While attending the Minneapolis trial of three Somali-Americans who sought to join ISIS, I had a moment that almost took my breath away. It came when the prosecutors displayed a photograph of one of the defendants wearing a security guard’s uniform. He was smiling. Work as a security guard was one of his occasional jobs. It was a photograph that represented the through-the-looking-glass quality of life in Minnesota.
On Saturday night, another man wearing the uniform of a security guard went on a stabbing rampage at the Crossroads Center shopping mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota. St. Cloud is the heart of Minnesota’s fourth-largest metro area, some 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis, and home to a large population of Somali immigrants. The perpetrator of the rampage has yet to be identified publicly, but based on an interview with his father, the Star Tribune has identified him as Dahir Adan, an African immigrant.
St. Cloud chief of police William Blair Anderson noted that the perpetrator is reported to have shouted “Allah” in connection with the attacks, and to have asked potential victims if they were Muslim. Yet, Anderson declined to characterize the stabbings as a terrorist attack, declaring that the motive isn’t known. “We will be diligent and get to the bottom of this,” Anderson said. Richard Thornton, FBI special agent in charge of the Minneapolis division, announced at a press conference with Anderson on Sunday that the bureau is investigating the incident as “a potential terrorist attack.” ISIS has claimed credit for the stabbings that injured nine before an off-duty officer killed Adan inside the mall’s Macy’s store.
You can understand why Anderson preferred not to say more. It was only last year—coincidentally, in St. Cloud—when Governor Mark Dayton warned Minnesotans concerned about the state’s ever-growing Somali population to pack up and move on. Dayton weirdly instructed “white, B-plus, Minnesota-born citizens” to suppress their qualms about immigrant resettlement in Minnesota. If they can’t, he added, they should “find another state.” Anderson, the police chief, evidently wants to stay put. Something is happening here and, while everyone knows what it is, no one in a position of power is willing to say it. Even the police chief is exercising his right to remain silent lest he be stigmatized as a bigot.
By Sunday evening, law enforcement still hadn’t identified the perpetrator. Even so, it wasn’t too soon for the Council on American-Islamic Relations to speak up. After all, the putative civil rights outfit has business to take care of. Jaylani Hussein, CAIR’s Minnesota executive director, said Sunday afternoon that “we are definitely concerned about the potential for backlash in the community, both in the immediate run and the longer term.” You can joke about the fear of Minnesota’s Muslims over the backlash that tomorrow’s terrorist attack will bring. Here, we’re living it.
Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images