Minnesota Experiment: Can Somali Teens Be Diverted From Terrorism?


Abdullahi Yusuf and Ahmed Amin find their paths intertwined, drawn into an intensifying global terrorism fight through an unusual new experiment to see if radicalized Somali-American youths can be talked off the path of violence and extremism, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. They have known each other barely a month, but their lives are linked by a shared story: the struggle to find a new identity in a new land. Yusuf is a quiet, lanky Somali-American teen from Minneapolis, arrested by the FBI last fall and accused of trying to join a brutal terrorist group in the Middle East.

Amin is a Somali-American schoolteacher who came to the U.S. when he was 12 without a hint of English on his tongue. He teaches historyin Minneapolis, where he's the coach of a scrappy debate team and an eloquent instructor who shows his students the power of words to change minds. Amin and a team of religious scholars and teachers pulled together by Heartland Democracy, a nonprofit serving at-risk youths, have been assigned by a federal judge to mentor Yusuf, an 18-year-old who, like the six young men arrested on conspiracy charges last week, stands accused of trying to leave the U.S. to be a terrorist. U.S. District Chief Judge Michael Davis diverted Yusuf to the Heartland project in what is thought to be a first for the federal court system in a terror case.

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