Somali community reacts to new indictments, arrestsby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The arrests of two women in Rochester on Thursday shocked the Somali community living there, community leaders said.
Many people knew Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan collected money and used clothing for refugees in Somalia. Some also knew the FBI paid both of them a visit about a year ago, taking several documents and other items during a search.
But for some, the arrests came out of nowhere.
"People are shocked and afraid," said Abdifatah Abdinur, executive director of New Faces of America Inc., a non-profit organization in Rochester that addresses issues immigrants face.
"They are afraid whether they are going to get accused (of) something similar or not," he said.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that Ali and Hassan lied about why they were collecting money and clothing. He said instead of helping the poor, they were helping al-Shabab, a group that practices radical Islam that the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.
But Abdinur said the Somalis he's spoken with about the arrests also feel strongly that anyone helping al-Shabab should be prosecuted.
"People understand the importance of the system working for everybody in this country," he said, adding that anyone doing harm "should face the system and have their day in court."
Dahir Jibreel, director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, said he supports the FBI's efforts to investigate those who are supporting al-Shabab.
"They have no place in our community and they have no place here in the United States," Jibreel said.
But Jibreel also hopes the arrests won't cause Minnesotans to turn against the Somali community living here. Most Somalis are not helping the terrorist group, he said.
"Minnesotans have to welcome the new Americans, new immigrant population that really need their support," he said. "We can all benefit from what happened today."
(MPR reporter Rupa Shenoy contributed to this report.)