In the past few months, as many as 15 Somali-American men have left the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in order to join radical jihadist insurgents in Syria, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
One of the Minnesota residents told MPR News that he had joined the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the militant Islamist group that has been gaining territory in blitzkrieg fashion in both Syria and Iraq. Some say ISIS’s tactics are so ruthless and destructive that they pose a greater threat to civilization than even Al Qaeda.
“A Muslim has to stand up for [what’s] right,” said Abdirahmaan Muhumed, a 29-year-old Muslim who packed up one day, leaving nine children behind, to go to Syria to “give up this worldly life for Allah.” Muhumed’s big-picture goal was to “save the global Muslim community.” He disregarded claims that he was a terrorist, saying that if people wanted to look at him that way, then he was “happy with it” if it meant pursuing his course. He said he asked Allah to “make my mom strong for the decision that I made.”
What may be most shocking about Muhumed’s journey towards jihad is the fact that he has no family members or ethnic connections to the Levant region for which he departed. Muhumed’s only connection is through his Muslim faith.
Muhumed was said to be a “humble” guy and “trying to make” the most of his life. Friends of his said they were shocked when they saw photos of him on Facebook armed with weapons and wearing a paramilitary uniform. He posted a picture on his Facebook page with the Quran in one hand and an automatic rifle in the other. The picture was captioned, “Shaam,” the Arabic word for the Levant region that encapsulates Syria. He also frequently wrote about the need to “bring back the khilaafa,” a reference to an Islamic caliphate.
Some worry that lack of opportunity for young Muslim men in the Twin Cities area has helped lead to their radicalization. “Most of [those who left] don’t have the resources to even buy a ticket to go to Chicago. So that means there [are] some influential individuals who are taking advantage of our youth,” said a senior employee of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota.
An FBI spokesperson said they could not discuss each individual they had tracked leaving for Syria but did say they had been investigating the ongoing situation over the past few months. The FBI said it hopes to find the sources of information and the individuals who are helping to recruit and radicalize jihadi Muslims.