Minnesota’s Somali-Americans Urge New Treatment for Would-Be Terrorists

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge ordered three young men accused of plotting to travel to Syriato fight for the Islamic State kept in detention while awaiting trial, at least for now. That decision came after the defense argued that entrusting the men immediately to their families and Somali-American leaders was the best way to insulate them from radical Islam.

But United States District Judge Michael J. Davis, in a shift from what other federal judges have done in similar cases involving young people accused of being Islamic State recruits, signaled a willingness to revisit his decision in the coming months.  “This is way too important for us to treat it as a regular criminal case,” Judge Davis said at the end of the third hearing. “It has a dynamic to it that we have to address, and hopefully we can.”

But some Muslim leaders here are trying to make a different case: that the best way to push young people away from militant Islamic groups is to keep them engaged with their community, with responsible clerics and their relatives.  Such an approach, they say, would be a humane counterpoint to the terrorist narrative that the American justice system is anti-Muslim and strictly punitive.

Osman Ahmed, a Somali-American businessman. His nephew died after joining Al Shabaad. (Angela Jimenez for the NY Times)
Osman Ahmed, a Somali-American businessman. His nephew died after joining Al Shabaad. (Angela Jimenez for the NY Times)