Minnesota’s Somali and Kenyan communities spoke with one voice, denouncing terrorist acts in Nairobi over the weekend.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Minnesota’s sizable African communities raised their voices Wednesday against the terrorist attack in Kenya.
Just back from a visit with the president of Somalia and
Kenyan ambassador in Washington D.C., a group of young Minnesota Somali
artists denounced the attack on a Nairobi shopping mall and stressed a
need to tackle the issues that lead some youth to terrorism.
“No one becomes radicalized overnight,” said Mohamed
Farah, executive director of Ka Joog. Members of the group of men in
their 20s who have grown up in the U.S. spoke at a news conference at
the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.
The process is gradual, the root cause: a lack of jobs,
mentors and activities that give youth a voice. “These are underlying
issues that we must face as a community to combat Al-Shabab,” Farah
Some 20 young Minnesota men have left for Somalia to fight with
Al-Shabab — a small fraction of the Minnesota Somali community, Ka Joog
members pointed out. They said Al-Shabab’s recruiting tactics have
changed over the years, and the group now has a strong social media
Ka Joog tries to counter with its own messages on
Facebook and Twitter, said Abdul Mohamed, marketing and public relations
director. “We have to put ourselves in their shoes and appeal to the
youth,” he said, noting that the terrorists also use religion in their
sales pitch to recruit members. “Al-Shabab as a terrorist organization,
they’re very good at what they do. They tell these children that there’s
a religious, a better life. They use a religious justification to back
their efforts,” he said.
Members of Minnesota’s Kenyan community also stood before
the media at the State Capitol Wednesday to say they will not retaliate
for the Nairobi attack, and they believe that Kenyans and Somalis in
Minnesota can work to strengthen their ties here.
“To see this act of unspeakable terror upon our citizens
reminds us all that we live in a world where others seek to destroy our
way of life,” said Pastor Zipporah Bogonko. “Yet, we will not retaliate
with hate or retribution but extend our love and hospitality — that is
who we are as a people.”
About 10,000 native Kenyans live in Minnesota and many
waited anxiously for word over the weekend about whether relatives or
friends had been caught in the terror attack at a Nairobi shopping mall
where at least 67 people died and hundreds were injured when the
Somali-based terror organization Al-Shabab attacked with explosives and
Kenya has been home to millions of refugees, including
hundreds of thousands from neighboring Somalia, and many in Minnesota’s
Somali community, the largest in the U.S., spent time in Kenya before
coming to this country.
Henry Ongeri, an attorney, said Kenyans and Somalis here have enjoyed
a close relationship that is likely to continue. Kenyans and Somalis
interact regularly as members of the state’s East African community.
Many have intermarried.
“We view this as an act perpetuated by a very small
section of a group known as Al-Shabab,” Ongeri said. “We don’t believe
that this by itself would cause any tensions. They are our brothers. I’m
confident that we’re going to continue to be the good friends and
neighbors we’ve always been.”
Eagan resident Kihanya Mwaura learned earlier Wednesday
that a cousin’s husband had been among those killed. He said if there
turns out to be a Minnesota connection to the attacks, both the Kenyan
and Somali communities can come together. The Kenyan leaders said it was
helpful that Somali leaders in Minnesota earlier this week condemned
“They are not really attacking the government, they are
attacking young kids,” Mwaura said. “It’s a sad feeling if it’s your
neighbors. All we are hoping is, that if they are, then the Somali
community and the Kenya community can come together.”
On Saturday, Kenyans in Minnesota will sponsor a prayer
service at 5801 John Martin Drive in Brooklyn Center at 5 p.m. An
account for donations also has been set up in the name of Pray4Kenya at
Anchor Bank. The account number is 100064781.