She's 19, a college sophomore and a product of the Twin Cities suburbs. He's 45, a father of four with boyhood memories of swimming in the cool ocean waters off the beaches of Mogadishu.Lengthy article, well worth the read
Reserved and religious, she favors a long, billowing hijab and is known to many as "the mosque girl." Outgoing and outspoken, he prefers blue jeans and sneakers and debating politics with friends at his favorite Starbucks.
In many ways, Fartun Ahmed and Abdirizak Bihi are worlds apart.
But amid an extremist fervor expanding globally and inspiring some young Muslims to become warriors for jihad, the two local Somalis now share a common passion and purpose.
Working at all hours, they are waging their own personal jihad, hoping to win the hearts and minds of Somali teens being tempted to embrace a radical ideology that for many is only a keystroke or YouTube clip away.
"They want to steal our youth," Bihi says.[...]The Augsburg College gymnasium is filling up fast as Abdirizak Bihi and a half-dozen boys from the Halgan soccer team take their seats.
For the past month, Bihi has watched them compete in an indoor league and helped them knock on doors at Somali businesses to raise money for a tournament. Along the way, he has gently but firmly reminded them of the dangers of extremism and how Al-Shabaab stole his nephew.
He has told them of the "unbearable" heartache his sister has endured in the months since losing her son, and of the lost potential of the other local Somalis recruited by Al-Shabaab.
He has spoken, too, of his most haunting memory: seeing one grieving mother hopelessly search her house, room by room, looking for her boy after discovering a photograph of his bloody corpse on the Internet. Her son had been killed in Mogadishu that morning.
"That is a trauma," Bihi says, "that I will never, ever forget."
Now, on this Saturday in early March, it's time for the boys to see and feel for themselves.
Filmmaker Eric Howell introduces "Ana's Playground," a short film shot in Cedar-Riverside in November 2008 that shows how children are indoctrinated into war