Somali candidate eyes milestone in US race

August 3, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — In a neighborhood dubbed “Little Mogadishu,” Mohamud Noor can’t walk more than a block without being stopped by someone who wants to shake his hand.

Juggling two cell phones and a stack of campaign fliers, he chats them up on his bid for a seat in Minnesota’s House of Representatives. They already know. He’s one of theirs.

“You’re going to succeed, keep on going,” Noor said, translating the encouraging words of an elderly Somali woman.

Noor, 36, has been door-knocking, phone-banking and fundraising in a race that could make him the first Somali-born state lawmaker in the U.S. With the backing of many in the city’s growing Somali-American population, Noor is pressing the longtime incumbent Democrat in a hotly contested primary.

Minnesota has become home to an estimated 30,000 Somalis who began fleeing civil war in their homeland a generation ago, drawn here by welcoming churches and social services. Many have settled in Minneapolis in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, where ethnic restaurants, markets and shops huddle in the shadow of massive high-rise apartment buildings.

So established is the community that members are rising in politics, with Somali-Americans capturing a Minneapolis school board seat in 2010 and a Minneapolis City Council seat last year. A win by Noor in November could add another milestone. Somali-American leaders said they know of no other state legislators.

Noor narrowly lost a race for state Senate in 2011. But he has raised about twice as much money for this campaign and hopes that running in the smaller House district, where about a fourth of the residents are foreign-born, could make a difference.

Noor’s asset is Somalia. He fled the violence in his home country before his teen years. He and his family escaped to Kenya’s refugee camps, “living in tents, eating what we got,” he said. In 1999, the nine Noors moved together to Minnesota.

Today, he works at a local center that helps immigrants learn English and find work. He and his wife have four children.

Study: Fewer US Muslims in domestic terror cases

A new report says the number of U.S. Muslims accused in terror plots dropped by more than half in 2010.

The study was released Wednesday by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, which includes experts from Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Twenty American Muslims were suspects in terror plots last year, compared to 47 in 2009.
The 2009 spike was due mainly to a large number of Somali-Americans who tried to join the al-Shabab militant movement in Somalia.

Last year, five American Muslim terror suspects carried out their plans, including one who tried to set off a bomb in Times Square and others who joined militant movements overseas.

The original study (PDF) is viewable here.