Immediately after 9-11, there were major challenges.: 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
  • Man at Somali Independence Day, Minneapolis, June 27, 2004.
    Bibi Abdalla, Somali Culture Family Day, Minnesota History Center, St. Paul.

    Discrimination, Religion, Somali

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Problems in America: What could have helped this person’s adjustment in the U.S.?

    Words to look for

    law abiding

    Background Information

    The terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 were led by a group of Muslim extremists from Saudi Arabia.  These attacks made many Americans fear anyone who is Muslim.   Shortly after the attacks the state of Minnesota closed some local money transfer agencies.  Somalis in the U.S. rely on these offices to send money back to their families that are struggling in Somalia, Kenya, or Ethiopia.  Some Americans feared that Somalis were sending money to support terrorism, but their closure deeply upset the Somali community.  Most of these transfer agencies have now been re-opened, but they are carefully monitored to make sure that no money is being sent to support terrorist causes. 

    Most Somalis are Sunni Muslims, as are many people all over Africa and Asia. The vast majority of Sunni Muslims practice the peaceful ways taught by Islam. There have been a few cases of Somali Americans being recruited to join extremist movements, but most Somalis in the U.S. are grateful to have escaped the violence and chaos of life in East Africa.

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

    • Chapter 1

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    Narrator: Abdisalam Adam (AA)

    Interviewer: Andy Wilhide (AW)

    AW:  Do you think things have changed since 9-11 for better or worse, attitudes toward Somalis or toward Muslims in general?

    AA:  Of course, immediately after 9-11, there were major challenges. There was a lot of fear in the community that there would be a backlash from mainstream Americans, neighbors, and people that we work with. But, luckily, that did not happen much in Minnesota; Minnesota was one of the states that there wasn’t much of a backlash. Of course, the public officials made it very clear right from the beginning. The governor and the state officials spoke out that these are not mainstream Muslims that are doing this. So that kind of helped ease the tension. But on the general level, of course, there are a lot of pressures. There’s a lot of focus and there’s a lot of always tying what’s happening in the Middle East or in East Africa, always making a link, that maybe the people here could have a link to people there.

    We had the closing of the money transfer agencies that many Somalis benefited from. We have every now and then a Somali person is detained and some kind of link to terrorism. But, generally speaking, the brand of terrorism or exploding things or destroying things is not in the Somali way of dealing with things. Many Somalis are very skeptical when they hear a Somali has been arrested for terrorist related issues. Hardly anyone will just say that this is just maybe the government to show an example of we have done something, but generally, there is nothing to substantiate it.

    Even inside Somalia, all this fighting and all this destruction that has been going on, it’s more with conventional weapons. The Somali community is really law abiding and, as we have seen, they are not very much involved in really violent or criminal activities. Of course, some young people are going off track and dealing with other petty crimes. But in terms of major national security issues, I think the Somalis are not in the picture at all. We would like the Minnesotans and officials to understand that, that we’re here and intend to establish our lives and lead a peaceful life in this state.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A reaction or outcry that can be violent.


    Noun:  An advantage, help or aid.

    Verb:  To be or to provide a benefit to.  (benefits, benefiting, benefited)


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

    conventional weapon

    Noun:  A weapon of warfare which is not nuclear, chemical, or biological in nature.


    Verb:  To be held back; to be placed into police custody.  (detains, detaining, detained)


    Verb:  To plan; to mean to.  (intends, intending, intended)


    Adjective:  Complicated.


    Noun:  Debate; controversy; problem.

    law abiding

    Adjective:  Describes someone who follows the law.


    Noun:  That which is common; the norm.

    Adjective:  Common; usual; conventional.


    Noun:  A person who is a follower and believer of the Islamic faith.

    Adjective:  Relating to believers of Islam.


    Adjective:  Small; minor.


    Noun:  1. Pressing; force.  2. Mental strain caused by one's own or others' expectations on one's own performance.


    Adjective:  Expressing doubt.


    Verb:  To verify something by supplying evidence.  (substantiates, substantiating, substantiated)


    Noun:  The psychological state of being tense, that is, showing signs of stress or strain.


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