Members of Minnesota’s Somali community expressed shock and grief at the attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya that has claimed 62 lives and left as many as 175 wounded.
The radical group Al Shabaab, linked to Al Qaeda and based primarily in Somalia, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Fighting continued at the mall late into Monday night to clear out the remaining attackers.
Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the country and U.S. officials have confirmed to NBC News that in recent years, Al Shabaab had released a 39-minute recruitment video purportedly featuring three young Minnesotans who had joined the jihad and were killed before 2009. US officials say the video, titled “The Road to Paradise: from the Twin Cities to the Land of Two Migrations,” has produced as many as two dozen recruits, but according to U.S. officials, the pace of recruitment has not been sustained.
Unsubstantiated reports that Americans may have been involved in this current act of violence along with fears that Islam is being portrayed as condoning violence prompted a group of Imams and religious leaders to speak out today in Minneapolis.
Imam Abdisalam Adam was first to speak at today’s news conference saying the Somali community in Minnesota strongly condemns the “outrageous acts of violence” which he said has no value or place in Islam. He stressed that “these extremes do harm to Islam,” and told the gathering that “the safety and security of the United States is of utmost importance.” The Imam said “Muslims must shun extremism” and he called on all Muslims to have a dialogue on the dangers of extremism and to shed light on what he called “the proper form of Islam.”
In an impassioned spiritual plea to Muslims, Imam Abdul Hashi said, “This type of activity, the killing of innocents has no basis in, or relationship to Islam,” and he condemned this kind of activities and teachings. He added from the Koran, “Whoever kills one soul, kills all of humankind, and whoever saves one soul, saves all of humankind.”
Another spokesman, Ibrahim Baraki, who said he was a Muslim from Kenya, wanted to alert fellow Kenyans that “Al Shabaab does not represent any community, religion or nationality.” He said the radical organization has only the goal “to destabilize, create chaos and to destroy innocent lives.” Baraki said everyone must know that “Al Shabaab is not Muslim, they are criminals.” And he wanted the world and his fellow Kenyans to “Stand up to this, hunt down and smoke out this threat to world peace.”