Recently, at the urging of American Christians in Florida, Kayak.com and Lowe’s pulled sponsorship of the show “All-American Muslim.” The Florida Family Association insisted the cable reality show, which follows a number of Muslim Americans though their daily lives, was “attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad.”
As a sometime resident of Minneapolis, I find myself on a daily basis in close proximity to many American Muslims. Most Americans may not know this, but the largest city in Minnesota boasts the highest population of Somalis in North America. Almost all of them are Muslim. Dangerous Muslims. Just last month, a Minnesota woman was found guilty of sending money to Somali terror group al-Shabab. The group has even successfully recruited young men from the local community to travel back to Africa.
To test the contentions of the Florida Family Association, I secretly went out into Minneapolis’s Somali community to observe the true nature of the Muslim Americans not protected by the manipulative glossy Hollywood crap of The Learning Channel.
Upon immediate inspection, the Cedar-Riverside area of Minneapolis appears like any other in the city. But take a closer look at this neighborhood, known as “Little Somalia,” and differences began to show. This is Minnesota’s “Lake al-Wobegon.” After driving around for no more than 20 minutes, I spied a bumper sticker reading “Muslims for Peace.” It’s exactly the kind of message a Jihadist Muslim would promote to hide his true intentions. “Muhammad is my Co-Pilot” would be far too obvious about intentions.
Also, on the street were a large number of men and women in Muslim garb. This immediately made me tense, but I soldiered on. While most of the men had adopted an American style of dress, the women were cloaked head to toe in what I thought at the time to be a burqa. Later, after some research, I discovered a burqa covers the face and eyes. The Somali women, I discovered, were wearing something called a “head scarf.”
Little more could be learned about the potential nefarious jihadi activities going on in Cedar-Riverside. The men and women seemed, on the surface anyway, to be going about their days, to and from work or school. They could, of course, also been on their way to a secret Sharia meeting at the local mosque. I would have to go deeper.
On Cedar Avenue, just before South Sixth Street, I came upon Kaah Express, a business that helps Somalis wire money to friends and relatives in Africa. A line of women in “head scarves” congregated around the Kaah offices.
I approached one woman and asked her what she was doing.
She English was heavily accented, but I concentrated as much as possible and understood her. Kaah Express, the woman said, allowed her to send money she earned here cleaning office buildings back to her cousins and family in Somalia. Some of the money, she added, about $80 a month, also goes to a relative of hers who, from what she says, is camping in nearby Kenya. But he’s camping all the time, it seems. (I did not ask her why he doesn’t stop camping and just get a job.)
Of course, that’s all what she told me. She could easily be lying.
Just last year two Muslim Somali women from Rochester sent money via such a service to aid al-Shabab’s terrorist activities in Africa.
Driving from the Little Somalia neighborhood, I wondered how one identifies potentially dangerous Muslims on the road, outside their enclaves. It’s easy to see the Christians. Their car bumpers feature little fish stickers. It would also be easy to assume that, owing to their short time in the country, the bad drivers are the Muslim ones. But this risks the charge of racism against a single group. Indeed, in Minneapolis, such bad drivers could also be Asians, or women, both of who pose no jihadi threat whosoever.
I again found a large number of Somali Muslims congregating in the Starbucks in the Target store on Lake Street. Twelve or thirteen men sat around three tables. As they talked, I worked my way into a table behind them, between the cream and sugars bar and the barista’s counter. The men, were all dark skinned, ironically the same color as my tall drip with extra half and half.
Before long, one man raised his voice. Then another. The two were clearly locked in a heated discussion as the others looked on, their eyes shifting back and forth between the two’s debate. One of the man gesticulated with his hands, spreading his fingers to punctuate each of his points. His debatee was a far more cool cucumber whose only body language was a shiftiness in his seat as his retorts slowly rolled from his tongue. Clearly, both were becoming more angry as they tried to indoctrinate the others in the group of their point.
Because I don’t speak Somali, I am not sure what the fierce debate was all about. As I tried to figure out, I wondered, “Why Starbucks?” Then it struck me, Starbucks offers a blend of coffee called the Ethiopia Harrar™. Named for the African city, Starbucks’s copy reads, “For centuries, the sun-dried method is the only way coffee farmers in Harrar have processed coffee. Leaving the cherry on the bean to dry and then de-husking it captures all of the rich flavors and accentuates the unique, exquisite notes.” But like TLC’s program, Starbucks means to disguise the true nature of its coffee. According to Wikipedia, Harrar city was the center of Islam and Islamic culture in the Horn of Africa between the 7th and the 11th centuries.
After writing a small last note to my wife and children and hiding it in the depths of my tube sock, I got up enough courage to introduce myself to one of the men as he threw away his cup.
“Hello,” I said. “How are you?”
“Hi,” he replied, with an accent.
“I am Fred,” I said, using a fake name for safety.
“I’m Muhammad,” he replied.
I smiled and slowly backed away, nodding with a smile. “Muhammad” eyeballed me quizzically, possibly summing up just how much I might know. I noted that to my right, in the Target checkout lines, were a large number of customers doing their late Christmas shopping. Witnesses. I turned and, without drawing attention to myself, quickly exited.
Outside Target I finally exhaled. As I had known from the horrible acts against the cartoonists from that Danish newspaper ho had dared draw Muhammad. How hypercritical are Muslims that depicting the prophet Muhammad is a sin punishable by death, but being named after him is acceptable? Compare that to Christianity, where any artistic rendering of God’s son on any surface, from the humblest of notebooks to the classiest emerald-studded velvet, is acceptable but naming one’s own son “Christ” is frowned upon.
Later, while on the treadmill at the midtown YWCA mulling over all I had experienced, I spotted three women in their “head scarves.” All three were peddling stationary bikes, just as a normal American would do for exercise. But why would these Muslims be riding exercise bikes? Were they getting in shape for a mission? Or were they investigating the possibility of using such a bike set-up to generate power so a Sharia operation could avoid creating the power usage spike that would alert authorities to their scheme?
I could not be sure and calling the cops at this early stage would obviously blow further investigation. I decided to continue to vigilantly watch the women each time I came to the Y to work out. And if I saw anything that further suggested jihad, I would then call 911.
While my time spent investigating the Muslim community in Minneapolis did not turn up any solid jihad or Sharia plans.
But that does not mean they are not there, proving the Florida Family Association’s point that, if we think we’ve learned too much about this group of Americans, we may become woefully unconcerned about the threat of jihad.