National Security

Dem Rep: Would-Be Somali-American Terrorists Should Not Be Detained Ahead of Trial

Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. Keith Ellison / AP

Muslim leaders in Minnesota, including Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, argue that the best way to discourage Somali-Americans caught trying to join the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) from embracing radical Islam is to allow them to remain in their communities while awaiting trial.

The New York Times reported that U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis on Wednesday ordered that three young men accused of trying to travel to Syria and join IS be detained while they await trial.

However, Muslim leaders in Minnesota — which has become a hot recruitment spot for terrorists — insist that young would-be IS terrorists like these should instead be allowed to return to their communities and engage in activities such as coaching youth basketball and helping immigrants fill out job applications.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), himself a Muslim, spoke in favor of such a design.

"If you integrate them back into their family relationships and you have responsible faith leaders, then that’s going to be the check on them that they need," Ellison explained. "There’s going to be people watching them, encouraging them."

The three individuals in question face federal charges of conspiracy and attempting to give material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, crimes that could get them decades in prison. Having pleaded not guilty, the individuals will return to court in September.

According to a February  NPR report, authorities said 12 individuals with connections to the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area had traveled to Syria since 2013, while about a dozen additional people had attempted to travel to the Middle East or were planning to do so. 

In April, six young men from the Minneapolis Somali community were apprehended by federal authorities for trying to join IS.