Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Minneapolis city leaders and outreach workers are fighting back against growing violence in Somali communities
He doesn't wear a uniform and carry a gun, but Imam Hassan Mohamud considers himself a peace officer. Like other Somali activists, the spiritual leader is struggling with the dramatic violent crime increase in his community. Since December 2007, 7 Somali men under 30 have been slain in the Twin Cities. The motive in three of the cases may have been retaliation. Deqa Muhidin had been able to distance herself from the crimes until her cousin, a 20-year-old student at Augsburg College, was shot in the head in September 2008 because he allegedly told the killer he couldn't play basketball at his community center. The Somali crime problem has become a high priority for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who said he has spent much time meeting with top city leaders and community outreach workers to discuss how to apply the city's youth violence prevention plan to the Somali community. "Community leaders and police are saying we've reached a point where we need to do things right now," said Police Chief Tim Dolan, who was at the meeting. Muhidin's small piece to the solution was to gather five of her Somali friends at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and put together a youth anti-violence conference being held today in St. Paul. Besides Mohamud, the speaker list includes well-known former rapper Napoleon, who quit the business several years ago and converted to Islam. "I wouldn't want this for my kids or anybody's kids," said Napoleon, who now goes by his birth name Mutah Beale. "The Somalis came to this country to get away from the violence and make a better life, but some are going down the wrong path. It doesn't make sense."