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Burhan Mohumed speaks out against government repression of Somali community

By Meredith Aby-Keirstead |
September 5, 2016
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Burhan Mohumed
Burhan Mohumed (Fight Back! News / Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - Burhan Mohumed, a Somali-American leader in the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis and a member of Minnesotans Against Islamophobia, was visited by law enforcement on July 22. Mohumed refused to speak to them and quickly posted the audio of their encounter online.

On July 22 two law enforcement officers went to the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis where Mohumed works and asked to speak to him. When they were told he was not there they asked for his phone number and the staff refused to assist them. The officers then went to the large apartment complex across the street and found Mohumed’s apartment. They knocked on his door but Mohumed would not open the door and asked if they had a warrant. They did not. Mohumed insisted that he would not speak to them without an attorney.

The officers insisted that they wanted to talk to him and when Mohumed pressed for why they wanted to talk to him one answered that they’d heard some things about radicalization in the neighborhood. One threatened Mohumed, “You can make this easy or hard.”

The officers, one white man and one African American, would only give their first names. One was “Terry” and the other called himself “Steve.” They said they were police officers and showed their police badges to Mohumed through the peephole. However, at the end of their attempt to speak with Mohumed they told him to contact the FBI office in Brooklyn Center.

Mohumed contacted the Minnesota office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) the same day and reported what happened. A member of the CAIR civil rights office called the FBI office in Brooklyn Center and said they were representing Mohumed and that law enforcement should not contact him directly again because they were representing him. The FBI would not tell Mohumed’s attorney about what they wanted to speak to him about.

However on July 27, law enforcement went to the Brian Coyle Community Center again and asked the front desk for Mohumed. They refused to show identification and left the building without getting an opportunity to speak to Mohumed.

Mohumed believes he was approached as a part of a larger campaign by law enforcement which targets Somali immigrants and Somali Americans in Minneapolis, pitting them against each other. Many members of the community have been questioned in recent years as part of Department of Justice ‘terrorism’ investigations. This spring, Mohumed helped lead local defense work for three Somali youth entrapped by the FBI. That trial showed how law enforcement actively spies on the community, going so far as to manufacture a terrorism plot to ensnare youth like the three who were on trial earlier this year. Their trial ended in convictions that could mean life sentences for all three.

Mohumed is a vocal opponent of Counter Violent Extremism (CVE). Minneapolis is a pilot for the FBI and the Justice Department’s attempt to use non-profit money to bribe members of the Somali community to turn on each other. He does not believe that it was a coincidence that he was targeted for questioning by law enforcement only three days before anti-CVE local forum he organized.

Mohumed is worried about the stigma and silence in the Somali community that surrounds the governmental investigation of his community. Mohumed told Fight Back!, “I am speaking out because I want community members to be critical and raise their voice rather than be silenced for exercising your rights. I am hoping people will hear this and be empowered to think, ‘Hey I can say no to them and not talk to them.’”

"We are standing behind the Somali community here, where the FBI is hounding people every day and tearing the community apart with suspicion, threats and entrapment," said Jess Sundin, of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee. She praised Mohumed's response to the knock at his door, "It's critical that community leaders end cooperation with the FBI and its bogus counter-terrorism campaign. Intimidation tactics are very dangerous when people try to face them alone, so speaking up after encounters like this, shining a light on their efforts, and uniting behind those who refuse to talk to the FBI or cooperate in any way, that's the most important thing."

The three Somali youth are expected to face sentencing later this fall for convictions of material support for terrorism and related charges. Mohumed, Sundin and hundreds of supporters attended their trial in May, and the Minnesota Anti-War Committee will mobilize again for their sentencing.

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