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.