Hodan Hassan is a working mother in Minnesota, a practicing psychotherapist who once thought that the horrors of extremism happened to other people. But three years ago, it hit very close to home when her two nieces were severely injured during the Nairobi mall massacre in Kenya, just weeks after looking at colleges in the Twin Cities.
“There was a lot of anger I didn’t know what to do with,” says Ms. Hassan. “My only option was advocacy.” Ms. Hassan has since started a pilot project called Building Community Resilience which, according to the Star Tribune, hopes to “choke off
the flow of supporters to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and smother the group’s influence in Minnesota — long a focus for terror recruitment.”
In Ms. Hassan’s professional opinion as a therapist, she believes that “too many youths” wage an internal battle over what it means to be American and what it means to be Somali — a struggle exacerbated by frustration with local educational and employment disparities, and a fear of law enforcement.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has shepherded the project along though it does have some critics within the local Somali-American community. In one town hall meeting a young man said — “Yes, we do want resources. But we want it because we deserve it, not because we are a problem that needs to be solved.” Critics argue that the program seems to be based on the premise that religion or nationality determines one’s propensity for violence which they find discriminatory.
That said, a few critics are slowly changing their positions. One is Abdirahman Mukhtar who works with Somali youths at the Brian Coyle Community and is pleased to learn that the pilot program is partnering with Youthprise, a nonprofit that helps local youth with job-hunting and sponsors athletic programs.
“I don’t know if I’m making any difference,” Ms. Hassan tells the Tribune. “But I’m telling myself at least I am trying.”