From the New York Times oped page:
Ilhan Omar: It Is Not Enough to Condemn Trump’s Racism
The nation’s ideals are under attack, and it is up to all of us to defend them.
By Ilhan Omar
Ms. Omar is a Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota.
July 25, 2019
… Last week, as President Trump watched the crowd at one of his rallies chant “Send her back,” aimed at me and my family, I was reminded of times when such fearmongering was allowed to flourish. I also couldn’t help but remember the horrors of civil war in Somalia that my family and I escaped, the America we expected to find and the one we actually experienced. …
Having survived civil war in my home country as a child, I cherish these values. In Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, I saw grade-school children as young as me holding assault rifles in the streets. I spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya, where there was no formal schooling or even running water. But my family and I persevered, fortified by our deep solidarity with one another, the compassion of others and the hope of a better life in the United States.
The America we arrived in was different from the one my grandfather had hoped to find. The land of opportunity he imagined was in fact full of challenges. People identified me in ways that were foreign to me: immigrant, black. I learned that these identities carried stigmas, and I experienced prejudice as a visibly Muslim woman.
… It was in the diverse community of Minneapolis — the very community that welcomed me home with open arms after Mr. Trump’s attacks against me last week — where I learned the true value of democracy. I started attending political caucuses with my grandfather, who cherished democracy as only someone who has experienced its absence could. I soon recognized that the only way to ensure that everyone in my community had a voice was by participating in the democratic process. …
Of course, everything about Rep. Omar’s personal and family history is murky. But here’s her own version of this story as recounted in City Pages in 2016. Her family, rather than be democratic dissidents as she implies today, appears to have been successful servants of the bloody dictatorship of Siad Barre (1969-1991).
Omar was born into a village of her own, the youngest of seven.
Her mother died when she was little. Men would shape her. Three older brothers, father Nur Omar Mohamed, and her grandfather, Abukar, especially.
Aunts and uncles worked as civil servants and educators. Omar’s father trained teachers. Theirs was a blessed life as Somalia began the transition from European colony to independence.
Her grandfather rode the winds of change to Italy, where he attended university. He returned to his East African homeland, becoming Somalia’s National Marine Transport director. Abukar oversaw the string of lighthouses along the Arabian Sea coastline.
Privilege accompanied this kind of pedigree. Books and culture were priorities inside the home, which was more like a compound, complete with domestic help. In a country where 80 percent of the population farmed and raised livestock, Omar started kindergarten at age four.
But Somalia was a fragile country. Civil strife soon threatened to swallow it.
About 12 million people occupy this land about the size of Texas. It’s overwhelmingly Muslim. Genealogy unites and divides.
Somalis belong to clans. These ethnic cliques can be about geography or marriage. Some possess age-old beliefs of superiority and consider members of sub-clans unsuitable for marriage, even friendship.
In 1991, the reign of Somali President Siad Barre imploded. The country had had enough of his Cold War-style military dictatorship. Barre was ousted, the national army disbanded. The ensuing vacuum devolved into a war among clans, turning neighbors into enemies. Omar witnessed this firsthand when she was eight years old.
Nighttime fell as about 20 people milled about the compound in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. Bad noises outside announced unwelcome visitors. Men with big guns demanded to be let in. The group tried to bust down the front door, but it was unbreakable. Omar and her family fell to the floor moments before the militiamen let go a staccato of gunfire. Once they were satisfied with the evening’s damage, the attackers left.
Everyone survived. Omar hasn’t forgotten the sight of bullet pockmarks in the building’s cinderblock walls.
Shellshock turned to grief for Omar’s grandpa.
“That was a hard realization for my grandfather, that our family was no longer welcome,” she says. “Even after the attack, he struggled with this new reality.”
Days later, they put their familiar world in the rearview mirror. They split into groups, 20 people in total fleeing. Omar’s headed for the coast where Abukar had connections. Alongside her father, she hopped a plane for Kenya.
“You go from knowing a life of certainty and joy to one where everything is uncertain,” she says. “My family chose to go to Kenya because my grandfather had contacts there.”
Successful members of the Siad Barre regime, such as Omar’s putative ancestors, did not promote democracy. Instead, the Somali government espoused a peculiar hybrid of Marxism-Leninism, Islam, and militaristic Somali nationalism. From the New York Times in 1977:
By JOHN DARNTON OCT. 11, 1977
MOGADISHU, Somalia—… The episode underscores the peculiar position of Somalia, a nation of almost four million people, the majority of them nomads, as it struggles to move into the modern world under the banners of both Islam and Marxism.
The attempt to straddle, if not to merge. the two is the most striking feature of the Government of President Mohammed Siad Barre. who took power from a corrupt and fragmented civilian regime in a bloodless coup eight years ago and has securely ruled the country since.
Under his leadership Somalia became the only non‐Arabic speaking nation to join the Arab League and also the first country in black Africa to sign a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union.
A third potent force in the country’s collective consciousness—nationalism—is expressed in the vision of a “greater Somalia” that would unite all Somalia speaking peoples spread through three other countries in the Horn of Africa.
President Siad Barre has often insisted that Marx and Mohammed are not only compatible but also complimentary, that the religious asceticism of Islam can combine with the concept of mass discipline inherent in “scientific socialism” to forge a strong national will and lift the country from the ranks of the 25 poorest nations.
… “There is no chapter, not even a single word, in our Koran that opposes scientific socialism. We say, ‘Where is the contradiction? The contradiction was created by man only.’”
To the outside parties closely involved in the developments on the Horn of Africa, however, the contradiction, in geopolitical terms, seems real indeed.
Saudi Arabia, the main source of money among conservative Arab nations contesting Soviet influence along the Red Sea, is exerting pressure upon Mogadishu to break its ties with Moscow, playing upon Arab solidarity.
The Soviet Union, at the same time, is trying to persuade Somalia to curb its nationalism in the interests of international Marxist brotherhood. …
Shortly thereafter, Somalia invaded Ethiopia, a fellow Communist country and ally of the Soviet Union. In response to Somali aggression against another Moscow client state, the Soviets cut off aid to Somalia and backed Ethiopia, which defeated Somalia. Rep. Omar’s family’s regime survived another dozen years, but had to be increasingly genocidal to hang on to power until 1991.
In Somalia, where there were only four factories at independence in 1960, scientific socialism is laboring to take root in a pre‐industrial society. It has meant mostly the mobilization of collective labor to build Chinese — style “self — help”
Many of these projects are impressive, ranging from street‐cleaning brigades that have made Mogadishu one of the cleanest cities in Africa
Uh-oh, being against littering seems kind of racist in the Current Year.
Several years ago the Government tried to restrict the chewing of khat, the narcotic weed whose daily consumption eats up the income of most Somali wage‐earners. The effort failed, because khat is so much a part of daily life. …
“Somalia is a country of three M’s: Marx, Mohammed and the Mad Mullah,” a Western diplomat said, using the British nickname for Sayid Mahammed Abdulla Hassan, the Somali nationalist leader of half a century ago. “I leave it to you to decide which ‘M’ is the most powerful.”