Reason celebrates “Little Mogadishu”

Turning to libertarians for wisdom on immigration control is like asking Christian Scientists for advice about the best hospitals.

Not all that many years ago, the worst things you could say about Minneapolis were that it was very cold in the winter and, for an American city of its size, it was somewhat dull. On the plus side, this traditionally Scandinavian-American burg was a model of safety and cleanliness.

Well, that's ancient history. Minneapolis is now the world's #2 capital of Somali Muslims. (#1 is Mogadishu.) In the Somali community, unemployment and welfare dependency rates are high. The city is a major recruiting center for ISIS. At least a couple of ISIS recruits have used taxpayer-funded student loans to fly to the Middle East to become jihadists; many other local Somalis are suspected of wiring welfare cash to terrorist groups. Violent crime is epidemic: as recently as December 13, a Somali Muslim immigrant stabbed a Minneapolis woman no fewer than fourteen times on her way home from work.

None of this has kept government officials and news media from boasting of the success of Somali integration. Last February, CNN ran a collection of photographs designed to show just how delightful a contribution Somalis have made to Minnesota. In August, Ibrahim Hirsi of the Minnesota Post lauded the “Somali community's success” in the state. Hirsi's article began by summarizing the “classic American success story” of one Abdirahman Kahin, who emigrated to the U.S. two decades ago and, after founding a restaurant called Afro Deli in 2010, built it up into “one of the most successful immigrant-owned businesses in the state.”

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune routinely waxes effusive over all the cultural enrichment: last March, in a glowing portrait of life in the city's Muslim enclave, “Little Mogadishu,” reporter Allie Shah applauded the fact that the neighborhood, cut off from the rest of the city “by the Mississippi River and two freeways,” functions “like a self-sustaining village” and has thus been able to “retain its character.” Ah, the joy of euphemism! 

One recent occasion for celebration was the election, in 2016, of the first Somali American to the Minnesota legislature. As it turned out, the legislator in question, Ilham Omar, had married her own brother in 2009, apparently to enable him to enter the U.S. – and if that weren't enough of a transgression, Omar was already married at the time to one Ahmed Hirsi, the father of her three children. When blogger Scott Johnson, who uncovered these irregularities, asked Omar's campaign for a comment, he heard back from a lawyer who basically accused him of racism, sexism, and Islamophobia: “There are people who do not want an East African, Muslim woman elected to office and who will follow Donald Trump’s playbook to prevent it. Ilhan Omar’s campaign sees your superfluous contentions as one more in a series of attempts to discredit her candidacy.” On the contrary, some Minnesotans were apparently so eager to see an East African, Muslim woman elected to office that they gladly overlooked Omar's criminal offenses. Omar remains in the legislature, while her shady past has been neatly whitewashed on her Wikipedia page.

One of the latest, longest (4000 words!), and most effusive tributes to Minneapolis's Somali Muslims appeared on January 3 at the website of Reason, the libertarian monthly. Under the title “The War on Terror Is a War on Minnesota's Peaceful, Entrepreneurial Somali Immigrants,” Eric Boehm went all warm and fuzzy over the supposed triumphs of Minnesota's supposedly peaceful, law-abiding, America-loving Somali Muslims. The only dark cloud in this bright picture, Boehm charged, was the “[f]ederal law enforcement agencies” that “have singled out Somali Muslims in the Twin Cities for a special surveillance program intended to curb terrorism.”

To show just how unnecessary this program is, Boehm recounted the “classic immigrant success story” of one presumably typical Somali-American entrepreneur. Guess who? Yep, Abdirahman Kahin, the same guy who'd been profiled a few months earlier in the Minnesota Post. Boehm hailed Kahin's “big smiles and delicious food,” but noted with concern that Kahin “now worries that America” – with its pesky preoccupation with terrorism – “is now making it harder than ever for others to follow in his footsteps.” As further proof that the government's anti-terrorism activity is unnecessary, Boehm cited the recent election of Minnesota's “first Somali-American state legislator – Ilham Omar, of course. Needless to say, Boehm omitted to mention Omar's blatant marriage and immigration fraud.

For those who fret that too many Somalis have flooded into Minnesota over the last generation or so, Boehm cited the wave of German and Scandinavian immigrants who moved to the state a century and more ago – a comparison that's easy to make when you shut your eyes to such niggling details as crime, terrorism, and welfare dependency. Boehm applauded – while avoiding the phrase “sharia-compliant” – the introduction in Minnesota of “alternative banking solutions” that enable “devout Muslims” to get businesses off the ground without having to borrow money at interest. And he demonized Donald Trump, who, when he spoke at Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport shortly before the 2016 presidential election, had the audacity to focus not on “the hard-working immigrants who have boosted the state's economy” but on “the threat of Somali terrorism.”

How dare he! For Boehm, the main point about the federal government's effort to gather information about potential terrorist acts is that it's “put strain on people and businesses and decreased the level of trust.” Muslims worry that their “imams, elders, and community organizations are secretly informing” on them. (Informing on them about what? Boehm didn't seem to be particularly troubled by this question.) Boehm saluted ongoing efforts by – who else? – Ilham Omar to rein in police and cripple anti-terror programs. And he ended his piece where he'd begun – with Kahin and his restaurant deli, where you can chow down on tasty “sambusas, a sort of Somali pierogi,” and hear “the sweet sound of sizzling meat as a line cook grills up some Somali steak sandwiches.”

You'd think that by 2018 we'd have moved past the inane pre-9/11 cliché of reducing immigration from Muslim countries to preposterous blather about the exciting tastes and smells of exotic foods. Alas, apparently not. There are a lot of admirable things about libertarianism, but its see-no-evil approach to Islamic immigration is not one of them.

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