On June 3, one of the biggest trials of Muslim immigrants turned would-be jihadists in U.S. history ended with guilty verdicts for four and guilty pleas by six others, but the trial went practically unnoticed by the old media establishment, overshadowed by the terror attack in Orlando and other news.
This isn’t the first time that Muslims who were settled in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area have gone back to Africa or the Middle East — or have tried to go there — to fight for one terrorist outfit or another. If there is one thing the trial highlighted is that Minnesota has a major terrorist problem among its Somali immigrant community. Suspected Muslim terrorists have been pouring out from the Twin Cities region for some time, and this trial of six more Minnesota Muslims who were accused of trying to join ISIS is just the latest example.
“They have spent a great deal of time over the past year trying to get to Syria to fight for ISIL,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said at a press conference in April when the charges were unsealed.
Originally ten local young Muslim men of Somali descent were hit with terror charges, but six of those charged pleaded guilty and waived a trail. Now, the remaining three, Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21; Abdurahman Yasin Daud, 21; and Guled Ali Omar, 20, were all found guilty after a three-week trial. A fourth Minnesota Muslim, Abdirahman Bashir, turned state’s witness and provided key evidence to convict the three.
The guilty verdicts all carry a possible life sentence.
But according to Scott W. Johnson, writing for City Journal, the atmosphere around the trial needs to be reported on, too, because it seemed from his firsthand experience that the local Muslim community did not blame the convicted jihadis for the charges. Instead, they acted as if these young men were just being persecuted by an out-of-control government intent on sending innocent Muslims to jail.
Johnson described the intense security the government had arranged for the safety of all concerned, yet even with the high level of security, the brother of one of the defendants was caught trying to smuggle six-inch-long scissors into the courtroom. The same man was also seen apparently casing the exits and elevators of the courthouse. Officials eventually banned him from the building until the trial was over.
This young man was not the only person to be banished from the courthouse as authorities had to take that measure with others who showed a desire to disrupt the proceedings.
Johnson also witnessed the hijab-wearing girlfriend of one of the defendants attempting to beat up her boyfriend’s mother because he was cooperating with authorities.
But the sentiment of these few disruptors was far from unusual as Johnson found a shocking attitude of suspicion emanating from the whole Somali community.
Perhaps most shocking to me was what utterly ordinary members of the Minnesota Somali community the defendants and their friends appeared to be. So far as I can tell, Somali culture is alien and hostile to the United States. Many among the local Somali community considered the defendants to be persecuted innocents entrapped by the government. It would be unduly charitable to characterize the attitude as willful blindness.
Indeed, last year, a video made the rounds showing Somalis in Minnesota insisting they’d rather live under strict sharia law than under American jurisprudence. And just as bad has been the weak coverage in the old media establishment of the trial and the community that spawned it.
As Johnson notes, much of the coverage has been woefully inadequate with almost none of it focusing on how the Somali community has viewed the proceedings.
With an estimated 100,000 plus Somali immigrants settled in Minnesota, brought there by the federal government, this mentality isn’t surprising. And in fact, the government has noticed at least a dozen young Somali men missing from the region over the past decade or so and has even previously arrested several others all suspected of trying to travel to Syria or Africa to join the jihad.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.