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Do Somali refugees in the US want to assimilate?

Posted by Ann Corcoran on April 18, 2009

Here is a story from Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) that I said I would mention days ago, but never got to (like so many other prospective posts I have in my queue!).  MPR reports on a debate between two Somali leaders in Minnesota.

An invigorating discussion on Somalis in Minnesota had a particularly interesting exchange on an assertion that is difficult to prove: Somalis aren’t interested in participating in the American culture, even as they become American citizens.

“There are many Somalis who are eager to have American papers because it facilitates American life,” Ahmed Samatar, the dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship at Macalester College in St. Paul said. “But they either have no interest or have not made the initiative to understand the deep values of American society — the value of democratic politics, the value of individual liberty, the value of equality, the value of loyalty to one’s own society. Those come through long, deep educational process (and) a generational movement.”

Ahmed Samatar cites the silence on the Somali missing youths case as evidence of where Somalis loyalties lie.   Note this post  (story also linked by MPR below) I wrote a couple of days ago where the women were silent until summoned to a grand jury. 

Ahmed Samatar said the fact nobody has come forward with information about the missing Somali young men of Minneapolis is troubling (see timeline). “If you are a citizen of a country in the deepest sense I am talking about, then you will tell the truth. You cannot just say ‘I am minding my own business and yet I want to live here in the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota,’ and not participate in trying to protect society from the things that damage its own sense of self and community.”

Other Somali leaders disagree and want proof of the assertion:

Hussein Samatar, the founder and executive director of the African Development Center in Minneapolis, disagreed.

“You betcha,” he said when MPR’s Gary Eichten asked if most Somalis here want to become U.S. citizens. “If you really believe what you just said about the Somalis not being deep enough into American values, I would ask you: Have you done studies that can show the numbers in terms of people not becoming deep? If you have them, otherwise anecdotally it’s not enough.”

No “melting” for us:

I’ve been looking for an opportunity to mention this and now seems a good time.  I read the very fawning and pro-Somali refugee book “The Somali Diaspora, A Journey Away” by Roble and Rutledge recently and found this an interesting admission. 

Americans seem to expect Somalis to assimilate….  Most Americns now think that they should be able to draw the road map of assimilation, but many Somalis have decided that they want to draw the map for themselves. Actually, most Somalis avoid the word assimilation.  Abdirashid Warsame explained his difficulty with the concept by saying, “America may be a melting pot, but I don’t want to melt.” Somalis seem to prefer the concept of participation, the notion that they can participate in U.S. culture without letting America define the meaning of their lives.

Sounds pretty selfish to me.  We will take all America will give us—food, shelter, health care, safety, freedom, etc.—but don’t expect us to learn to be Americans.  We refuse.

9 Responses to “Do Somali refugees in the US want to assimilate?”

  1. […] Yemen Fears Somali Refugees, Because uhm, Radicalism In Uncategorized on January 12, 2010 at 2:15 pm Yet the United States has brought Somali Refugees here to America.  Remember those missing Somali youths? […]


  2. Dean said

    Somailians are poisoing the US. They spunge off the US tax payer. Refuse to assimilate. Why does the US tax payer have to pay for people that hate us and everything about us. Our government should be ashambe of themselves. I have friends that are out of work. Get no benifits, nor do they want them. They just want a decent job. But our government out sources any job they can to other countries, and have job placement for these somalian animals. Wait until they blow something up. And its just a matter of time. Take a poll of US tax payers and see if the American people want them here. Im sure the vote would be a landslide to keep them out, and kick them out. They give nothing and take everything. They dont appriciate anything. They are barely human. If there country cant get there act together, why does the US tax payer have to pay for there mistakes. CAN ANYONE GIVE ME AN ANSWER TO WHY THIS IS GOING ON?


  3. […] melting here!  Somalis have said they won’t be melting […]


  4. […] get so many Somali refugees—the numbers are tellingAboutSomali gangs in Minneapolis? Open warfare?Do Somali refugees in the US want to assimilate?Washington Post’s muddled editorial on UighursYour StateKentucky becomes state number 18 where […]


  5. judyw said

    Abdi, whether you can assimilate or not depends on what kind of Islam you practice, and where your loyalties lie. If to you Islam is a religion for worshipping God (Allah), and not a total system of law and society that keeps you apart from all other Americans, then welcome to America. If you believe that Islam must rule over all the earth and that America must come to practice sharia law — then you will never assimilate, because you want to change America in basic ways.

    You can work very hard and pay lots of taxes, but that does not make you American if your loyalties lie elsewhere. If we were attacked again by Muslims, whom would you side with? Would you rejoice, or would you mourn?

    During World War I and World War II, countless Americans of German ancestry willingly fought in the American army against their former homeland. Would you fight against a Muslim country if it declared war against us?


  6. […] Do Somali refugees in the US want to assimilate? […]


  7. Abdi said

    Lets first define the word assimilation. If assimilation in your definition means being a good law abiding citizen, earning your living by working hard, paying taxes like everybody else which in turns pays for your health benefit and all other benefits then we somalis are already assimilated because we are doing all of those things I have mentioned above. By the way all what I have mentioned are universally shared values. But if by assimilation you mean we somali should convert or adapt christianity then my friend let tell you we are muslims and we shall remain muslim you like us or not.


  8. Dave said

    If Islam is the one true religion and muslims are supposed to help other muslims, why isn’t Saudi Arabia or any of the other Islam-only countries either taking them in or otherwise aiding them?


  9. […] Do Somali refugees in the US want to assimilate? […]


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