Late last month though, when a Twitter account deemed fake connected the deadly terrorist attacks in Nairobi, Kenya to Somalians living in Maine, journalists across the state began to openly speculate in their stories, blogs and columns about terrorist recruiting right here in Maine. In the process they demonized an entire community that already faces extra scrutiny from much of the public.
Sen. Angus King didn’t help mend the situation much either. Following the rise of these rumors, he released a statement saying, “It appears that a terrorist group based in Somalia has claimed responsibility for the horrendous killings this weekend in Kenya. According to news reports, this group has made attempts over the past several years to recruit from Somali refugee communities around the world, including England, Sweden, Russia and the Middle East as well as in the U.S., in Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, Arizona and Maine.” He argues that we shouldn’t just go on blaming every Somalian refugee who has come to Maine in search of a better life, because “the vast majority of whom came here specifically to avoid such violence and want nothing more than the chance to live peaceful and productive lives, as generations of refugees to our country have done before them.”
Thank you Senator King for acknowledging that not every Somalian is a terrorist. What would be more useful coming from the mouth of a man of such stature though, is an immediate dismissal of such a rumor. Does Angus King really think that a minority of Somalians in Maine wish to aid Al Shabaab and even wish to be recruited into their terrorist organization? It’s a crazy notion, to say the least. The reality is that Al Shabaab is the primary reason for much of the instability in Somalia today, and the main factor for such a influx of immigrants coming from the African country in the first place. I highly doubt that any Somalians in the United States wish to aid the very organization that has caused so much violence and is responsible for the displacement of so many people.
Thankfully, not everyone has been so quick to judge the situation in the context of Maine’s refugee community. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has worked with prominent members of the Somalian community in Maine to dispel such rumors, while some journalists around the state have now given members of the refugee community a voice to do the same through interviews and op-eds.
Somalian refugees in Maine have become a vital piece of the larger community. They have started businesses and become influential citizens in our state, just as Irish and French-Canadian immigrants did in the 19th and 20th centuries. Likening them to the terrorists who spilled blood in Nairobi is a form of paranoia that can only hurt them in the end.
Dylan Lajoie, “aka Pickles,” is a senior political science major with a concentration in international studies.