Buying homes, settling in, making a difference.: Becoming Minnesotan

Abdisalam Adam, displaying Somali objects and books, 2004.
  • Name - Abdisalam Adam
  • Age at interview - 38
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 06.24.2004
  • Somali woman in front of her house, Minneapolis, 2004.

    We Are Here

    Community, Economics, Somali

    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Contributions: How is America better off because of this group of immigrants?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Somalia has experienced much violence and warfare since the fighting broke out in 1991.  Because the fighting continues in Somalia, and the government still struggles to get control of the political system and the economy, most Somalis agree that there is no way to tell when, if ever, Somalia will be safe enough to return. 
    Some may want to return to Somalia some day, but most are eager to start their new life here where they will stay.  Many Somalis believe that it is important to put down roots here and make Minnesota their home, and most are grateful for the opportunity to escape the violence and provide a better life for their children in the U.S.  Somalis now have the opportunity to buy their own home and settle down more permanently, take advantage of educational and career opportunities, and generally pursue a safe and healthy life.  Islamic rules state that people may not buy things on loan or credit, which has prevent many Somalis from buying homes in the U.S.  However, Islamic organizations have developed programs to finance home sales with fees rather than interest charges, so even this problem has been solved.

    To learn more about Somali history and culture, visit our Somali Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Abdisalam Adam 13
    3:19 Minutes | 3.18Mb


    Narrator: Abdisalam Adam (AA)

    Interviewers: Sumaya Yusuf (SY) and Andy Wilhide (AW)

    SY:  Do you consider Minnesota or the U.S. to be your home?

    AA:  Yes, I do consider it my home. Of course, whether forever, that I don’t know. I mean, the future I do not know about. Right now, I’m here. What I believe is while I’m here, I have to make the best use of it. So I have to in the work that I do for the St. Paul schools as a teacher, I will try to do my best to help the young students. Whether Somalis or non-Somalis, I’m going to help everybody that I work with.

    My children are going to school here. I have just purchased a house last month after thirteen years of renting, so that’s a big step. That shows that I’m kind of settling more and more. What I believe is while we’re here, we should be positive, do whatever good we can and help as much as possible.

    But I’m not a supporter of the idea of assuming that I’m here temporarily, and I’ll be leaving next year. If you stay here for thirty, forty years every day saying, “I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m leaving next year,” it doesn't happen. So you don’t invest. You don’t plan anything. You don’t make long-term planning. This has happened to many refugee communities. What I think is the Somali refugees as they settle here, they should focus, make the best of what’s in the United States. If they go, then there’s no harm. They can sell their houses. They can always maybe go and come back if they want to. That channel is open for them. I do consider Minnesota home now.

    AW:  A follow up question: do you think many people now are starting to consider it their home? Or do you still see a lot of people who continue to rent and always say that they’re going to go back in the next couple months or a year?

    AA:  Right. The debate still continues. I mean, there are still many people who say, “No. I’m just here temporarily. As soon as the government is founded in Somalia, I’m leaving.” There are others who say, along what I was saying, that we don’t know when we are leaving. So while you are here plan ahead and make something useful for yourself and for your family. The debate continues. But I do know many Somalis are now beginning to make long-term plans, establishing businesses, more home buying.

    Luckily, for the home buying…the main obstacle was the interest. Or dealing with riba, or buying house through interest. That was the main obstacle, why many people could not buy homes. But, now, some companies—there’s two companies—have begun to help people purchase homes with riba-free system that complies with the Islamic ruling. This is going to make many people more confident to purchase. Right now I am seeing many people who are beginning to buy homes. This is a new trend that started in the last few months.

    AW:  The people who are buying, what age are they?

    AA:  They tend to be midlife, in their thirties and forties, yes.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  1. To suppose to be true, especially without proof.  2. To take on a position or duty.  (assumes, assuming, assumed)


    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.


    Noun:  An argument or discussion of opposing views or different ideas.

    Verb:  To participate in a debate; to dispute, argue, especially in a public arena.  (debates, debating, debated)


    Verb:  To establish; to set-up.  (founds, founding, founded)


    Verb:  To put money, time, or energy into something, especially for some benefit or purpose.


    Adjective:  Pertaining to the religion of Islam, a monotheistic religion that originated with the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad having the same roots as Christianity and Judaism.


    Noun:  Something that impedes, stands in the way of, or slows progress.


    Noun:  A person forced to leave his or her own country and seek refuge in a foreign country out of fear of persecution or violence or because of poverty or natural disaster.


    Noun:  The Arabic word for interest, the price paid for receiving money or goods on credit.  Charging or paying interest is not allowed under Islam.

    Listen to this word: 


    Noun:  A tendency or inclination in behavior.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 529