The attack last weekend on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, by militants from the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab has led to a sudden spotlight on Somali communities around the globe. Some, like the one in Minnesota, have been forced to defend themselves against rumors and accusations of sympathy for terrorism.
Somalis in Minnesota have been targeted by the government for investigation since 2007; according to U.S. authorities, at least 20 young men from the Minnesota Somali community have joined al Shabaab in Somalia since then. This is only a tiny fraction of the some 32,000 Somali-Americans in Minnesota. The American Somali populations is estimated to be about 100,000.
As the fight between militants and Kenyan authorities was happening, there were rumors that some of the militants were Westerners. Despite the fact that U.S. officials have not confirmed any of that speculation, the Minnesota Somali community has became a target of scrutiny and media attention. Somali-American youths held a prayer vigil in Minneapolis on Saturday, one day after a rally at which they denounced al-Shabaab.
U.S. targeting of Somalis has gained attention in recent weeks as the case of Mahdi Hashi has come to light. Hashi, a young British Somali man, is currently on a hunger strike in a Manhattan jail and is in failing health. He is being held under highly restrictive conditions and virtually nothing is known about the circumstances of his capture or how he came to be in American custody after being apprehended in Africa last year. Hashi is accused by the U.S. and U.K. governments of involvement with al-Shabaab.
Watch Melissa Harris Perry and her guests discuss.