For many Somali-Americans in Minnesota, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s fundraising visit to the state on Friday is the culmination of a tough week, a reminder of recent hostilities against people like them.
They believe Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims and immigrants is emboldening hate, and they worry the hostility will stay no matter what happens in the election.
“Donald Trump to me represents a part of America that is anti-Islam, that is anti-immigrant, that is anti-black, that is getting stronger and has an even louder voice and has someone powerful like him representing that, and coming to the place where I live,” said Khadra Fiqi of Minneapolis.
Fiqi is black, wears a hijab and is visibly Muslim. She said she regularly deals with hateful comments and sees Trump’s arrival in Minnesota as a symbol of a troubled America.
Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country as a way to protect the country from terrorists. He’s also painted a dark picture of the Somali community in Minnesota, saying the state has become a “rich pool of potential recruiting targets for Islamic terror groups.”
Trump’s words have not been lost on his supporters, or those purporting to support him.
In an audio recording the Somali Museum of Minnesota said it received last week on its office voice mail, an anonymous caller, who identifies himself as a Minnesotan, goes on to say that “when Donald Trump is elected president, you’re going to have to close down your museum.”
The anonymous caller continues: “November’s coming around, he’s gonna get elected, and we’re gonna get put a ban on all Muslims, especially Somalis. Go listen to Donald Trump speak at speeches: He’s talking about Somalis in Minnesota. What do you think is gonna happen? They’re all gonna get deported. What’s gonna happen then to your museum?”
The call took the museum’s staff by surprise, said outreach director Sarah Larsson, who described the message as the first of its kind the center has ever received.
“So far, the Somali museum has received immense support from diverse communities, people from all backgrounds in the state of Minnesota,” she said. “That kind of message actually goes against everything we believe and understand.”
At a Friday press conference focused on the concerns and worries of Somali and Muslim people in Minnesota, 12-year-old Yusuf Dayur told reporters about an incident at school that left him shaken.
Yusuf became an Internet darling last year when he confidently declared on YouTube he’d become the first Muslim president of the United States.
But on Friday, that self-assuredness was heartbreakingly gone as he described how a kid at school asked him, “‘Why do your people attack us for no reason?’ “That really affected me because I’ve never been bullied because I was Muslim, and it affected me because I didn’t know what to do,” he said, tearing up. “So I just stood there.”
In Little Falls, Minn., the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is asking the FBI to investigate an alleged threat by two men to burn down the house of a Somali-American woman. According to the Star Tribune, the men called her a terrorist and said Muslims weren’t allowed to live in the city.
A Trump campaign spokesman in Minnesota declined to comment on the CAIR press conference.
Another political fight is also rippling through the community.
It started last week, when a conservative blog picked up unsubstantiated claims that Ilhan Omar, the winner of a Minneapolis DFL primary, married her brother from England so he could receive U.S. citizenship.
Several days later, Omar issued a statement. She said he was not her brother but yes, she did legally marry the British man after she ended the relationship with the father of her children.
Jamal Abdulahi, a liberal blogger and community activist who is Somali-American, says many people in the community went from riding the emotional highs of Omar’s historic win to feeling the whole moment was being hijacked.
Many were left scratching their heads as to how the discussion could swerve so instantly to the possibility of marriage fraud?
“The mood swing in the community is just remarkable,” Abdulahi said. “Here at one moment, it’s very jubilant and very celebratory, and suddenly, there’s a sense of [being] under siege.”
Omar’s Republican rival in the general election, Abdimalik Askar, said he’s not going to press the issue of Omar’s complicated marriage history. He’s calling it a family matter.
As for Trump, Askar said he hasn’t decided whether he’d vote for his party’s nominee. While Askar agrees the government needs to keep the country safe from immigrants who want to do harm, he doesn’t agree with a blanket ban on Muslims.
Askar said he hopes Trump will begin to see the Somali-American community for what it is.
“Maybe when he comes to Minnesota today, he may learn how the Somali community works hard, how they graduate from school, how we’re participating in the financial [prosperity] of this country,” Askar said. “If he changes his mind, definitely I’ll vote for him.”
Another voter in the district, Abdirahman Mukhtar, said he can’t help but feel the constant barrage of bad news and allegations is putting a stain on his community.
While anti-refugee blogs continue to depict his Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis as a so-called “no-go zone” where sharia law prevails, he dares them to visit and see for themselves. He’ll point out the co-existence of a bustling mosque next to Palmer’s Bar.
“Some of those people who are actually drinking are maybe Muslims who are not practicing their religion, while other Muslims are praying in the mosque and practicing the religion the right way,” he said. “That’s America at its core.”