Son, I'm Turning You In

Northwest Somalis struggle to deal with would-be jihadists in their midst.

Friday night's arrest of Portland's would-be bomber Mohamed Osman Mohamud raised fears once again of the threat posed by radicalized Somali immigrants. But some believe the case sets a positive example in one respect: Mohamud's parents may have turned in their own son. That what's a former neighbor of Mohamud tells Seattle Weekly. The neighbor, who now lives in Seattle and declines to be identified, says he was a friend of Mohamud's mother, a U.S. Postal Service worker named Mariam Barre. The neighbor says Barre confided to him about her long-running efforts to control her son, who at one point had threatened to blow up his high school. After Mohamud went away to Oregon State University in Corvallis, Barre would call him daily and drive down to take him home over long weekends, according to the neighbor. She refused to give him money to go with friends to Los Angeles during a school break, fearing he would get into trouble. Mohamud's parents were so concerned that they eventually contacted law enforcement, the neighbor says. (The Barres could not be reached for comment.) The neighbor wants the parents' efforts known because he believes that might help stem any hostility toward Somalis provoked by the attempted bombing. Others don't see a need for any apologies, particularly given the way the FBI acted on the information it got. Rather than steering Mohamud away from dangerous activities, the agency goaded him on, as many observers have noted. Undercover agents set up Mohamud with the fake bomb, and then arrested him. Still, Northwest Somali leaders don't seem to have come up with their own plan for dealing with troubled youth tempted by jihad movements—a problem we reported on in a feature story last year ("A Mystery of Violence," Dec. 16, 2009). A flurry of community meetings followed the arrest of some 20 young men allegedly involved in terrorism back in Somalia, including Seattleite Abdifatah Yusuf Isse. According to Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the state branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who participated in the meetings, leaders talked about the need to engage youth in positive activities, but nothing concrete emerged.

 
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