In September 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the creation of a pilot program in three U.S. cities that would bring together community representatives, public safety officials and religious leaders to address radicalization to violence. Minneapolis and St. Paul were selected to participate in this pilot program because of the historic and strong relationships between the Somali Minnesotan community and local law enforcement. Since Al Shabaab began recruiting Minnesota’s youth in 2006, the Twin Cities have been a focus of overseas terror recruiting by organizations like the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This cycle of terror recruiting has focused on Minnesota’s Somali community, which has resulted in Somali community leaders working closely with law enforcement and other community stakeholders to design the Building Community Resilience pilot project.
In February 2015, a delegation from Minnesota presented the Building Community Resilience Plan at a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. Building Community Resilience includes a call for expanded youth programming, mentoring opportunities, higher education scholarships, new job opportunities and training, and increased engagement between religious leaders and Somali youth. This effort seeks to bring together community-based organizations and local partners, including interfaith organizations, nonprofits and NGOs, and state, county, and local governments. In addition to government sources of funding, multiple Twin Cities companies and foundations have committed to support the Building Community Resilience program. View the Minneapolis presentation here.
At the White House, representatives from the Twin Cities Somali community made various statements about the importance of the pilot program to our community:
- Mohamed Jama, Cedar Riverside Youth Council said: "One of the things we told the U.S. Attorney is that we need more mentors for our youth. For so long we have talked about the problems. Now is the time to act. And we are proud to be part of this Pilot Program."
- Imam Abdisalam Adam and Imam Sheikh Sa’ad Muse Roble said: “The peace, safety, and security of Minnesota are of paramount importance to the Muslim-American community, and we oppose any form or shape of violent extremism that threatens peaceful co-existence. We believe in the rights of all people to live in peace and security. Muslim Imams have condemned and continue to denounce anyone who tries to use the religion of Islam to support terrorism and we want to work with all Minnesotans to stop terror recruitment, while at the same time protecting civil rights and civil liberties.”
- Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame said: “What my community needs is no less than a ‘Marshall Plan’ tailor made for the Somali community’s employment challenge. This is what we’re working on building. Our plan includes extending skill sets; work force development, and job training with placement programs intended to significantly increase the number of jobs available to the Community. As part of the Pilot Program, we are working together with federal, state and local governments and local contracting agencies to increase job opportunities for our Somali community.”
- Mohamed Farah said: “At Ka Joog, we are committed to working with our community and government partners to break the cycle of recruiting and radicalization. We view this pilot program as a unique opportunity to engage our youth in positive programs. Providing more opportunities, more outlets and more connections for our Somali youth will help break the cycle that has drawn too many of our friends and relatives to a life of terror.”