Mall of America lunch proves 'there is nothing to be afraid of'

Leaders of the Somali-American community in Minnesota went out to lunch at Mall of America on Tuesday, to show that even in the face of an ambiguous threat, that doesn't mean we have to give up our ideals or our freedoms. They boarded an MOA-bound light rail train at Cedar-Riverside on a mission to send a message: They are not afraid, and you shouldn't be either.

"This is our daily life. This is what we do every day," said Abdirahman Mukhtar, a Somali community engagement coordinator. "We take light rail to the Mall of America. We are having lunch. This is part of our daily life."

The weekend terror video from al-Shabaab, threatening attacks on Western shopping centers and specifically Mall of America, has frightened some. A handful of Minnesota school groups canceled field trips to the mall in the immediate aftermath. But in the Somali community, where jihadist recruitment is a constant struggle, there are worries about being targeted and singled out in their adopted home.

"We just came here today to show our support for Minnesota families who really open their homes and their hearts for us," said Farhio Khalif.

"We're here and we're not going nowhere," said Somali community leader Omar Jamal. "So Minnesotans better get used to us. We are here to stay. There is nothing to be afraid of."

Jamal is one of about a dozen community members who lunched on Chinese, Mexican and pizza in the Mall of America food court.

"Only in America," he said.

Jamal believes al-Shabaab is pure evil and running scared, desperate to use fear tactics like the video to divide Muslims and Somalis here in the United States. It's a strategy this group insists is a losing one.

"I'd like to tell Minnesotans, do not fall for this propaganda from the al-Shabaab machine," Jamal said. "It is not going to work. All they're looking for is attention."

"It's all good. The public should rest assured. The mall is safe," said former Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, part of the lunch group. "But secondarily, there are active partnerships being developed with the Somali community and mall officials."

Statement from Somali-American leaders in Minnesota

The following statement, released by the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relation (CAIR-MN), represents a group of 20 to 30 Somali-American and Muslim-American organizations in Minnesota:

"The safety and security of Minnesotans and of all Americans is of utmost importance to Somali-Americans. We condemn all forms of terrorism or threats of terrorism, repudiate any individual or group that would carry out such attacks or make such threats and remain committed to being at the forefront of defeating religious or political extremism."While remaining vigilant, we must not allow a terror group to achieve its goal of spreading fear or panic. We must also prevent justifiable security concerns from being used as a pretext to promote hatred, prejudice and suspicion of the whole community."As a nation, we are better prepared and more united when we all work together to keep our communities safe."

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