WASHINGTON - In late 2006, the Ethiopian regime in Addis Ababa decided to invade Somalia under the pretext of defending its national security from the threats of Islamist groups led by what was then known the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).
But this invasion, among other things, has become a means for the birth of al-Shabab, which later announced its affiliation with al-Qaeda.
Apparently, from one way or another, as everyone is benefiting from the advancement of technology, the group has done its best to reach out young Somalis in Diaspora to join them in their jihad. And the heart-breaking news came when Somalis in Minneapolis heard that some young Somalis have fallen under the hands of al-Shabaab recruiters to fight in Somalia.
Islam Hearing Divides US CongressMuslim Radicalization Probe Touches Nerves
In 2009, United States officials unsealed terrorism-related charges against men they say were key actors in a recruitment effort that led roughly 20 young Americans to join Al-Shabab. This is, in fact, what triggered what some may consider selective hearings in the House Committee on Homeland Security in the US House of Representatives.
However, on Wednesday, June 20, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing that was entitled, the American Muslim Response to Hearings on Radicalization with their Community. This hearing was a follow up of four hearings that the House Committee had in the spring and the summer of 2011.
The main agenda of these hearings, initiated by Peter King (R-NY), the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, was to address homegrown radicalization and the recruitment of young Somali Americans by al-Shabaab.
Having a hearing on a specific community has raised disparities within those elected officials in the House Committee on Homeland Security. A top ranking member of the House Committee, Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), has in many ways expressed his criticism on the way the chairman is taking the issue.
Congressman Thompson questioned the need for yet another session on the subject, given that since the first hearing in March 2011, al-Qaeda's operations have been dealt massive blows with the killing of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al Awlaki and other terrorist leaders.
Moreover, Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), who is a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, confronted the committee that there should be a hearing on right-wing extremists in the United States.
The importance of having a hearing on right-wing extremist groups in the United States can be supported by the assassination attempt against President Obama by extremist groups in the summer 2011. However, while recruitment by al-Shabaab on the young Somalis is emphasized, there has never been a hearing on the right-wing extremists.
Also, similar to Congresswoman Jackson Lee, Gene Green (D-TX) said that the hearings were unfair and that there should be hearings on the radicalization of Christians and other groups, too.
Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is the first elected Muslim Congressman in the US House of Representatives, expressed his concerns about the hearing.
In his statement at the House Committee hearing that was held in March 2011, Congressman Ellison acknowledged that violent extremism is a serious concern to all Americans, and it is a legitimate business that the House Committee for Homeland Security to address.
For instance, Ellison discussed the role that Muslim Americans have in this country, and he specifically mentioned Mohamed Salman Hamdani, who was a paramedic, and lost his life while he was trying to save lives during the terrorist attacks in 9/11.
However, Ellison clearly expressed his rejection of the hearing, reminding policy leaders to be rigorous about [their] analysis of violent extremism.
As someone who comes from the Muslim Americans, and understands the negative impact that the hearing can create in the Muslim Community, Ellison hard-pressed that the responsibility of policy leaders is doing no harm.
Since the focus was on the young Somalis recruited by al-Shabaab, the only Somali community activist, who testified as a witness in the first hearing that was held in March 2011, was Abdirizak Bihi, the uncle of Burhan Hassan who was found dead in Somalia in early 2009 after disappearing from Minnesota.
However, even though Bihi was selected by the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, his credibility in the Somali community in Minneapolis is questioned.
On March 18, which was a week after the first hearing in 2011, Imam Hassan Mohamud at Masjid Da'wah in St. Paul, Minnesota led a demonstration that about 200 Muslim imams and community leaders of the Somali community expressed their disapproval of the hearing that Bihi testified on behalf of Somalis in Minnesota.
Abukar Arman, who is the Somali Envoy to the US, says that it's the US law enforcement's job to repel any and all threats facing the public, and any overreaction of the investigation process or allowing the politicization of the process can only undermine the objective and taint the reputation of the law enforcement.
Even though Congressman Ellison suggested that the responsibility of policy leaders is doing no harm, harm has already taken place, and the recruitment for jihad by al-Shabab has victimized some innocent young Somalis.
In January 2011, Gulet Mohamed was refused to return to the US though he was finally permitted to re-enter.
Gulet said that he was beaten and tortured during his detention at Kuwait's Deportation Center.
However, there were two main reasons behind Gulet's saga. The first reason was that the interrogators demanded information on whether he had been in contact with the US-born cleric Anwar Al-Awlaqi during his time in Yemen, and the second reason was that initially Gulet's name was placed on a no-fly list, which made difficult for Kuwaiti officials to deport him back to the United States.
Extremism is not the only challenge that the young Somali Americans have been facing at least in the US.
Other challenges that are not widely addressed are being in organized gangs, the use of drugs and worst of all, prostitution.
These challenges and of course the radicalization for jihad by al-Shabaab demand a solution from the Somali Community leaders.
There is a need for coordination between officials and Somali Community leaders and the law enforcement community, because effective communication is a tool for finding a solution, and bridging the gaps that may exist.
Outreach programs, though there is an objection from ACLU that there aer used for intelligence gatherings, that the law enforcement community has put together have been working well to create understanding between Somali leaders and the Homeland Security and other law enforcement officials.
It is the role of the Somali community leaders, imams at the Islamic centers and the law enforcement community to come together to eliminate the challenges that young Somali Americans are facing.Selective hearings can just add salt to the injury and create more suspicion and distrust between the Somali community and the larger American communities.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net