab on the development. The Department of State said it took the decision in consultation with the Departments of Justice and Treasury.

Local Somali community looks to achieve the American dream - KUSI News - San Diego, CA

Local Somali community looks to achieve the American dream - KUSI News - San Diego, CA

There is a large Somali population in Minnesota, but San Diego is also home to roughly 30,000 Somali refugees. One Somali man, Hassan, came to this country in 2004 in search of peace and a better life. Now at 26 years old, he helps other Somali refugees find the same.
Hassan volunteers at the Somali Bantu Association of America in City Heights, a non profit which offers resources like English as a second language classes, a computer lab, job training, a path to citizenship.
He knows what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land, facing so many cultural challenges. He cannot explain why some refugees make bad choices, but he understands. "A lot of people, they cannot stay here, no job, no other people to help, some don't have no house at all," he said.
The folks at the Somali Bantu Association seek to mentor young Somali's, keep them close with after school activities. This is a community not used to being in the spotlight. Many here work hard at the jobs available to them, translating, driving a cab, housekeeping. They are trying not to let the actions of a few who choose terror, overshadow their attempts at making it in this country.
Hassan has a plan. To get a full time job, and continue to give back.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rochester Somali community denounces ISIS ideology - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Rochester Somali community denounces ISIS ideology - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

"I moved to America when I was 9 years old," says Deq Ahmed, a librarian and administrative assistant at Rochester Math and Science Academy, a charter school that specializes in education of Somali youth.
"I'm more American than I am Somali."
Such is the sentiment of many Somalis in Rochester. They are overjoyed with their inclusion in the American Dream, happy to be a part of the melting pot, and eager to build better lives for their kids than they have for themselves.
Somalis today find themselves victim of the same xenophobia that dogged Arabs in the months and years after 9/11, and in large part still pervades. The prejudice against young Somali men is in many ways a continuation thereof, another iteration of the proverbial boogeyman, Islamophobia's latest target.
"It changes the whole community," says Abdi Roble, a Somalian man living in Rochester, says of the extremist ideology that creates a stereotype of Somali culture. "People look at you when you are walking down the street... it creates vulnerability."
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Roble sees anti-Somali sentiment as an opportunity.
"Every race of people that has come to America has encountered this. It's part of coming here."
Many in Rochester are working to combat that vulnerability, to instill structure and discipline where there was once an identity crisis.
"We are doing all in our capability to divert them [from extremist ideology] and tell them that this is the right way," says Roble. He says that while his efforts as a father and as a community leader to improve the lives of Somali youth have been successful thus far, it's important to remain vigilant against pervasive extremism.
"No matter how much you close your doors," says Roble, "thieves will always try to get in."
Those sentiments were echoed by other Somalis in Rochester, who say that their culture, ideologies, and religion is not that espoused by ISIS, or by the young Somali men arrested Sunday for allegedly attempting to obtain forged passports for terrorist groups.
"We are worried about people in the Minnesota community getting involved in a bad situation overseas. We want to reach our youth and get them help," says Omar Nur, director of Somalia Rebuild Organization, a nonprofit whose aim is to improve the lives of Somali youth living in Rochester. His organization funds literacy programs and sports leagues for Somali youth. He, like Abdi Roble, sees progress. He cites the example of Munira Khalif, the Somali-Minnesotan girl recently accepted to all eight Ivy League Schools, plus Georgetown, Stanford, and the University of Minnesota.
"There's a big gap between the life we left, and the life that's here. And we try to fill in that gap."
 Toryn Hill assisted in writing this article.

Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR to hold talks on refugee relocation | Capital News

Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR to hold talks on refugee relocation | Capital News

Kenya will on Tuesday host tripartite talks with the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Somali Government over a pact signed more than a year ago on repatriation of refugees.

The talks will assess the agreement that focuses on voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees.
“This was agreed at a meeting between the Prime Minister of Somalia Omar Ali Sharmarke and Deputy President William Ruto,” a statement from Ruto’s office said.
The Somalia PM had called on the Deputy President to discuss the security situation between the two countries.
He called for the meeting saying it was important to evaluate how the process can be carried out responsibly and made faster with the assistance of the international community.
“We want to address the refugee issue in the tripartite agreement and agree on how fast it can be done and what role the donor community can play,” Sharmarke stated.
Ruto says the tripartite agreement will be discussed with a view of ensuring refugees returned to Somalia in an orderly manner.
“We would like this meeting to address the concerns raised in this matter so that we can deal with the refugee situation in the most humane manner,” the Deputy President said.
Recently, the Deputy President said the country had given UNHCR three months to relocate the Dadaab refugee camp to Somalia.
Emphasizing that the return of the refuges will be organised, the DP pointed out that since the signing of the tripartite agreement to return the refugees home, 80,000 had done so voluntarily.
“We would like this meeting to address the concerns raised in this matter so that we can deal with the refugee situation in the most humane manner,” he pointed out.
“We will always stand with you. We made a conscious decision to participate in the security operations in Somalia because what goes on in Somalia affects us in Kenya.”
The Deputy President said it was unfortunate that Al-Shabaab has a different agenda in Kenya trying to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims, an agenda he added, will not succeed.
Besides refugee issues, the Somalia PM also appealed to Kenya to review its decision and allow those who were engaged in genuine business to continue with their money transfer businesses, popularly known as Hawalas.
“Kenya has a good financial system and we would like you to assist us set up sound financial services for those in the Hawala business and also in Somalia,” he said.
The Prime Minister said Kenya should however deal firmly with those who will be found to transacting for purposes of sponsoring terrorist activities.
In response, the DP said the Central Bank of Kenya was analysing their operations to explore the possibilities of bringing the Hawalas under financial regulatory system for ease of monitoring.
The analysis will also help identify individuals behind any transaction and purposes thereof.
Present during the meeting were Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohammed, Cabinet Secretary for industrialization Aden Mohammed and National Assembly leader of Majority in Parliament Aden Duale.
Sharmarke was accompanied by Somalia Foreign Minister Abdulsalam Omer.

Somalia: Forced Evictions of Displaced People | Human Rights Watch

Somalia: Forced Evictions of Displaced People | Human Rights Watch Somali state security forces forcibly evicted about 21,000 displaced people in the capital, Mogadishu, in early March 2015. The authorities beat some of those evicted on March 4 and 5, destroyed their shelters, and left them without water, food, or other assistance. Many of those affected had fled their homes during the 2011 famine and fighting, and have been repeatedly displaced since then. Somali authorities should cease forcibly evicting displaced people in Mogadishu, and adequately protect and assist them, Human Rights Watch said. “The Somali government has done next to nothing over the last three years to address the miserable and unsafe living conditions for Mogadishu’s thousands of displaced people,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Now, instead of providing safe alternative options and much-needed water and sanitation, security forces are violently uprooting them, leaving them homeless and destitute.” Human Rights Watch spoke with 17 camp residents and 6 other witnesses to the March evictions and analyzed satellite imagery of the area recorded between February 27 and April 9. From March 4 to 7, Somalia’s national police, national intelligence agency forces, and city council police forcibly evicted the thousands of internally displaced people from informal camps in the Kahda (formerly Dharkenley) district in Mogadishu. During the operation, security forces beat those resisting orders to vacate, destroyed shelters and shops with their hands and a bulldozer, and threatened displaced people. Authorities failed to provide adequate notification and compensation to the communities facing eviction, and did not provide viable relocation or local integration options required by international law, Human Rights Watch said. Aid organizations estimate that 1.1 million people throughout Somalia are displaced, including an estimated 370,000 in Mogadishu. Precise data is not available because the government has not officially registered displaced people. Since 2011, women, men, and children living in informal camps for the displaced have been subjected to serious abuses including rape, physical attacks, restrictions on access to humanitarian assistance, and clan-based discrimination at the hands of government forces and affiliated militia, as well as private parties. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, at least 25,700 people were forcibly evicted in the two months prior to the Kahda operation. However, the Kahda eviction was particularly brutal, Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of a February 25, 2015 notice from the Benadir Regional Administration signed by the mayor of Mogadishu. It stated that people living in a specific 600-by-650-meter section of “government land” should vacate within a week and ordered the local district commissioner to inform affected communities. Residents told Human Rights Watch that many did not receive the notice or any notification from the commissioner. Several first learned of the impending operation about three days before it began, when security forces arrived in the camps and painted the word “demolish” (dumis in Somali language) on some shops bordering the main road. No one interviewed had seen the official written order, and most had been unaware of the planned evictions. Several camp residents said security forces beat them when they refused to vacate or dismantle their shelters on March 4. A 33-year-old mother of seven told Human Rights Watch: There were three gunmen. One shook my hut and I tried to stop him because my baby was inside. He slapped me, but I cried and shouted, “My daughter is inside! My daughter is inside!” He finally stopped shaking the house and told me to take my daughter. As soon as I got her, he uprooted the sticks holding up our shelter, it collapsed, and he moved on to destroy the one next to mine. Governments may lawfully evict people under exceptional circumstances, such as for the public interest. However, to be lawful, evictions must be carried out in accordance with both domestic and international human rights law, including with proper notification and other due process protections. Displaced people who are moved from where they are living must be given alternative housing and access to food, education, health care, employment, and other livelihood opportunities. The Somali government has adopted a policy on displacement that spells out clear procedures aimed at protecting affected communities during evictions and ensuring that evictions are lawful, but has failed to observe them, Human Rights Watch said. “At every turn of these operations, the authorities violated their own policies on evictions,” Lefkow said. “If the Somali authorities need to move displaced people, the local and federal authorities in Mogadishu should first put in place a plan that ensures people’s security and access to basic assistance.” Those evicted told Human Rights Watch that they had relocated further north into an area known as the “Afgooye corridor,” a stretch of road between Mogadishu and the town of Afgooye. They said, though, that they lack access to clean water and sanitary facilities, raised health and security concerns, and said they would probably move again. Security is a serious concern along the Afgooye corridor, with ongoing attacks by the armed Islamist group Al-Shabaab against government and African Union forces. One UN official told Human Rights Watch that the agency’s staff is reluctant to visit and monitor some of the more distant areas where the evictees are living due to insecurity. “Forcibly evicting the displaced to insecure areas without protection and with limited assistance puts them at tremendous risk,” Lefkow said. “All concerned, including the government, donors, and aid agencies, should make sure any evictions fully respect the rights of displaced people before, during, and after any operations.” For further accounts of the March evictions, please see below. The March Evictions People who had been living in informal camps between the Aslubta and Sarkusta areas of Kahda district (formerly in Dharkenley district) on Mogadishu’s western outskirts told Human Rights Watch that in the early hours of March 4, 2015, members of the Somali police, intelligence agency forces, and city council police surrounded the camps. Some people reported hearing gunfire for several minutes and security forces shouting at them to vacate immediately. Security forces started to evict residents from the camp shortly after the Morning Prayer, at about 4:30 a.m., beginning by demolishing shelters closest to the main road. They destroyed shelters and shops manually and with at least one bulldozer, and forced camp residents to dismantle their own shelters, often at gunpoint. Evictees living further away from the main road said they were able to collect and take parts of their shelters and belongings with them. Others said they fled with almost nothing and lost their main means of survival. A 45-year-old man whose kiosk was along the main road said: When I saw that the bulldozer was heartlessly destroying the shops around, I dared to take some of my goods. I said to myself, let them kill me, and I took some of the goods and parts of the roof. The bulldozer first hit its blade on the kiosk, and when the kiosk collapsed the driver drove over it one time and left it, and he started doing the same to the neighboring kiosks and everything in the kiosks was buried. Aid workers told Human Rights Watch that the sanitation and water facilities at the camps were also destroyed. While the bulk of the evictions occurred on March 4, the security forces patrolled the camps until March 7 and restricted access to some of those trying to return to retrieve their belongings. A displaced community leader who visited the eviction site a month later said that several displaced people’s camps in the vicinity had not been vacated. Human Rights Watch analyzed satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of February 27 and March 6, confirming that a large internally displaced persons (IDP) camp along the west side of the Afgooye road, immediately north of the Aslubta compound, was closed during this period and that over 3,400 family tents and associated residential and commercial structures had been removed from the site. The satellite imagery also provided evidence that approximately 150 permanent buildings had been systematically demolished. The buildings probably had been used by international and local agencies to provide aid and basic services. The satellite imagery recorded on April 6 shows that over 1,000 additional IDP tents and related structures had been cleared after March 6 from three smaller camp sites within 300 meters of the original camp, raising the total number of removed or destroyed structures to at least 4,500 over a 5-week period. Human Rights Watch also identified evidence of continuing demolition consistent with the use of bulldozers and other heavy machinery to destroy the remaining permanent buildings as well as extensive tree cover in the area. The imagery recorded also shows that several large settlements for displaced people were established approximately three kilometers from the eviction site sometime between March 6 and April 9, in an area known as “Waydow.” A humanitarian assessment carried out in the aftermath of the eviction found that the majority of the displaced had no access to clean water and sanitary facilities, and just under half of those interviewed had no shelter. The assessment identified evictees over a 9-kilometer stretch of land, north of the eviction site. None of the displaced people interviewed reported receiving any alternative shelter, land or assistance from the authorities prior to or since the March displacement. Many said they had previously been forcibly evicted from areas in central Mogadishu at least once, and most on several occasions, since they fled to the capital in 2011. According to UNHCR, in 2014 about 32,500 people were forcibly evicted, the majority from camps in the central Mogadishu districts of Hodan and Daynile. Several displaced people told Human Rights Watch that they had lost their sole means of survival as a result of the latest eviction – some had lost their shops and others said the displacement had cut them off from day labor opportunities in town. Human Rights Watch has reported on a range of abuses against displaced communities in Somalia. Human Rights Watch also found that limited livelihood opportunities put displaced women and girls at particular at risk of sexual violence and exploitation – including by forcing them to undertake long and often hazardous journeys to collect firewood, to secure day labor, or to beg. Applicable Standards and Policies During Evictions of Displaced Under international human rights law and the African Union’s Kampala Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (the “Kampala Convention”), the government has the responsibility to respect the human rights of the displaced without discrimination. Somalia has ratified the Kampala Convention – the first regional instrument aimed specifically at preventing displacement, protecting and assisting the displaced, and identifying durable solutions – but not yet deposited the instruments with the African Union. However, under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Somalia is obligated not to take any action that would “defeat the object and purpose” of the treaty prior to its entry into force. Under the Kampala Convention, the government is obliged to protect displaced people against forcible return to or resettlement in any place where “their life, safety, liberty or health could be at risk.” The state is also expected to consult with internally displaced people, allow them to participate in decisions relating to their protection and assistance, and allow them to make free and informed choices on whether to return, relocate, or locally integrate. Under international law, the permanent or temporary removal of individuals, families, or communities against their will from the homes or land they occupy without providing access to appropriate legal or other protection is considered a forced eviction. Somalia’s December 2014 policy on displacement requires the authorities to protect affected communities during evictions and lays out procedures largely in line with international law. The Interior Ministry and other authorities should implement the new policy in close consultation with displaced people; governmental, nongovernmental, and inter-governmental organizations; and in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, Human Rights Watch said. Before further evictions are carried out, the government, the UN, and aid agencies should also carry out a profiling exercise without undue delay to determine people’s needs. This should include identifying the most vulnerable people – such as female-headed households, unaccompanied children, the elderly, and the disabled.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Big tobacco quietly battling religious opposition to smoking in key Muslim markets: Canadian study | National Post

Big tobacco quietly battling religious opposition to smoking in key Muslim markets: Canadian study | National Post

The tobacco industry has been waging a sort of religious war for decades, recruiting Islamic scholars and crafting theological arguments to counter a feared Muslim opposition to smoking, a new, Canadian co-authored study suggests.
The companies’ tactics have included courting Muslim experts at McGill University and portraying religious objections to tobacco as a form of extremism – at odds with freedom and modernism generally, the analysis of years of industry documents reveals.
“The industry has sought to distort and misinterpret the cultural beliefs of these communities, and to reinterpret them to serve the industry’s interests,” charges Kelley Lee, a global health-policy expert at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University and one of the authors of the study. “All to sell a product that kills half of its customers.”
With smoking on the decline in the West, Muslim countries in the Middle East and southeast Asia are among the most important markets for the sector, notes Prof. Lee.
Yet for at least three decades, companies have fretted about the menace posed by Muslim ideology in those places, memos and reports unearthed by Prof. Lee and her colleagues indicate. A 1996 British American Tobacco (BAT) document, for instance, describes the “Islamic threat,” including rising fundamentalism, as a “real danger” to the industry.
“This amounts to us having to prepare to fight a hurricane,” the memo warns.
An industry-linked law firm’s presentation proposed a theological retort to such pressures. The Koran does not actually prohibit use of tobacco, and “making rules beyond what Allah has allowed is a sin in itself,” the firm advised.
The study suggests Muslim thinking on the topic has changed over the years, but because of health reasons, not growing conservativism. Muslim jurists in the past generally considered tobacco use neutral, but as its risks became better known, some proclaimed it “markrooh” – discouraged – or even “haram” – prohibited, the paper says.
The material outlined in the study was drawn from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, a database of 15 million internal industry documents filed during lawsuits by U.S. states, most before 1998.
While the library did not provide access to the most recent documents, evidence suggests the companies are still trying to influence Muslim religious currents, said Prof. Lee, formerly with the U.K.’s London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. A recent ad for Gauloises cigarettes in Qatar, for instance, depicts an Arab-looking woman without a headscarf, the tagline saying “Freedom Always.”
Bodies like the World Health Organization need to refute the industry-promoted idea that tobacco use in Muslim countries is an expression of escape from religious constraints, especially for women, the authors suggest.
Whether because of its religious-based strategies or not, the industry does appear to have thrived in many Muslim countries. While BAT sold fewer cigarettes worldwide in 2014 than the year before, the number increased in six countries, including Muslim Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, a company report said.
The internal industry documents showed that companies first recognized in the 1970s that Islam posed a threat to expansion in such regions – a “formidable obstacle to the industry,” as one 1991 memo said.
This amounts to us having to prepare to fight a hurricane
The industry began years ago depicting that kind of stance as extremist, and suggested that even the WHO was part of the movement. The UN agency has “joined forces with Muslim fundamentalists who view smoking as evil,” complained one Philip Morris document. A BAT report in 2000 suggested the WHO’s efforts to link smoking and Islam had borne fruit and needed to be “managed.”
A tobacco lobbyist told Philip Morris in 1985 to portray anti-smoking Muslims as fundamentalists, and suggest their strict reading of Sharia law would lead to other curbs on modern living.
A consultant told BAT in a 1987 letter that he had repeatedly managed to stop a Muslim government from issuing booklets that linked an anti-smoking message to verses of the Koran.  “Once the religious aspect is conveyed to the public … it will be very difficult to reverse the situation,” he warned.
A Philip Morris document from the same year relates how a representative of the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council was contacting McGill University’s Islamic studies department to seek out academics who would refute any suggestion the Koran forbids smoking.
BAT approached Cairo’s Al Azhar University in 1996 to enlist scholars “as our authoritative advisers/allies and occasionally spokespersons on the issue.” But a memo mentioning the initiative urged caution.
“This is an issue to be handled extremely gingerly and sensitively,” it said. “We have to avoid all possibilities of a backlash.”

At Least Five Killed as Bomb Hits U.N. Bus in Somalia - WSJ

At Least Five Killed as Bomb Hits U.N. Bus in Somalia - WSJ

A bomb exploded early Monday inside a bus carrying United Nations employees in northern Somalia , killing at least five people and wounding others, police said.
A bomb attack targeted a bus carrying workers to a United Nations compound in the northern Somali town of Garowe, the capital of the country’s Puntland province, on April 20. The militant group al-Shabbab claimed responsibility for the attack. Photo: Facebook/Fahad Bisle
The al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in the capital of the northern Somali region of Puntland.
The bomb had been planted under a seat and appeared to have been detonated by remote control as it was entering a U.N. compound in the town of Garowe, said police chief Col. Yasin Gure.
At least five people were killed and others were wounded, Col, Gure said, though he didn’t have information about their nationalities.
The bus was used by the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Nicholas Kay, the U.N. representative for Somalia, condemned the attack, saying he was “shocked and appalled” by the loss of life. He didn’t give details on the victims or on the assault.
Attacks from al-Shabaab in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu and other southern areas are common, but the militants rarely attack in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, which has declared itself independent of Somalia. The group has, however, made the U.N. mission in Somalia a regular target.
Abdiasis abu Musab, a spokesman for the militant group, said they attacked the bus because of the U.N.’s support of the African Union troops in Somalia—which have retaken a swaths of territory from al-Shabaab over the past year.
—Abdalle Ahmed Mumin in Nairobi contributed to this article.
Write to Heidi Vogt at heidi.vogt@wsj.com

FBI makes arrests in MN, CA in counterterrorism action | Minnesota Public Radio News

FBI makes arrests in MN, CA in counterterrorism action | Minnesota Public Radio News


Once the newcomers, Hmong community helps new immigrants to Minnesota | Duluth News Tribune

Once the newcomers, Hmong community helps new immigrants to Minnesota | Duluth News Tribune

When Yusuf Ali hosted a dinner to launch a new Somali community nonprofit, he brought in a Hmong attorney as the keynote speaker. When Ehtaw Dwee needed advice on keeping his kids connected to their Karen heritage, he turned to a Hmong elder. And when Ali Hashi looks to stock up on fresh lamb or goat, he’ll head to Long Cheng, a local Hmong butcher shop he recently discovered.
This year, the Minnesota Hmong community celebrates the 40th anniversary of its arrival in the state. One testament to its progress: The community has increasingly become a resource and a model for newer refugee and immigrant arrivals.
From the Hmong, these groups are learning how to avoid clashes between tradition and the law, navigate changing gender roles and start successful businesses. In recent years, more Hmong nonprofits and businesses have reached out to a diverse mix of newcomers — a move that’s in turn helping them stay viable and relevant.
Still, leaders see much work to be done — both to address challenges within a Minnesota Hmong community of more than 77,000 and to foster relationships with others.
“The Hmong have paved a lot of roads,” said Chong Bee Vang, the Hmong head of the Karen Organization of Minnesota. “There is also more we can do to be more intentional in supporting those other refugee communities.”
When Dwee arrived in Minnesota a decade ago, he and others in a pioneering group of Karen refugees experienced intense culture shock, he recalls: “We were lost in the jungle, and now we were lost in the city.”
Then, they met the Hmong. They felt an instant affinity. An ethnic minority in Myanmar, also known as Burma, the Karen faced military persecution and spent years in Thai refugee camps. Before them, the Hmong, an ethnic minority in Laos and American allies during the Vietnam War, made their way to Thai camps as their homeland’s military retaliated after the war.
Dwee sought out Hmong people and heard crucial cautionary tales. In America, obeying the law trumps clinging to traditional cultural practices such as underage marriage. Spousal conflict is not always the family’s private affair.
“The Hmong people told us, ‘This is how we got in trouble because we didn’t know,’” Dwee said. “I brought this to my people.”
From the Hmong, the Karen learned how to start a day care, a parent-teacher association and a grocery store, Dwee says.
Meanwhile, the Karen Organization, which advocates for about 8,000 Karen refugees in the state, tapped Vang as its executive director. Vang says thanks to decades of working with the Hmong community, metro law enforcement and other agencies have a cultural sensitivity — an interest in educating as they police — that’s helping newer arrivals, as well.
Three years ago, Chong’s nonprofit mediated with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in the case of a young Karen man facing criminal sexual charges over a relationship with a 14-year-old. The couple, with their families’ blessing, married in a cultural ceremony and split their time between their parents’ homes.
After months of discussion, the office dropped the charges, on the condition the man earn his GED and find a full-time job. County Attorney John Choi says his office made a difficult decision after weighing the consequences for the girl and her young child if the man were convicted and deported.
Choi says his staff has since worked with Karen leaders to spark community conversations about underage marriage. Choi also took time at a recent Hmong community event to explain why the state goes after domestic violence offenders despite the embarrassment they might suffer.
“We’ve come to recognize that being proactive and educating immigrant communities is really important,” said Choi.
At the St. Paul-based Wilder Foundation, Pahoua Yang, the community mental health director, says her organization has learned from serving the Hmong, as well. Wilder staff once struggled to work with a culture that lacks a vocabulary to talk about mental health and places a stigma on mental illness. Hmong interpreters without a health care background sometimes offered overly literal translations.
“People had a strong response to being told they should see a ‘crazy doctor,’” Yang said. “We’re much better now about finding the right language.”
Ali, the Somali community leader, reflected on the Hmong experience as he planned his Somali Community Relations Council. He says the Hmong contended with many problems plaguing the Somali community, from youth gangs to high unemployment. Today, the Hmong have a firm middle-class foothold and influential leaders, such as St. Paul City Council Member Dai Thao. (Last year, a Somali-American joined the Minneapolis City Council for the first time.)
“The big lesson is hope: It can be done,” Ali said. “But you have to have a strategy and a plan to pull through.”
The Hmong have indeed made strides since settling in Minnesota, though they still face gaps with the state population as a whole. According to U.S. Census data, 60 percent of Hmong Minnesotans lived below the poverty threshold in 1990; a third did by 2013. Five percent of Hmong Minnesotans 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 1990; more than 20 percent did by 2013.
“We’ve made tremendous gains and progress,” said Bao Vang, president of the Hmong American Partnership (HAP), which Ali used as a model for his nonprofit. “But there’s a lot we still have to work on.”
In recent years, Hmong organizations such as HAP have increasingly opened up their doors to other refugees and immigrants, as the Hmong community’s need for some services has waned. More than a third of students in HAP’s classes that prepare adults to earn their GED this year are from Myanmar. More than 30 percent are Somali, with a sprinkling of students from Bhutan, Ethiopia, Mexico, Sudan, China and other countries. The nonprofit also offers employment services to a clientele that’s 40 percent Karen and almost 10 percent Somali.
With Karen job service clients, staffers work to create a joint employment plan for husbands and wives, and set career goals as a family. That’s because HAP has experienced a “deja vu of the things we struggled with,” Bao Vang says. In both cultures, women traditionally did not work outside the home or take on leadership roles; the arrival in America triggered a gender role shift that can breed conflict and sometimes violence.
HAP pairs Hmong couples with Karen newcomers to prepare them: Here, both spouses might have to work outside the home. It’s OK for men and women to car pool together.
At St. Paul’s Hmong Cultural Center, enrollment in English and citizenship classes was slipping when a marketing consultant last year suggested reaching out to other immigrants, says the center’s Mark Pfeifer. The center printed fliers in Somali for its citizenship class and launched satellite English classes at St. Paul’s First Baptist Church, with its large Karen congregation.
“The Hmong are the ice cutters, and the passage is much easier because of them,” Pastor Bill Englund said.
Meanwhile, the Hmong Chamber of Commerce in Minnesota networked with its Somali counterpart and other immigrant business groups at a recent Maplewood mixer. Hmong entrepreneurs shared tips: Don’t look Hmong customers directly in the eye, and always accept offers of food before talking business deals.
“I believe being a resource for businesses outside the Hmong community will be key going forward,” Chamber head Chue Vang said.
The chamber urges members to broaden their clientele. Vang points to South St. Paul’s Long Cheng Hmong butcher shop, where owner Pao Yang says 40 percent of his customers are not Hmong, but a mix of immigrants drawn to the selection of fresh goat and lamb, and the chance to buy the entire animal.
“We tell our members they can’t rely on the Hmong market alone anymore,” Chue Vang said. “It’s big, but it’s not that big.”

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hundreds of migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean Sea

Hundreds of migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean Sea

A smuggler's boat crammed with hundreds of people overturned off Libya's coast as rescuers approached, causing what could be the Mediterranean's deadliest known migrant tragedy and intensifying pressure on the European Union Sunday to finally meet demands for decisive action.
"How can it be that we daily are witnessing a tragedy?" asked Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, who strategized with his top ministers ahead of Monday's European Union meeting in Luxembourg, where foreign ministers scrambled to add stopping the smugglers to their agenda.
Eighteen ships joined the rescue effort in the waters off Libya, but only 28 survivors and 24 bodies were pulled from the water by nightfall, Renzi said. Italian authorities were "not in a position to confirm or verify" one survivor's estimate that 700 people were thrown into the water, he added.
Resurgent right-wing political parties have made a rallying cry out of a rising tide of illegal migration. So far this year, 35,000 asylum seekers and migrants have reached Europe and more than 900 are known to have died trying.
With Sunday's tragedy, demands for decisive action were going mainstream, as authorities from France, Spain, Germany and Britain joined calls for a unified response.
"Europe can do more and Europe must do more," said Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament. "It is a shame and a confession of failure how many countries run away from responsibility and how little money we provide for rescue missions."
Europe must mobilize "more ships, more overflights by aircraft," French President Francois Hollande told French TV Canal + on Sunday. "Words won't do anymore," Spain's Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, told a political rally.
Renzi said he too wants action, but he rejected calls by some Italian lawmakers for a naval blockade. That would only "wind up helping the smugglers" since military ships would be there to rescue any migrants, and they wouldn't be able to return passengers to chaos and violence in Libya.
Meanwhile Sunday, rescuers were "checking who is alive and who is dead" in an area littered with debris and oil from the capsized ship. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose island nation joined the effort, said only 50 survived, and called it the "biggest human tragedy of the last few years."
The 20-meter (66-foot) vessel may have overturned because migrants rushed to one side of the craft late Saturday night when they saw an approaching Portuguese-flagged container ship, the King Jacob, which was sent to the area by Italy's Coast Guard. The ship's crew "immediately deployed rescue boats, gangway, nets and life rings," a spokesman for its owner said.
Asked whether migrants rushed to one side as the Portuguese vessel pulled close, Italian Border Police Gen. Antonino Iraso told Sky TG24 TV that "the dynamics aren't clear. But this is not the first time that has happened."
Renzi praised the container ship for quickly responding on what would become its fifth recent rescue operation.
"Since the waters of the Mediterranean Sea are not too cold at the moment, the authorities hope to find more survivors," said International Organization for Migration spokesman Joel Millman.
United Nations refugee agency spokeswoman Carlotta Sami tweeted that according to one survivor, the boat had set out with 700 migrants aboard. When it overturned, "the people ended up in the water, with the boat on top of them," Sami told Italian state TV.
Many bodies may never be recovered from waters that run as deep as 3 miles (5 kilometers) or more.
"There are fears there could be hundreds of dead," Pope Francis said in St. Peter's Square, lending his moral authority to the political calls for action by urging "the international community to act decisively and promptly, to prevent similar tragedies from occurring again."
Desperate migrants fleeing war, persecution and conflict in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have long tried to reach Europe. Libya has increasingly become a more frequent point of departure in the years since rival militias, tribal factions and other political forces destabilized the country following the bloody end of Moammar Gadhafi's dictatorship.
Malta and Italy are closest to the Libyan coast, and have received the brunt of a migrant tide that carried 219,000 people from Africa to Europe last year. Some 3,500 are known to have died along the way, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement Sunday.
In Italy's Parliament, the leaders of foreign affairs and defense commissions pushed for the EU and the UN to prepare a naval blockade of Libya's coast. Without one, "the traffickers will continue to operate and make money and the wretched will continue to die," said Pier Fernando Casini, the Senate foreign affairs commission president.
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Contributors include Nicole Winfield in Rome, Stephen Calleja in Malta, Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Harold Heckle in Madrid, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, and Raf Casert in Brussels.

Arabs, Malians ‘among first to discover Americas’

Arabs, Malians ‘among first to discover Americas’

Andalusian Arabs and Africans from Mali were among the first travelers to discover the Americas, some 180 years before Columbus arrived there, according to a new documentary film.
Madinah’s Taibah University screened the film at the Sixth International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education on Wednesday. The conference and exhibition is sponsored by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, and was launched by Minister of Education Azzam Al-Dakhil.
Khaled Abul Khair, a university member, said the material for the film was collected over two-and-a-half years from various specialized research centers such as the Andalus Center for Studies in Morocco, Sao Paulo University, Federal University of Bahia, the Duchess Luisa Isabel Alvarez Archive in Spain, and research institute in Mali.
The director of the film also consulted more than 33 researchers and university professors and historians in Spain, Morocco, Brazil, Mali and Senegal. This information was corroborated by Western and African historians. It showed that long before Columbus, travelers from Asia, Africa and Europe, which included the Phoenicians, Japanese, Scandinavia’s Vikings and a Chinese Muslim explorer had visited the Americas.
“We also have evidence about the role of the Andalusian Arabs, and King Abu Bakr II of Mali who made a voyage with his army to Brazil 180 years before Columbus was said to have discovered America,” he said.
There is also evidence to show that the Andalus Arabs, in the early phase of their downfall in the thirteenth century, had “transferred much of their civilization to Timbuktu in the gold-rich kingdom of Mali,” Abul Khair said.
Abul Khair said the documentary was prepared based on scientific facts reported by Western scholars whom he met during his travels to Spain and Brazil. It is also based on two books written by Alvarez, who was the duchess of Medina Sidonia City. The two books are We Were Not Us (1992) and Africa Confronts Africa (2008).
The film has interviewees speaking in various languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic and English, while its music was composed by British composer Ali Keeler with influences from Europe, Asia and Africa.

Al-Shabab kills Somali lawmaker | Arab News

Al-Shabab kills Somali lawmaker | Arab News

Gunmen from Somali militant group Al-Shabab killed a regional lawmaker on Saturday after he had taken his wife to hospital in the capital Mogadishu, the group and officials said.
Aden Haji Hussein, a legislator from the semi-autonomous Puntland region, was sprayed with bullets when he returned to his parked car outside the hospital, witnesses said. The gunmen were in a minibus that blocked his way.
Al Shabab often targets officials and politicians. On Tuesday Al-Shabab militants stormed a government building housing two ministries in the heart of Mogadishu, killing at least 10 people.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Faarrow: Singing Somali sisters set for superstardom - CNN.com

Faarrow: Singing Somali sisters set for superstardom - CNN.com

Laying down tracks for their debut album in the recording studio in Los Angeles, Iman Hashi, 25 and her sister Siham, 27 could not be further from their hometown of Mogadishu. The sisters were born in the Somali capital but were forced to flee after war broke out in 1991.
Along with their parents, the girls relocated to Canada as refugees where during their teens they discovered a passion for music.
Heading south to LA by way of Atlanta, the singing sisters with a bold flair for fashion are now embarking on a musical journey, gearing up to unleash their Afro-pop sound to the world.
CNN's African Voices caught up with the sister act -- known collectively as Faarrow (combining the translation of their names into English -- Iman means "Faith" and Siham means "Arrow") to talk about music, aspirations and Somalia.
CNN: Hi guys, thanks for chatting with me today. What are some of your musical influences?
Iman: We love Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie -- stuff my mom would listen to and play -- and the Spice Girls. We used to die for the Spice Girls. I love new artists now but I don't know if it's a nostalgia, but I remember ... my mom used to pump whatever -- Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston.
CNN: You are working on your debut album now -- how's that been?
Siham: We've been working with Elijah Kelley -- he's actually an actor. He was in "Hairspray," "The Butler," and most recently he was in the George Lucas animation, "Strange Magic." That's what he's more known for but his first passion is music. He's an incredible producer, writer and singer. I just felt like he was always the missing piece. He brought everything together.
CNN: So now that you've found your "missing piece," how would you describe your sound?
Siham: Our music before was experimenting with Afrobeat sounds but now it's more of a fusion (of what) we are inspired by. It's pop with undertones of hip hop and rhythmic African percussion. It's a fusion of everything.
CNN: And do you guys write the songs as well?
Siham: The entire album was pretty much (written and produced) by me, my sister and Elijah. And when we signed we already had a lot of those songs already done. Warner Brothers Records is really great in that way that they already loved what we were doing and let us do our own thing.
CNN: What are you listening to right now?
Siham: Oh my God, there's so many!
Siham: I really love this new song -- I don't know if Iman is going to agree with me -- but his name's LunchMoney Lewis, it's called Bills; I love it.
CNN: As well as your music, you both work with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) -- how did you start your humanitarian work?
Iman: Ever since we were kids we wanted to help Somalia, we always talked about it. But we were like "what can we physically do?"
We were doing some research and we called our mom and she said 'You know you still have family over there. There's a refugee camp in Kenya and your great uncle and his kids live in a refugee camp.' And we did some research about Dadaab refugee camp, it's a massive camp that has taken in Sudanese refugees, Somali refugees, Rwandan refugees -- pretty much anywhere there was a conflict. Everybody fled to Dadaab. In the beginning (it was) pure advocacy talking about it on Twitter and Facebook.
CNN: But then you decided to "up your game" as it were...
Iman: Yes, then we started a non-profit and we'd do small benefit concerts in Toronto and in San Diego -- wherever there was a big Somali community we would do outreach but all we had was our singing, working with UNHCR in a capacity as a spokesperson. We headlined World Refugee Day at the Kennedy Center, as well as the Nansen Awards twice in Geneva. We felt like this platform of singing -- the bigger it gets, the more we can do.
Siham: We obviously love fashion so we wanted to do our own socially conscious brand so we've been making these bracelets and necklaces called "Wish Creatively." Wish stands for "Women Internationally Selling Hope." We wanted to do a socially conscious brand where we sell these bracelets where it goes back to projects in Kenya or Somalia with women providing them with a sustainable income.
CNN: So what's next for you two?
Siham: We're actually in the mixing process right now. We still have a few (tracks) to finish up but the majority of the album is pretty much done. We want to turn it in as soon as possible so they can put together a rollout plan and get ready for the first single to drop.
Iman: I don't feel like we ever lost that feeling like we're creative spokespersons for our generation as well as for Somalia. I feel like now because we followed our dreams it's like 'they're not just refugees anymore.' We don't have to become doctors so we can one day give back to Somalia and help rebuild -- it's such a beautiful dream but not ours. In our culture, anything creative is not really respected or appreciated. But I feel like now but even with our new deal we're still trucking along. I feel like we inspire people.