It is up to Somalis to Create a Sense of Community in Sweden and in Minnesota
By: Hussein Samatar
Somalia is going through a very rough period of time. With questions remaining on how to end the horrific civil war being waged in south and south central Somalia, the Somali-Diaspora is confused on how to settle in their new homes throughout the globe. That being said, Somalis are excelling as entrepreneurs in East Africa, the United Kingdom, and in Minnesota. Large numbers are earning advance degrees and becoming part of the labor market in Europe and Minnesota. Yet, there is still a missing sense of unity and the ability to transcend clan allegiances, which prevents many from critically adapting into their new environment and becoming full members of their new homeland.
I’ve found that most of the youth are comfortable being Swedes or Minnesotans. However, the older generation is not sure where they belong, and transfer some of that ambivalence to the youth. Although race, racism, and institutional discrimination do exist in Sweden and in Minnesota, it seems some parents tell their children that they cannot overcome these barriers. On the other hand, some parents believe their children will succeed in life, and are already succeeding no matter how high the mountain of obstacles.
Another issue difficult to address within the community is what type of Islam to practice in the Western world. Although Somalis are predominately Muslims, the Somali-Diaspora was not able to settle in large numbers within Muslim countries, because these countries did not open their doors to the community. Western countries such as Sweden and the United States have been generous enough to open their doors, but this brings a set of issues related to practicing Islam that Somalis are not able to escape.
Somalis are still learning how to live in multi-cultural and multi-religious countries and communities. The youth seem better able to accept living in a diverse community, and are getting comfortable as they gain education and participate in the labor market. However, with an ongoing civil war, new groups of individuals and families are fleeing Somalia to seek security, safety, and economic opportunity. For the larger community, the gains made by arrivals from the late 1980’s and early 90’s are shadowed by the needs of these newer groups. With that, many are not aware of the growing community of Somalis who do not need government assistance, and are busy raising their families. This happens in Sweden and also in Minnesota.
Somalis are truly a warm, generous, and hospitable community. But the civil war and self-inflecting wounds have been hard on them. The only way forward, no matter where they end up, is to work on a peaceful resolution of Somalia’s issues, and to raise their children to compete for jobs and opportunities in a very competitive world. It is my belief that the Somali community will need to clearly reject extremist views, return to their culture and tradition, and moderately practice Islam.
The future belongs to the young, and I believe if given meaningful opportunities, the youth of the Somali Diaspora will have a substantial and positive impact on their new homelands.
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