US Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump targeted Somali communities in Maine and Minnesota during a campaign speech in Portland, saying refugees from “dangerous places” should not be allowed in the US, a media report said.
During the speech at Merrill Auditorium in Maine, Trump said the US does not do a good job of vetting refugees, which he said raises safety issues in Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio reported.
“Creating an enclave of immigrants with high unemployment that is both stressing the state’s — I mean the state is having tremendous problems — its safety net, and creating a rich pool of potential recruiting targets for Islamic terror groups,” Trump said.
In Minnesota, 10 young men of Somali or Oromo descent have been charged with conspiring to travel to the Middle East to join the IS terrorist group. Six pleaded guilty, an additional three were convicted, and the 10th is believed to be dead.
In addition, over 20 young men travelled to Somalia to join the ranks of the Somalia terrorist group al-Shabab starting in 2007.
Jaylani Hussein, the Executive Director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, condemned Trump’s comments, saying he “demonises” a segment of the Muslim community in the US.
“While there is a challenging issue with disparities which is evident here in Minnesota, I think the overwhelming picture shows that there is tremendous positive coming from this community,” he said.
“I think Donald Trump is just continuing his rhetoric of demonising and statements of really what is today’s modern form of ‘Islamophobia’,” he added.
Hussein added that even though disparities exist, Somalis in Minnesota are establishing businesses and creating jobs.
Hodan Hassan, a Somali community leader, said despite the scrutiny of challenges facing the Somali community, many success stories are unfairly overshadowed — including a rise in local entrepreneurship and growth in college educated professionals, including physicians and attorneys, Star Tribune reported.
Hassan serves on the Somali American Task Force, a group that has offered feedback to US Attorney Andrew Luger on efforts to prevent radical recruitment.
She said Trump’s remarks breed fear in the community — and have inspired a determination to vote against him.
“Statements like that will drive people to hit the polls and vote for his opponent,” she said, adding, “In his twisted way, he is empowering us.”
Trump has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. Those statements have been criticised by some in his own party.