Somali-American leader: ‘I tried to warn America’ about homegrown radicalization

Charles C. Johnson | Contributor

The Council on American Islamic Relations repeatedly tried to stop a Minnesota community leader from warning about the dangers al-Qaida-linked group posed to the Somali-American community prior to the Kenyan mall massacre.

“I tried to warn America,” Abdirizak Bihi, a Minnesota-based Somali community leader, explained to The Daily Caller.

Minnesota residents were reportedly among the attackers in the grisly assault by al-Shabaab terrorists on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The Twin Cities are home to the largest Somali community in the United States.

Bihi has been working to stop radicalization of Somali-Americans for years. He has testified before Congress about the dangers of radicalization in the U.S. Somali community, working alongside the FBI and the Justice Department. His involvement is personal. Bihi’s nephew was radicalized by al-Shabaab and joined the group in 2008. He was killed the following year.

But he told The Daily Caller the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has blocked his efforts for years, telling law enforcement agencies by telling them that he doesn’t know the Somali community and calling him “an Islamophobe” in a recent report.

“They say that I am a bad person, that I am anti-Muslim, and that I don’t represent a hundred percent the Somali community,” Bihi said. “They lie about my life most of the time and try to destroy my character, my capability, and my trust in the community.”

Bihi, director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center, also says CAIR has tried to bring Somalis into the organization and denies the threat that terrorism poses.

Abdirizak Bihi, with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca testifies during a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee March 10, 2011 (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Daily Caller reported this week on how CAIR illegally collects millions in donations from foreign governments. A Justice Department inspector general report rebuked the FBI for defying a ban on working with the terror-connected Muslim advocacy group. (Related: CAIR collects millions from foreign donors thanks to non-profit shell game)

Despite its claim to represent all Muslims, CAIR represents mostly Arabs, Bihi told TheDC. “They don’t represent us. They have nothing to do with us. They don’t provide social services or anything to our community. They treat us like we are animals who don’t speak English.”

“CAIR boasts that it’s a Somali organization,” says Bihi. “They can’t find a Somali to work with them.”

Bihi blames CAIR with coming between his organization and the Abubakar as-Saddique mosque in Minneapolis. “It’s a big mosque,” he said. “That mosque lately has been doing works to combat al-Shabaab.” But he said when the mosque was more closely affiliated with CAIR, it was a center for recruitment by radicals. “All of our kids were going there for years. That’s where indoctrination happened,” he said.

“[The al-Shabaab recruiters] become the father they never had,” Bihi told TheDC. “They engage them. And the way they engage them, is — these angry young men who are left on the street, it’s like, ‘[Americans] don’t like you. They hate you. So we’ll love you.’ In the end, they end up being brainwashed.”

Bihi says the Obama administration promised to “spend a hundred million dollars in the community here,” but never came through. He blames Obama for not doing enough to address the recruitment of Somali Americans and says and Secretary of State John Kerry ignored the growth of al-Shabaab in Somalia.

“At least 25 young men have disappeared from [Minneapolis] to fight for al-Shabab in the past three years, and dozens more are being investigated on suspicion of recruiting or fundraising on behalf of the terrorist organization,” wrote the Washington Post in a 2011 profile of Bihi. Bihi fears the figure is higher than fifty.

Law enforcement sources told TheDC that at least four and possibly as many as six of the terrorists involved in the Kenya terrorist attack are Somali-Americans, not just the three that were previously reported.

“I’ve been worried about this kind of thing happening at the Mall of America,” says Tim Clemente, a retired FBI agent who tracked the precursor terrorist organizations to al-Shabaab organizations, like the Islamic Court.

“Most Somalis are Sufi Muslims,” explains Clemente. But the “Al-Shabaab are Wahabi. They are a distinct minority within Somalia and they are more ruthless and demonic than even the Taliban at the height of their reign, with more stonings and more beheadings.”

Clemente worked to track down all of the anti-American clans who availed themselves of America’s immigration policy that was preferential to minority clans.

“Keeping records is very, very minimal over there,” explains Clemente who says that the Somali phonetic language didn’t lead itself to a lot of documentation. “There’s no shortage of Somalis committing immigration fraud to come here.”

“In the 1990s, after Black Hawk Down in ’93, you had a lot of people trying to get out of there,” Clemente said. “The rule was that we were offering immigration to people who were not from the major clans, people who were being persecuted. All the major clans did was name a smaller clan.”

CAIR representatives and their allies in Congress, like Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, have denied the threat that al-Shabaab poses to American national security, said Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.

“Dawud Walid from CAIR’s Michigan chapter is on record repeatedly telling American Muslim youth for example that ‘9 out of 10 times the person trying to influence you over the Internet is not even real. … It’s someone with the government trying to set you up,'” Jasser told TheDC. “He even casts doubt on whether Al-Shabaab is a terrorist organization.”

Jasser praised Bihi’s work, saying Bihi “called out Imams and Islamic centers which glorified the al-Shabaab and the jihad in Somalia. In exchange for that tough love to Minnesota Muslims, groups like CAIR labeled him and his colleague in Minnesota Omar Jamal as ‘anti-Muslim.'”

Bihi’s own congressman (and CAIR fundraiser) Keith Ellison “did nothing to expose the radicalization of Muslims,” Jasser said. At Bihi’s House testimony in 2011, Jasser said, Ellison “smeared [Bihi”] and said he “was ‘only invited to testify because [Bihi’s] willing to diss the Somali and Muslim community in Minneapolis.'”

Analysts like David Reaboi, Vice President of the Center for Security Policy, doubt that CAIR is “necessarily” pro-al-Shabaab. “Their mission is to destroy any allegation of ‘radicalization’ in Islam,” says Reaboi. “They want everyone to be in fear of talking about it.”

Neither Ellison nor CAIR returned a request for comment. Last week CAIR threw a Daily Caller reporter out of a press conference. (Related: CAIR attacks Fox News, Limbaugh, Levin as ‘Islamophobic’)

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