A group of Islamic and Somali organizations said Monday that an upcoming educational seminar on
Somalia organized by former Ramsey County sheriff Bob Fletcher is anti-Muslim and anti-Somali and will lead to a rise in racial and religious profiling.
The seminar Thursday called "Understanding the People of Somalia" is being put on at the Crowne
Plaza Hotel in St. Paul by the Center for Somalia History Studies, an organization founded by
Fletcher this year.
The seminar brochure says training will be provided on al-Shabaab, "an Islamic Extremist Organization" and says that topics covered will include "Clans and Sub Clans," "Black Hawk Down," "Youth Gangs," "Transition to America" and "Somali Culture."
But a message being emailed to law enforcement agencies throughout the state that might be sending
people to the seminar warns that the attendees "will receive inaccurate and biased information about
Muslims and Somalis," according to A. Lori Saroya, president of the Minnesota chapter of the Council
on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN).
The message says that two speakers at the seminar - Omar Jamal, former executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, and Abdirizak Bihi, director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center - are "unrepresentative of their community and unqualified to speak on the topics outlined in the upcoming presentation."
The message describes Jamal as "highly controversial and a convicted felon," and Bihi as having a "checkered past" and "no known educational qualifications."
A woman obtained a harassment restraining order against Bihi in 2004 after she said he stalked and
threatened her in a dispute over Somali terrorism.
This year, she praised him for his work with Somali youth.
The message also objected to the description of alShabaab as an "Islamic extremist terrorism"
organization because it "fails to distinguish between Islam and terrorism."
The message is endorsed by about 30 organizations, according to Saroya, including mosques, Islamic centers, the Muslim American
Society of Minnesota and Somali Action Alliance.
Saroya said she feared the seminar would result in "just a lot of bias and misinformation."
Fletcher, a St. Paul police watch commander, noted that aside from himself, the three other speakers at
the seminar are Somali.
"I am befuddled that three Somali persons could be perceived as anti-Somali," he said.
He said that Jamal has been a controversial figure, but that he holds an official position as a Somali
representative to the United Nations. Fletcher also said Jamal is not a convicted felon.
"That's a slanderous statement," Fletcher said. More Here