100 Americans many young Midwestern women have joined jihadists in the Middle East
by Nancy Crott
Three young women from Minnesota have packed their bags and joined terrorist groups in Syria, leaving their families baffled, according to a St. Paul nonprofit called American Friends of Somalia. Federal officials are working to find out why they're going and how they get the means.
She was a shy 19-year-old woman from Minnesota with plans to attend nursing school.
Then suddenly, her mood turned darker and she became more withdrawn just before she packed her bags and left St. Paul a month ago to hook up with Islamic State militants, a move that left her parents stunned and others questioning why.
She stopped going to school," said Omar Jamal, who heads a St. Paul nonprofit called American Friends of Somalia. “She became withdrawn to herself, not as social as she used to be.”
The young woman, whom Jamal did not identify at the family’s request, eventually called and sent text messages to relatives to say she was in Syria with ISIS, he said.
Two other young women also have left Minnesota for Syria, he said. How would a recent high school graduate have the wherewithal to travel to Syria? “That’s the question,” Jamal said one evening last week. “Where did she get the money? Where did she get the passport?”
It’s also the question the FBI and the Justice Department have been working to answer, as well as many parents.
The woman’s family contacted the FBI after she left, according to Jamal. Federal officials have been meeting regularly with imams and other Somali leaders, he added. People are left perplexed.
A disturbing number of young American women have left their families to join jihadists in the Middle East.
“They don’t know what’s going on. Parents don’t want their kids in a war that they have nothing to do with,” Jamal said.
One woman at Ka Joog, a community center for Somali youth in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie, said most parents have no idea what’s going on, and are concerned. So are Somali-American high school students.
“The kids do talk about it at school, but they don’t talk about it a lot,” said Marwa Abdulkadir, 16, a sophomore at Eden Prairie High School.
Marwa said she emigrated with her family from Kenya when she was 3 months old. Now she is president of the 4-H Club chapter at Ka Joog, a Somali term that means “stay away” or “stay out.”
While the name might not seem welcoming, Somali-Americans know what it means: Stay away from terrorist organizations, explained Mohamed Farah, Ka Joog’s executive director.
About 100 Americans have joined up with militants in the Middle East — including about 40 from Minneapolis — recruited by jihadists who use a variety of social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to spread their monstrous propaganda.
Most notable was Douglas McAuthur McCain, 31, who was killed last month while fighting alongside Islamic State militants.
Ka Joog, located in a nondescript strip mall, tries to engage children and youth before militant groups can influence them, Farah said.
This is a war of ideas, and you can’t kill an idea.
A poster behind the center’s reception desk reads, “Our Country at Work,” and sits above photos of the White House, U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court Building.
A short hallway leads to a large, open room where schoolchildren sit at large tables working on homework or worksheets distributed by center staff.
“When we talk about radicalization on a national level, our strategy has not worked,” Farah said. “Radicalization is a process. It’s not an overnight deal. Nobody becomes radicalized overnight.”
He attributed the lure of such groups to the lack of opportunities, mentors and guidance for young people.
“I’ve been in and out of Washington for many years to say our efforts have not worked, using the military and law enforcement,” Farah added. “This is where the community has to get involved. These organizations are recruiting young people here because they see opportunities here.”
Farah said the fight against ISIS goes beyond airstrikes.
“This is a war of ideas, and you can’t kill an idea. The only way to fight an idea is with an idea. You have these groups — ISIS, Al Shabab, and other groups in Libya and Nigeria building up an image that they’re righting wrongs and bringing respect back to the Muslim world.”
Young Marwa Abdulkadir said she was shocked that young women had left Minnesota to aid bloodthirsty ISIS fighters in Syria.
“This is just like a huge shock to me that they would take women,” Abdulkadir said. “The fact that they would recruit people is just insane.”
[Note: How do they get the money to go there? Bitcoins, anyone? If you read the Koran it explains how “zakats” are used to pay all expenses for volunteers for jihad, including fare coming and going from foreign countries, all equipment needed, living expenses, for as long as it takes. So just exchange them for Bitcoins (or a dozen other "internet currencies" that can’t be traced). So simple, really. See also article in The Times (UK), “ISIS lures US women with cash-for-babies promise” (subscription), at: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/americas/article4207633.ece. The article first appeared here.- DNI]