The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 26, 2014

Family ties protect Somalis in Mankato

Mankato's Somalis supported by community, schools


One of those relationships was created with a group called Ka Joog in Minneapolis after the FBI learned about the young men who had been recruited to work with al-Shabab. The Ka Joog organization had been created in 2007 by a group of Somali-Americans in Minneapolis who wanted to present a positive image of Somalians through art. They also mentor youth with the goal of showing them that education is a way to avoid the stigma of being different.

The relationship, which is still being used in an effort to keep more young people from being recruited, earned Ka Joog an award from the national director of the FBI in 2012.

"For a lot of Somalians any type of contact with law enforcement in Somalia had not been positive, even if they were trying to do something good," Loven said. "We definitely had to overcome the innate fear a lot of people in the community have with law enforcement."

Loven said he couldn't make specific comments about the investigation into missing Somali youth, except to say it was ongoing.

"Radicals tend to target primarily young men who are isolated, disaffected, unemployed and not fully integrated into society," he said. "Anytime you can have community engagement, that's going to be positive."

Tight community

A group such as Ka Joog isn't really needed in Mankato, according to both Somali adults and youth living in the area. Several people credited Mankato's education system for doing many of the things Ka Joog is known for, including educating other Mankatoans about the Somali community.

"District 77 is doing a great job to bridge that gap that a lot of immigrants have, like learning a new language and missing school," said Harbi Hassan, Ibrahim's husband. "Todd Miller (Mankato director of public safety) also changed the dynamic a lot when he came here by partnering with Somalians and Sudanese."

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