Almost 50,000 of the growing immigrant population in Minneapolis and St. Paul are Somali Muslims, who have been arriving steadily since civil war wracked their home country in 1991. The NewsHour presents a report on the Muslim community's efforts at integration.
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FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour Correspondent:
Immigration from Latin America, Asia and Africa has brought new traditions and cultures to Minneapolis and St. Paul. They were once pretty homogeneous cities, says Satveer Chaudhary. He's the son of immigrants from India and the state's first Hindu legislator.
SATVEER CHAUDHARY, Minnesota State Senator:
It used to be Swedes and Norwegians arguing over lutefisk or lefse. Now we've got Germans, Scandinavians now living in the same society as Somalis, and Hmong, and South Asians. And so these are all the growing pains of a growingly diverse society.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO:
As many as 50,000 of the new immigrants are Muslims from Somalia. Many voted for the first time in 2006, helping Keith Ellison become the nation's first Muslim member of Congress.
FARHEEN HAKIM, Activist:
I feel that the Muslim community, at least in Minnesota, has gained much more confidence than they had before. There were two Muslim candidates in 2006, and one actually won.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO:
Social worker Farheen Hakim was the other candidate. She's run for mayor of Minneapolis and for county commissioner and says Muslims must get involved with the everyday events of American citizenship. That's one reason she formed this Muslim Girl Scout troop, out on a field trip recently.
GIRL SCOUT TROOP:
On my honor, I will try to serve Allah and my country to help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout law.
One thing I hope that these girls will be able to experience is to feel that they belong somewhere. I want them to go to have a good, boring American experience, but at the same time be able to enjoy the experience for what it is, not always think to themselves that, "I'm a Muslim who's doing this. I'm a Muslim who's doing that," but, "I'm a girl who's doing this, I'm a girl who's doing that."
And, you know, I don't want them to constantly feel that they have to be different or they are different.