Min­neapo­lis shoot­ing brings un­wanted at­ten­tion to So­ma­lis

Kuwait Times - - NEWS -

MIN­NEAPO­LIS: The killing of an un­armed Aus­tralian woman by a Min­neapo­lis po­lice of­fi­cer who is a So­mali-Amer­i­can has turned an un­wel­come spot­light on the city’s be­lea­guered So­mali com­mu­nity, where many again find them­selves on the de­fen­sive. The city’s po­lice chief said Of­fi­cer Mo­hamed Noor’s race and eth­nic­ity had noth­ing to do with the July 15 killing of Jus­tine Da­mond, who was shot af­ter she called 911 to re­port a pos­si­ble rape.

But neg­a­tive com­ments have in­cluded for­mer US Rep Michele Bach­mann’s re­cent state­ment that Noor was an “af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion hire by the hi­jab-wear­ing mayor of Min­neapo­lis” - an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to the fact that Mayor Betsy Hodges has worn a head scarf when meet­ing with lead­ers of the city’s So­mali-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity. Bach­mann also sug­gested Noor may have shot Da­mond for “cul­tural” rea­sons.

But Mo­hamud Noor, a com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate who is not re­lated to the of­fi­cer, said the shoot­ing “has noth­ing to do with the So­mali com­mu­nity, pe­riod. ”“It’s easy to tar­get in­di­vid­u­als who are from a small mi­nor­ity com­mu­nity and say, ‘See, I told you so,’ rather than fo­cus­ing on the is­sue we have, which is a po­lice is­sue.”

Da­mond, a white, 40-year-old spir­i­tual teacher who was en­gaged to be mar­ried in Au­gust, was shot by Of­fi­cer Noor as he sat in the pas­sen­ger seat of a po­lice ve­hi­cle. Noor’s part­ner, who was in the driver’s seat, told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he was star­tled by a loud noise im­me­di­ately be­fore Da­mond ap­proached the squad car. Noor fired across his part­ner and through the driver’s side win­dow, hit­ting Da­mond once in the ab­domen.

Death threat

Po­lice Chief Ja­nee Harteau, who resigned Fri­day, crit­i­cized Noor’s ac­tions but said he was well-trained. On Thurs­day, she dis­missed the no­tion that he was an af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion hire, say­ing: “This is about an in­di­vid­ual of­fi­cer’s ac­tions . ... It’s not about race or eth­nic­ity.” From Sun­day un­til noon Fri­day, the city had logged 55 com­plaints to its civil rights di­vi­sion, many ex­press­ing con­cern or anger about the shoot­ing. Sev­eral were char­ac­ter­ized as deroga­tory, dis­crim­i­na­tory or an­tiMus­lim. At least one death threat was made against Noor.

Min­nesota is home to the largest So­mali com­mu­nity in the United States, roughly 57,000 peo­ple ac­cord­ing to the lat­est cen­sus fig­ures, most of whom live in the Min­neapo­lis area. The im­mi­grants have been com­ing to Min­nesota from their wartorn home­land since the 1990s, drawn by gen­er­ous so­cial ser­vices and the sense of com­mu­nity among the di­as­pora.

Min­neapo­lis has made an ef­fort in re­cent years to hire more So­mali of­fi­cers to en­sure the depart­ment “re­flects the city,” and Hodges said that ef­fort will con­tinue. The So­mali of­fi­cers on the force are seen as com­mu­nity role mod­els, and are among the suc­cess sto­ries of the im­mi­grants in Min­nesota. The So­mali com­mu­nity also is see­ing its po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence grow. Il­han Omar gained world­wide at­ten­tion when she was elected to be the United States’ first So­ma­l­iAmer­i­can state leg­is­la­tor last Novem­ber. Her elec­tion fol­lowed that of Abdi Warsame to the Min­neapo­lis City Coun­cil in 2013. He was the first So­mali elected to a US city coun­cil. So­ma­lis also serve on the Min­neapo­lis and Mankato school boards.

Trou­bles

But there have been trou­bles along the way, too. More than 22 young men from the com­mu­nity have left the state since 2007 to join Al-Shabab in So­ma­lia, and roughly a dozen peo­ple have left in re­cent years to join mil­i­tants in Syria, in­clud­ing the Is­lamic State group. In Novem­ber, nine men were sen­tenced on ter­ror charges for plot­ting un­suc­cess­fully to join the group and fight in Syria. Sep­a­rately, a 20-year-old So­mali-Amer­i­can went on a stab­bing ram­page at a shop­ping mall in St Cloud last Septem­ber, wound­ing 10 peo­ple be­fore an off-duty po­lice of­fi­cer fa­tally shot him.

Com­mu­nity, city and gov­ern­ment lead­ers have worked to com­bat such vi­o­lence, with pro­grams in­clud­ing a pi­lot pro­ject de­signed to counter vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism by bol­ster­ing so­cial ser­vices for So­mali youth. State fund­ing was al­lo­cated to sim­i­lar pro­grams to help keep the com­mu­nity en­gaged.

Farhio Khalif, a So­mali and women’s ad­vo­cate, called Da­mond’s shoot­ing “un­ac­cept­able” and said the in­ci­dent has taken a toll on lo­cal So­ma­lis. “We didn’t do any­thing wrong,” she said. “We are Min­nesotans. We come to­gether and light the can­dle as Min­nesotans and treat­ing us as dif­fer­ent is un­fair . ... Just like in the So­mali ter­ror­ist cases - this com­mu­nity is not a ter­ror­ist com­mu­nity.” — AP

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