Twin City Somalis, Muslims denounce Star Tribune story

Abdel Shakur

The Muslim Council of Minnesota publicly denounced a recent Star Tribune article reporting members of the Twin Cities Somali community might have contributed to Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya – an Islamic group allegedly linked to terrorism.

The newspaper reported members of the Somali community might have donated a “significant” amount of money to Al-Itihaad, thinking it was a charitable organization.

“There is no organization (Al-Itihaad) in the Twin Cities,” said council President Hesham Hussein. “No money has been raised here.”

“(The Star Tribune is) using language that doesn’t let you know whether this is a fact or an assumption or a theory that the author has,” he said.

Star Tribune Managing Editor Pam Fine said she is familiar with some of the Somali community’s concerns regarding the story.

“We wrote a story that we believe was credible and accurate in terms of reflecting what government officials and documents and local people here told us,” she said.

Fine said the paper would look at specific complaints of inaccuracy brought to its attention.

Imam Hasan A. Mohamud, a Somali prayer leader at Al-Taqwa mosque in St. Paul, said he was one of several Somalis misquoted in the article.

According to the Star Tribune article, Mohamud said he is aware that the Al-Itihaad organization operated in the metro area but doesn’t know its members or how money is collected.

Mohamud said the Star Tribune got it wrong.

“I’m not aware of the existence of this organization in the United States. But I am aware of their activities in Somalia as a charitable organization,” he said.

Besides taking issue with misquotation, Mohamud said his statements were edited in order to sound inflammatory.

Fine said the story was scrutinized carefully upon learning of Mohamud’s concerns.

“You bend over backwards to make sure that you’ve got it clear and right from the person you’re talking to,” Fine said. “My editors reviewed the interview he did with the reporter who did it, and we believe that (the reporter) accurately represented his comments.”

Hussein said he is concerned about the impact Sunday’s story might have on Somalis in the Twin Cities.

Ali Ali, 65, was attacked while waiting for a bus Sunday afternoon. At a forum on the topic, Ali’s son said he suspects the article might have contributed to the attack.

“If you want to cover something, no one is going to stop you,” Hussein said. “But don’t try to incriminate the whole Somali community by using guilt by association.”