By Safia Farole

There they stood – a group of Somali men, some in their late-twenties and others in middle-age, congregated around the coffee shop located on the corner of the plaza, on a Friday afternoon. It was a typical rainy day in Seattle as I was driving down to the local Somali shopping mall, and the sight of these men was all too typical. Around several major cities in the US and Canada, where Somali immigrants live in large numbers, there is this phenomenon of “Starbucks Dads” (SD) – Somali fathers who gather at coffee shops, including but not limited to Starbucks, talking idly for hours on end. To clarify my position, in no way is this column meant to denigrate Somalis or Somali men, nor is it meant to cause fitnah. This phenomenon is a symptom of the disease that hampers our progress as a multi-ethnic Muslim community in the West. To approach this topic, we should first examine what factors motivate these men to engage in this activity. What are the social repercussions as a result? How does the immigrant Somalia experience parallel that of disadvantaged minorities in America? What is the role of the father in Islam? What did the Prophet (SAW) teach us about wasting time? And finally, what are the level of responsibilities necessary to addressing and fixing this social problem?

As an ethnic group in Diaspora, many Somali families have fled the civil war that erupted in Somali in 1991. Similar to many immigrants, a lot of Somalis have strong ties to families that may still be back home – one reason why money transfer businesses are a staple of Somali shopping centers. As an ethnic group, the integration of Somali families into Western societies has not always been smooth. A major reason for this is because Somalis are relatively recent immigrants to Western states, compared to other communities such as the Arabs and Pakistanis, who began immigrating to the West decades earlier. Thus, since the 90's, many first generation Somali Americans are just now in the prime of their youth. The obvious impact of this is that Somalis have not had as much time to take advantage of educational opportunities and white-collar careers that come with being a long established immigrant community. Added to this delicate balancing act is the strong tribal affiliation that is present in Somali culture. In terms of the SD phenomenon, you may ask, how is the cultural baggage of Somalis contributing to this occurrence? I have been told by male relatives who were witness to these gatherings that a lot of times the discussion of clan politics is ever present. Back home, as the patriarch in the family, fathers gained a strong sense of identity from clan relations. With government corruption running rampant in Somalia, often times, clan relations made the difference between a good lifestyle or a bad one. Because these gatherings are often times marked by tribal affiliation, they allow Somali fathers the opportunity to recreate the reality they had left behind, all the while blocking out the frustrations of adjusting to a different society. These frustrations may stem from the realities faced by many immigrants. The father, who may have occupied a middle-class job back home, in the US, is forced to take up a labor skilled job because his work credentials from Somalia don't match up to those found here. Thus, in major metropolitan areas, it's common to see many Somali men who are taxi drivers. Frustrated with dismal job prospects and changing family dynamics, these Somali fathers attempt to retain a semblance of old tribal order by meeting up with other like-minded Somalis, to vent over clan politics from back home. But the obvious question becomes, with all of these dads hanging around, what about the children?

According to the Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services, one of the factors that may complicate social adjustment for Somali youth is “family conflict due to cultural adjustment, in addition to other family stressors [which] has…led to homelessness or gang involvement” among this age group. This report cites a recent study of Somali youth in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, which “identified three distinct Somali youth gangs in the Twin cities area, two of which were engaged in crime and violence” and “noted that only 1% of gangs in the Twin Cities are comprised of Somali youth.” Now, that 1% may seem insignificant, but imagine the effect that gang members have on other children in the family, who may one day decide to pick up the gun themselves. But, how did we get to this point? While SD's are sitting in cafes, the children are bereft of a father figure. And who fills that vacuum? It may be the drug dealer on the corner of the street or the gun-toting hustler on the basketball court. Not only do fatherless homes have a devastating effect on youth in general, but it should be observed that the plight of Somali-American youth is strikingly similar to that of black American youth.

Although this article is not an in-depth sociological exploration of this phenomenon, one of the repercussions of SD is that the children of those fathers end up hanging out with the wrong crowd. Often times, when you look at who these Somali youth are imitating, it is the stereotypical black “ghetto” male or female. If these youth came to the West as children, and if they're coming from a fatherless household, they are left to finding another source of guidance. Given that many Somalis are relocated to “ghetto” like government housing projects, they are more likely to be around the “ghetto lifestyle.” Thus, they begin to imitate the gangster lifestyle – listening to rap music, talking and dressing like rap moguls. Although this is an anecdotal claim, there is evidence in the psychological literature that children are prone to imitating their friends. A fatherless home does nothing but compound this easily influenced population. As a means to ameliorate this social problem, some may suggest that Somali immigrants be relocated to the suburbs, that way they may imitate middle-class, oftentimes “white” children. But the truth of the matter is, the way to fix this problem is not a change of venue, rather we can find the medicine to this social ill grounded in the tradition of the Prophet (SAW).

It is a well known basic fact to all Muslims that the Prophet (SAW) is the best example sent to mankind. This is repeated at almost every Islamic conference we attend – rightly so. But, as with everything in life, we have to walk the talk. For us, as human beings struggling with daily life, one of the most critical roles of the Prophet (SAW) was his fatherly role. Anas ibn Malik, who was the Prophet's servant for 10 continuous years, stated, “I have never seen a man who was more compassionate to his family members than Muhammad.” (Muslim) Countless Hadith have produced for us the image of a Prophet who treated his children equally, and most importantly, was there to give them advice in the affairs of daily life. One example is found in Ibn Hambal and Muslim when one of the Prophet's male grandchildren wanted to eat a date that had been given to him to be distributed as alms. The Prophet immediately took it from him and stated, “Anything given as alms is forbidden to us.” He didn't destroy the boy by rebuking him or changing his demeanor, he instructed him politely in a manner that contributed to the righteous upbringing of these grandchildren. If SD are not around enough to ingrain these small, yet significant principles in their children, who do we expect they will learn morals from? The Messenger's example of fatherhood is one that should not be trivialized, but when it is not being imitated in Muslim households, the effects can be pronounced – it can make or break a Muslim's life course.

At the crux of this issue is the concept of time. What is happening when fathers are idly chatting up their buddies in cafeshops? They are wasting time. And with the reality of the life of this world jumping out at you in countless Quranic ayat, that is not something the Muslim can afford. In one of shortest Surahs in the Qur'an, Al-asr, Allah clearly states “By the time, Verily! Man is in loss.” Wasting time on non-beneficial activity will certainly decrease one's iman, but it will also drive you further from Allah's mercy. As a caveat, in Islam there is nothing wrong with a man occasionally hanging out with buddies and socializing with them, in fact socialization is a critical facet of a healthy human lifestyle. But, when a healthy activity reaches an extreme, it is bound to have an effect on one's worship. Another blog topic can be spent on just extrapolating meaning from this short Surah and the many Hadith that speak about using time well. For a good lecture on the dangers of wasting time check out Wasting Time by Nouman Ali Khan. But in terms of understanding the SD phenomenon, it is important to know that not only does this problem affect the family unit, it also weakens the relationship between the Creator and a servant. Now, what can we all do as Muslims to address this issue?

It can't be stressed enough that this problem is wide reaching, and it is not only limited to the Somali community. Concurrently, this social problem may not necessarily be widespread in the Somali community, but anecdotal observations warrant that we bring this issue to the fore. So how do we go about tackling this issue? As with many other social problems, there are levels of responsibility in how to address this problem. In no way are these proposed solutions exhaustive, but they are a foot-in-the-door.

Firstly, at the masjid level, imam's should be the first line of defense in bringing this issue to light. As the weekly congregation prescribed by Allah, the khutbah can be used to pinpoint the social ills of the community, within the framework of proper naseeha of course (i.e not pointing fingers to individuals or to a specific community). These khutbahs should be dedicated to explaining the role of the father in bringing up a healthy household. Besides the khutbah, imam's and masjid boards can take action on this issue by creating Father/Son or Father/Daughter activity days, which can create a structure that encourages family cohesion. At the second level of social responsibility is the mother. There are a myriad of solutions that Muslim moms can engage in to preserve their children, but if these moms find themselves running a household singlehandedly, most critically, they should create or maintain a strong connection with the local Muslim community. This assumes that there is an activity Muslim community nearby, but a lot of times this is not the case. Regardless, bringing children up with a masjid-centered outlook can have profound effects on their lives as Muslims. And finally, the last level of responsibility in addressing the SD phenomenon is the community level. A lot of times we Muslims enter the masjid and we may walk out after prayer without saying nothing more than salam to those around us. And a lot of times, our social circles are limited to those of our own skin color. Just reaching out to Muslims of other ethnicities can create strong bonds of trust in our communities. Give it a try the next time you go to the masjid: sit next to someone of a different ethnicity/race other than yours, strike up a conversation with them and perhaps even exchange contact info with them. Call them up to go out for lunch or dinner, or invite them to your house for socialization. Make an effort to sit next to them at the next AlMaghrib course – if there is one in your city. Just as children like to imitate their friends, grown-ups are not immune to this either. If some family-oriented brother reaches out to a Starbucks Dad and demonstrates how he engages with his children, imagine the self-introspection that could take place. As with every social problem, we can all contribute to eradicating it – the SD phenomenon is no exception.

References:

Fatherhood Institute. Parenting training for Somali Fathers.

Bridging Refugee Youth & Children's Services. Strengths-Based Programming: The Example of Somali Refugee Youth.

IslamOnline.net. The Prophet: The Ideal Father and Grandfather.

73 Responses

  1. Amatullah

    +100 mashaAllah. Jazaki Allahu khayran Ukhti. I’m really happy something was written about this phenomenon in the Somali community.

    In Canada, you find this at Tim Hortons….There’s an inside joke amongst some of the youth, they call them the “Somali Congress”.

    Somali mothers are the backbone of the somali community, mashaAllah. I know many sisters whose mothers will work as janitors, and other jobs we think are “unpleasant” so they can feed their children and pay for their college education. The sad part is though many of these children, especially the young men, need a male figure in the house and as the article said, they get involved with the wrong crowd.

    The Arab and Desi communities have been in the US and Canada for much longer than the Somali community, so I hope and pray that in the next 20 yrs, the Somali community tremendously improves bi’ithnillah.

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    • Nahyan

      It was the first thing I thought, @Starbucks?

      Tim Horton’s the hub down here (Toronto,Canada)…

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    • Yus from the Nati

      It would be interesting to correlate the Somali community to the Habesha communities that arrived a couple years before the Somalis (due to Eritrean/Ethiopian wars). We could look to them as an example, and take note of the mistakes, and advances they have made to help the future.

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  2. UmmSqueakster

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    There are 2 related problems that also have to be addressed. In many of these families, there aren’t fathers period. It’s a single mother struggling to raise her children while putting food on the table.

    Second, women in the refugee camps in Kenya will sometimes give their children to people who are coming to the US as refugees. Once those children arrive, they can be abandoned or left to their own devises. I know that happens here in the Twin Cities, and now we see the results – http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/03/10/sewardsuspect-age/

    So in addition to manning up and taking care of their own children, men in our community (of all ethnic backgrounds) need to step up and provide positive, prophetic male role models for all children. Why not join Big Brother/Big Sister? Or, start something like that in our own communities.

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  3. Abs

    Concerning the ghetto/gangster mentality, I don’t think this is specifically a Somali problem, I think black kids from everywhere are finding it a cool role to play, being influenced by Rap music and all that.
    Of course others are too, but being black makes it easier to “play the role”, I suppose.

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    • another white brother

      Just stop it with the racial generalizations please. I can think of plenty of betas and habibis who fit this model, as well as many of my fellow white muslims. I would argue that this “ghetto/gangster mentality”, in many ways, is a better model for muslim men to be (in light of Quran and Sunnah of course) that the overly-intellectual, liberal model.

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      • Amal

        Whatever. Gangsters as role models. A FINE idea. What could be wrong with that? I mean aside from modeling criminality as a way of life and that “gangstas” and “thugs” are more often sperm donors than fathers.

        Editor: No name calling.

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      • Amal

        It wasn’t an insulting name, it was a person’s name.

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      • NAS

        As Salamu Alaikum,

        Obviously many other children from different nationalities can fall into the category of replicating “gangsters.” The main issue here is there is an overwhelming number of Somali children who are copying gangsters. This is a real issue in the Somali community. It is not as big of an issue in other communities. In fact, in San Diego, the police department has stated that the individuals most involved in gang activity are Somali.

        A real issue, let’s focus on it, not everything is racism, some things are based on fact. If we keep claiming the problem is racism, that in itself will not solve the problem. Let’s think of a solution, and I think this article does exactly that.

        Jazakum Allahu Khayer

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      • farhad

        im amazed that you claim ghetto/gangster is in anyway close to our sunnah. It’s the nafs with no restriction. Irresponsible men that function on their emotion and without any thought. The liberal, and the lowlife thug should not be compared to the sunnah.

        The hip-hop view of masculinity is a POISON in our community and we need to SMASH that viewpoint, regardless of your race.

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      • another white brother

        I’ll say this, in England when the EDL/BNP came to masaajid after juma’ prayers to harass and attack, it wasn’t the liberal thinkers who were stomping them out and protecting the uncles and aunties. It was the “jaahil ghetto thugs”.

        They have issues, I am not even defending those issues. But they have `izza and know how to act in a masculine manner and thats a start.

        I dare say the best maasjid I’ve ever been to have been in the middle of ghettos, where the “gangster brothers” are patrolling the streets to keep the najas from the masjid. Example: Masjid ul Haqq in Baltimore.

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      • MuslimahCA

        These “gangster boys” need our dua’s. I think we are overgeneralizing this. If you say they have izzah and show masculine mannerism, its a start for sure and its more than I can say for our masjid brothers.

        We do homeless feedings in Oakland, California. Its natural for the African American Muslim community there to take on that hip hop thug lovin hardness (if that makes any sense lol). I see these 12-15 year old brothers strolling around this little masjid after they prayed salah wearing black on black and a bandanna wrapped around their forwards that says la ilah ilal lah.

        They may walk with a little limp but I see them as soldiers of Islam in North America.

        P.S Br. Nas, I have had some friends go down to SD last year, they have never heard someone call them the “N” up here in NorCal but it was being thrown at the left and right down there. I dont know how the climate is over there, but if the community doesnt have after school programs and opportunities to hold after school jobs. The somali teens will be running around the streets till the community finds something for them to do.

        May Allah save us from ourselves and the whispers of shaytan against each other.

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      • Amatullah

        SubhanAllah, the Baltimore and DC Muslim communities always amaze me. I love them and pray Allah blesses them.

        There is so much generalization surrounding these brothers and sisters, coming from their own Muslim brethren (how pathetic!), but I have no doubt saying that they are probably the best Muslims I’ve ever met…in terms of loving the deen, sharing it with others and the respect they have for everyone – not just their ‘own’ but all Muslims. I feel more welcome in their communities than a lot of other places. SubhanAllah it’s always the people who are considered the lowest and degraded in society who are the most kind. Even the non-Muslims and devout Christians know about Islam because of they LIVE it. Imam Siraj totally cleaned up his neighborhood and everyone knows, the Muslims are the ones who got the drugs out of here…Yet we have the audacity to call them “low life” Muslims?

        Working with Muslim inmates (majority were African American, a sprinkling of white americans and hispanic americans), I’ve come to realize (and also heard from them) that they are usually the ones who love Islam the most because of how difficult their lives were before. It was also really sad hearing the things that Muslims would say about them…”I don’t want to work with them, he’ll rob me!”, “He probably has a gun!!”, “What if he tries to touch me!”…Audhubillah wa la hawla wa la quwwata ila billah. What good is Islam if we are still jahils.

        “Gangster boys” are nothing new to our Deen and it is not some phenomenon that is happening in the west…Read the biographies of some of the Companions and Salaf….Fudayl ibn Iyyadh was like, the scariest thief in town, Abu Dharr al Ghifari radi Allahu anhu came from a tribe that was only known for robbing people, Sufyan ath-Thawri as well…..But look at what they became and how Allah raised their ranks with Islam.

        Some of our best teachers and leaders are straight from these communities…Imam Siraj, Imam Suhaib Webb, Abu Eesa Niamatullah…I wonder what we would have thought about them if we passed by them 10 yrs ago! We need to humble ourselves, for all you know, this ‘low life’ can be better and more beloved in the sight of Allah than you. Stop generalizing people and labeling them with these horrible names, look to the good they are doing instead of how low their pants are or how they talk.

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      • Amal

        @ Amatullah–“”I don’t want to work with them, he’ll rob me!”, “He probably has a gun!!”,”
        Perhaps this was based on their past experiences in dealing with Muslims who wish to retain their “manly” thug culture. Robberies, shootings and other assorted criminal activity that goes on where I’m from is far too often committed by Muslims. Is it any wonder then that other Muslims are hesitant whenever they see someone exuding the same ridiculous gangsta wannabe vibe? Should they stick around to ask whether the Muslim in question is a good thug or a bad thug, or just wait to see whether they get robbed or not?

        @another white brother–your identity issues seem to blind you to the fact that what you’re defending is indefensible and un-Islamic. Allah Yahdikh.

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      • Amatullah

        Should they stick around to ask whether the Muslim in question is a good thug or a bad thug, or just wait to see whether they get robbed or not?

        You just proved my point. Sad. Even though this is an experiment, you may learn a thing or two about making assumptions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLqLPWm-3EQ

        O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. (49:12)

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      • Amal

        “you may learn a thing or two about making assumptions”

        Making assumptions is a bit different to making cautious decisions based on experience. When Muslim thugs go about robbing and beating people and other Muslims who *don’t* engage in that sort of behavior dress and behave like the ones who do, it’s disingenuous to say that one should NOT tread carefully in their dealings with ALL who wish to exude the “thug” persona.

        Getting defensive and insinuating that disapproving of “gangsta” culture is somehow racist does nothing to address the problem of “Muslim thugs.” Bury your head in the sand if you will, but some of us wish to name the problem.

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      • another white brother

        Akhi, I know who I am, alhamdulillah.

        Thats a common phrase around here “burying your head in the sand”. Stop and think, we don’t raise these issues from nowhere. You are criticizing someone for dressing and speaking like they are products of their environments. I’ll let that little snide remark about Muslim thugs pillaging slide as well, even though it is offensive to *our* brothers.

        I have see many communities where the “thug” brothers are marginalized by the immigrant communities. Case in point: a brother from my home town, an older brother in his 60s had the masjid lock changed on him by the doctor, engineer, and lawyer immigrants. Why? Allahu `alam but we all know how much social/economic/academic standing counts amongst certain groups.

        We constantly talk about establishing a “muslim culture” here in America. I personally think there is 1400 years of muslim culture that already exists but lets put that aside right now. If you want a muslim American culture, then perhaps you should look to the muslims who were here when you all arrived, and not looking to have some grand mixture of imported back home cultures and white liberal culture.

        May Allah bless the “thug brothers” from Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) to Abdullah from southeast DC who is selling attar in the metro rather than slinging on the streets.

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      • Amal

        @ Another–
        I see you don’t have an argument here, again, only defensive responses born of your identity issues (why do you wish so desperately to stop being white? And why so insecure in your masculinity? You never leave those two topics, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself *why?*).

        “I’ll let that little snide remark about Muslim thugs pillaging slide as well, even though it is offensive to *our* brothers.”
        Oh my, thanks for “letting it slide.” I was worried. As for it being a snide remark, it’s the truth. Groups of thugs who call themselves Muslim regularly mug people, break into houses, and strip cars. In two cases, the same three “Muslim thugs” robbed a gas station owned by a fellow Muslim (one of the much-hated Arab Muslims who you enjoy taking your pot shots at). So in what way is that a “snide remark”? These hoodlums go to the masjid, then fight each other outside before embarking on various illegal activities, including robbing OF OTHER MUSLIMS (even though their excuse when confronted is that ‘it don’t matter cuz we only take from the Kuffar’).

        As for YOUR snide remark, “look to the muslims who were here when you all arrived.” Who is “you all”? You can’t be addressing me, I was born here, as were my parents and grandparents and so on. I’m just as American as you, pal. And by the way, that’s akhti, not akhi (and why wouldn’t you just say “brother” or “sister,” why borrow from the language of a people you detest when it’s not a specifically Islamic word you’re looking for?). Perhaps you don’t wish to see that the mistrust and hate works both ways, that new immigrants are often bullied and harassed by American Muslims because of the usual dislike of an established minority for a new minority.

        In closing, examine your motives and may Allah forgive you for comparing Omar (ra) to the criminal hoodlums we’re talking about here.

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      • another white brother

        Amal. You missed the boat completely brother. Nobody is trying to not be white or whatever. Lets just put it this way: when I took shahadah and hung around the muslims of all flavors, my eyes got ripped wide open. Theres a joke amongst whte muslims: “I’m not muslim because I’m white and I’m not white because I’m a muslim.” Think about it.

        White liberal culture is the antithesis of Islam and I wish more muslims would realize this.

        Enjoy your dunya in the suburbs, casting aspersions on the muslims in the hood. I would suggest you check YOUR motives and see why you think certain groups of muslims are inherently criminals. I invite you to go to Masjid al Haqq in Baltimore, Masjid al Islam in DC, Masjid at Taqwa in Brooklyn, etc and see these brothers.

        I won’t get into any more of this, neither of us needs to get any sins from this.

        I’ll make dua for you ukhti (sorry about confusing you with a man). You need it. I also forgive you for the ill manner in which you spoke to me and the faults you assumed in me.

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      • another white brother

        I would like to also add that Islam in america won’t go anywhere if you all think that white folks have identity issues when they come to Islam and that inner city types and prison converts are hoodlums that deserve our contempt.

        For me: I wish for my people to come to Islam as your people did. By marginalizing us in the manner I see here, wallahi its frustrating.

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  4. Umm Khadija

    Unfortunately i’ve witnessed this phenomenon way too many times both in the US and in England aswell.
    However, being a non-Somali i had the privilege of working with many Somali families in a charter school in MN. They were all without exception incredibly kind and welcoming. Also, to their credit, they have been able to establish two Somali malls in the area despite being of the lower income groups and their tribal differences, (the pakistanis ofcourse do not have one). Ofcourse the problem remains that it is the women who “man” the shops while the men hang out in the cafes. Another amazing thing i found in their community was the afternoon Quran classes almost daily that all the kids attended and Mashallah memorized many ajza.

    I would like to mention one Somali father whose daughter was in my class. He was an exception to this problem. He told me the first day of school that he made a decision to better the quality of life for his family through education. The brother drove a taxi for over 12 hours a day and then took classes himself in the evening. He said he would be home when his kids returned from school so he could do homework etc with them. Needless to say his kids were top of their class. Alhamdulilah we do have brothers like him inshallah they can be role models to others.

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  5. Medina

    Assalamu alaikum,

    This article was amazing. We have the exact same problem in Canada. One point in the article was that the fathers are now forced to do a laborious job. Back home they were used to the easy life so suddenly being forced to work hours in less-than-pleasant situations can make a person bitter. However, I think they should remember why they are here-to give their kids a better future. I would also like to applaud the Somali mothers. They are (in my eyes) the most strongest women today. They’ll sacrifice over and over again to get their kids a better education and a better future. May Allah bless these women for all their hard work.

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  6. MuslimahCA

    Excellent article Sofia! MashaAllah it was amazing.

    You mentioned that people are saying that the somali community should be moved to the suburbs so they can imitate the “white” children. Living in a California suburb it seems like we may have less SD’s but it is not solving the Somali family crisis of having no father in the household and the issues that it brings.

    Unfortunately, I blame the welfare system for this problem and so should every other ethnic group that has gotten stuck in it like the African American community. I know many families that seem like they have a part time job of cheating the system and sending their husbands/fathers out of the house for a short period of time.

    Working with many different African American orgs, I have noticed that its a trend for the women to get rid of their husbands so they can receive government aid. The same goes for the somali community, speaking on behalf of my city, many families with 6-7 children and even level have become a welfare slave and see no point in earning less than what the welfare system is giving them. Walahi its a system created to hold the minorities back.

    Thats why they are chillin outside timmys and Starbucks. They have been degraded to sipping coffee and talking about tribes.

    Alhamdulilah my family hit the pavement running and found jobs to sustain our family. It tells the children that they have to work hard in life to succeed and having your hand out for the rest of your life is not right.

    If I didnt know any better, i would think the Welfare system is created to keep the fathers out, esp. black men who’s role in the family is needed in order to keep the family together and successful.

    Thats why Somali men are falling through the cracks and becoming “thugs” and not family cornerstones and community leaders.

    May Allah guide us in our lives and show us a right path and make it easier for us to attain a living in this dunya and help us create strong family bonds..

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    • Yus from the Nati

      I would agree and was about to say the same regarding the welfare system.

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    • Umm-Ayoub

      So true, the welfare system was created to cripple the black community. The problems is that not many of us see it like that. I hope in the future though that there will be an article written about the wonderful things Somali Communities are doing in living the America dream because there are young men and women who are doing their best in breaking this SD syndrome by going to school and bettering their lives.

      As for being good Muslims what good did the Muslim communities or organizations that have been here before the Somalis do for Somalis. For most part these first comers try and not have anything to do with the Somali Community in many ways discriminating them.

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  7. Abdus-Sabur

    I live in Maine, which is primarily a “white” state with very little ethnic diversity, with the exception of college campuses. In Lewiston, a town that was nearly on the brink of collapse due to mills closing found it revitalized due specifically to the immigration of the Somali population. I heard that initially there was a lot of opposition by the “locals” because they were afraid that they would lose jobs (which there were few to be lost to begin with) and that the immigrant population would be on welfare. Neither of which was the case. There is now many Somali owned businesses and a masjid (1 of 4 in the state, the latest one just completed in Orono at the University of Maine …visit http://www.theicmo.com). I am not certain if there is a Tim Horton’s in Lewiston but I’m certain there is a Dunkin’ Donuts. When I visit there I will see if that phenomena is occurring there as well. As far as I know, the Somali population has been nothing but a benefit to an otherwise destitute town in rural Maine. I have read there are a few problems with the children being involved in some form of criminal activity but I think that is just par for the course in rural areas where there is, literally, nothing for the kids to do.

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  8. Sayf

    I commend the author for a well-written piece that is tackling a very important issue. However I would argue that the lack of a strong male role model is the effect, and not the cause of a much bigger problem. Here in Toronto, I witness the exact same phenomenon of chaotic youth in the Afghan community, as well as other minorities such as Arabs, Desis and Somalis, regardless if the fathers are working lower end jobs or higher end, around for their kids or not.

    The other finger pointing is being directed at the rap/hip-hop culture, which is said to be calling to drugs and gangs. That too, from my personal experience, is the effect and not the cause. In the world of Afghan youth, you see both the hip-hop gangsters/clubbers/druggies and the gino gangsters/clubbers/druggies, a lot of times you get a mixture of both, Gotti style (ah, so many spikey haired Afghans).

    So what is the actual cause? It’s simple, Islam was put on the bookshelf.
    Even though most of these immigrant families identify themselves as Muslim, respect Islam, maybe go to Friday prayers and fast in Ramadan, there are massive voids in the hearts. It’s very, very rare to find an entire Muslim family praying five times a day. Islam is almost like a Sunday church thing, something that you were taught to do, a part of the identity, but not actually the complete way of life and source of ultimate truth it was meant to be.

    You could write entire articles of little interesting phenomenon in our cultures that give massive insight into our relationship with Islam. An interesting litmus test is to ask all the brothers who decided to grow beards who they faced the most resistance from. Chances are most will say it was from their immediate family or close relatives.

    The only reason we’re the best Ummah is because of Islam. Without Islam, we will always have the problems of a crippled society. What do you call a nation that has the best resource in the universe and throws it away?

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  9. Ibrahim Soudy

    Salam,

    I hope that ALL Muslims realize that there is a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Campign against Corporations that do business with the Zionist Occupiers of Historic Palestine. Starbucks, Pepsi, Motorolla are among those Corporations. It is so sad that Muslims are helping corporations that are helping the oppressors of fellow Muslims!! Salam.

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    • Ify Okoye

      Sh. Yasir Qadhi put the smackdown on someone who tried to make this weak argument this past weekend in class, I’m currently busy, just taking a break from a paper I’m writing that’s due tomorrow morning at 7:30am, but could recap, if time permits, in sha Allah.

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      • Sidiq

        Assalamu alaykum,

        We know that sh. Yasir Qadhi did debunk this argument, but it is good to have the courtesy to respond to a greeting of ‘salam’ with a similar or better greeting. This helps in fostering the spirit of brotherhood between muslims even if their views are not accurate.

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      • Ify Okoye

        Wa salaam alaykum brothers, the omission of the salam was a simple oversight.

        What also helps to foster true communal feelings is to not try to make our stances on an issue a cause to look down upon other Muslims that may disagree such as if often the case in a number of issues including this boycott issue.

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      • sabirah

        salam sister! you forgot “asthaghfirullah!!” *wink*

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    • Abdus-Sabur

      Walaikum as salam wa rahmatullah,

      Perhaps I’m missing something. I do read a lot of news and try to remain very current on issues. The Zionist occupation of the Palestinians, from my observation, seems to one of nationalism, not Islam. I have always felt this way about it and truly believe that as long as nationalism is the top priority the occupation will continue. Once the nationalism is dropped and Islam is the priority, then and only then, will things change. Am I incorrect in my observation? Please illuminate my ignorance on this subject.

      If you wish to avoid Zionist influences one would have to move out into the wilderness and live off of the land and never purchase an item or earn any money. I realize this seems cynical and extreme but it’s an accurate assessment, no?

      Was salamu alaikum

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    • Siraaj

      So let me see if I understand this right – it’s ok to choose to live in America and not actively seek hijrah anywhere (since obviously america’s tax dollars support Muslim oppression in the billions of dollars, with approx. 1/3rd of all income generated going towards the gov’t), but I can’t buy a not-worth-the-price cup of joe from SB’s?

      Very odd.

      Siraaj

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      • MuslimahCA

        ^ Very true Br. Siraaj! Everything from the linen on our beds to the phone that we use to the man that we vote for is supporting Israel. Leave me and my SB so I can stay up at night and reflect on how this system is corrupt!

        ^ I think this will be my new FB status :)

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      • Olivia

        and dude, you work for Motorola. you should be tarred and feathered (and paraded around the masjid for good measure).

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      • Rifai

        Oh, but he only works on cell phones, and hes helping drag down the rest of the company by being in the losing division…so he actually helping the situation in some way :)

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  10. Sidiq

    Nice article and insight into the way of life of a community. We can learn lessons from this.

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  11. DawahIT

    Assalamu alaikum,

    It seems every community has their own version of this. Be it Somali men just hanging in cafes or Desi parents sitting in front of the tv and watching Pakistani and Indian channels. The idea is the same. People giving Islam lipservice and putting their cultures first. And who ends up suffering, children. They are raise with a lip service Islam and have to seek the deen on their own.

    Wassalamu alaikum.

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      • Amatullah

        sis, this is really random, but i just have to say..you have one of the coolest last names! :)

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      • Safia Farole

        Jazakallahi Khair for that comment Amatullah.

        My family got this last name in a weird way actually, and oddly enough it is both Somali and Italian (Italians colonized Somalia once). Our last name used to be Muhammed, but my grandfather had an extra finger on one of his hands, so people started calling him “Farole” – Somali for “one with extra fingers” (rough translation). So the nickname stuck, and our last name has been Farole since. And like I said, oddly enough Farole is an Italian name too:) Subhanallah, I think there is a hadith where Muslims are discouraged from calling each other weird nicknames (don’t quote me on it). But, I can understand why if this is the case.

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      • Amatullah

        wa iyyaki sis,

        wow mashaAllah, very interesting story. I guess I was reading it wrong then, because in Arabic, farole means strawberry :)

        Yea it’s not a hadeeth, but actually in surah Hujurat about giving unpleasant nicknames.

        “And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames.” (49:11)

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    • abu Abdullah

      Wa alaykum assalam rahmatullah,

      i lived and worked with many of Somali men. partly to remove my own racism by being among them and partly to learn from them. very hardworking people mash Allaah. The idea being discussed truly is for keeping religion at the back seat and culture ( read EGO ) on the front and try to make USA into an amreeka by retaining the old lifestyles at all times. The females of the house need to be educated (literacy is not just education in school) who learn and teach entire family.

      i wish and pray for prosperiety of somali community in midwest and that may Allaah bless them and all muslim and protect them. ameen.

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  12. Suad

    salaam a’laikum
    It’s a good start to talk about the Issue, but the problem is complex. Men sitting at coffee shops is a normal thing in the Somali culture to some extent. It’s just that now it’s become a full-time thing for some people. It’s probably a symptom not the disease itself. I think, if the second generation is going to change this sort of thing we need to understand the issues facing Somalis in depth. Somali men have lot of issues but mostly people point toward the problem and this just continues the cycle. And solutions need to come from Somalis, Somali women esp. And Allah knows best
    salaam a’laikum

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    • MuslimahCA

      ^Excellent! I totally agree with you Suad and more specifically I would say the wives and mothers need to find a solution to this problem. The family structure in the Somali community needs to be re-built. We cant allow the boys to slip by, I don’t want to hear about another somali girl going to Medical school while her brother is a king pin in his community.

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  13. A Brother

    Salaam,

    Jazakhallah for the article.

    I don’t disagree with the article but the author should have brought some positive side of the Somali community as well as there are many.

    For example, if you go to the twin cities you will find multiples of Masjid (6-10) within 1-2 miles radius, something that is really impressive. You don’t need to worry much to find a place to pray anywere in town and all around you there is a presence of Islam.

    All the Somali malls, also, have masjid in them which the adhan is played throughout and as soon as the Iqamah is called, most of the stores, if not all, are closed and people are off to prayers. Seeing that, I’m always reminded by that ayah of the Qur’an where Allah (swt) tell the believers to stop their business and respond to prayers (roughly layman translation). Brings a great joy in the heart!

    I have attended prayers at some of the masjids and subhan’Allah to my own astonishment it seemed as if I was praying Jumuah prayer. People were praying in the hallways & others were waiting. Not kidding! That’s what you call Jama’a!

    Also, i’ve noticed that most of the somali youth are very involved and leads the prayer in the masjids. Within a particular masjid you will find multiples of youth who have memorized the qur’an and lead the adults in prayers. This is contrary to most of Muslim communities I’ve experienced (don’t mean to bring anyone down). Really great stuff!!

    As it was mentioned, many of the families work really hard to support each other and always looking to help others as well. This is very true!

    And let’s not forget that the cub drivers boycotted to carry anyone with alcohol and heavily drunk persons.

    These are just some of the few things and there is more as well. I do agree and acknowledge the cafeshop phenomenon and thank you for writing about it, but inshallah and hopefully people that read this article don’t generalize that this is all about them.

    And Allah (swt) knows best.

    Ma’salaam.

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    • UmmSqueakster

      wa alaikum assalam,

      At these same malls and masjids, you also get gangs of youth who roam around unsupervised and plot and plan trouble. And, on occasion, these young men will pray jamaah, see someone they have a beef with and start fighting right outside the masjid (which I’ve witnessed sadly more than a few times).

      Yes, there are positives, but we really need to be honest with ourselves and realize that the problems in the article are a real and present danger to our community. So there are some positives – how can we extend these and catch the children who are falling through the cracks? A parent sending their children to the masjid isn’t enough. There need to be programs and support to teach these kids the real prophetic model of manhood, not ghetto thug life.

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      • A Brother

        Agreed! Yea, something need to be done about that gang life which is corrupting a lot of youth unfortunately.

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  14. george

    subhanaallah somalis are known for memorizing quran easily. I think somalis are next in memorization after the egyptian

    Can somebody write article without mentioning nationality. I think this would be great benefit without limiting to a group of people

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    • Safia Farole

      What’s holding you back? :)

      I would love to read an article about social problems/achievements that doesn’t mention nationality.

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      • Abdus-Sabur

        Thinking that some nationality has an ability over another in regards to learning quran is WRONG! This reeks of racism and I don’t like it at all!

        Allah has promised to make quran memorization easy for whom He wills.

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      • Ifteen

        This is true, but the culture of the somali families is that before a child goes to secondary school they go and learn the Quran. However, thanx to the somali diaspora and the growing influence of unislamic souces this is no longer the case. At least I don’t see the same emphasize being placed on Quran memorization. Now, you will see some somalis in the younger generations who struggle with reading the Quran.

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  15. DawahIT

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Just as Almaghrib caters to the youth crowd and presents their classes in a manner that a young Muslim in the West can understand and apply, Muslim organizations need to have events and services for the uncles and aunties. Where is an uncle going to go for his socialization? Events need to be welcoming for the uncles and aunties and then they can also get their dose of Islam.

    In this specific case, why not have coffee right at the masjid after Maghrib or Isha. Let the uncles just chill out there. They will get their salah in and hopefully the masjid atmosphere will lead to more productive talk.

    Getting uncles and aunties who are more involved in Islam to try and reach out to them will be a lot for effective and some young punk telling them how to raise their children.

    Wassalamu alaikum.

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  16. sa

    I have seen the phenomenon rampant in the community I live in.Most of my friends happen to be Somalis and its disheartening to see how the girls continue to do well and pursue university educations while their brothers drop out at an early age or at the most finish high school and go straight to work.I guess its the fathers who aren’t trying to be the role models they should be.Its not that many of their fathers are away at Tim Hortons but many tend to leave their families in Canada while they make a living down in the US visiting when possible.These absentee fathers add to the conundrum.The mothers are left to take care of anywhere from 5-7 kids at a time.
    Plus I have seen that Somali women have a unique sense of independence.You will see them often in minivans taking there kids around but I have yet to see a entire Somali family (father+mother+kids) driving around together.I dont know if its the women who refuse to be with their husbands or if its because the husbands are never there.

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    • Shakura

      I have to agree with the comments saying that theres needs to be more programs for the older generation at the masjid so their not just sitting around at coffee time/Tim Hortons/Starbucks.

      I see alot of youth conferences, classes, sports etc. but not so much for the older age bracket. I know some mosques are starting to have them more, and I know in my city we have a conference with all the speakers talking in af-Somaali aimed more-so at the older generation.

      lol not all somali fathers are like this though, and there are some really good Somaali dads out there too masha’Allah, that are involved in their kids lives the rest just need to catch up, My uncle went to school while in his factory job and became a teacher, He didn’t want his kids stuck in the public system so he started his own private school where he taught all his children (10 of them ) as well as other Somaali children who’s parents don’t want them in the public system or are not doing well there. All his kids are grown now and are both Islamically-grounded as well as have their education too.

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  17. tuwaylib

    masha allah…a really informative article, and a problem that needs to be addressed. However, being a somali youth, i seen many young guys with both parents at home still end up joining gangs, failing school and hanging with the wrong crowd. Missing fathers are not the only one to blame; public schooling, living in subsidized neighborhoods filled with crime and bad influences, tv, video games and for the most part a lack of an islamic upbringing are all also major reasons.

    and allah knows best

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    • Yus from the Nati

      I agree. These pathologies are not only endemic to the Somali community (obviously). These are pathologies that are found in majority urban inner-cities. That needs to be taken into consideration and needed to adapt a model for fixing the problems we are having.

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  18. Ifteen

    Asalaamu Aliakaum warahamatula wabarakatu,

    From the looks of the replies it seems there should be another article written about the influences of Hip Hop… But I digress.

    Jazakiallah Khieran sister Safia! Abaayo I am so glad you wrote this article. I must say it was well written and you did a wonderful job bringing this issue to light.

    I never grew up around a lot of somali’s but I can share my story nonetheless.
    My dad is a stubborn fellow Allhamdulilah and even though the burden of a family was often too much for him to handle he never thought of leaving as an option and gathering with other like-minded somali uncles annoyed him lol. But, my dad grew up without his dad and he was forced to raise himself. He had no father figure and sadly, the people around him didn’t think of it as a big deal. So, the subtle nuance of fatherhood was lost to him ( he still doesn’t know our ages and he always gets our names mixed up! ). But, I gotta give it up to my dad. He put his all in our care and was never ashamed to show us he loves us. He would go into the kitchen and whip up one of his specials for us and he would never let us leave without giving us a hug and a kiss. My memories of my dad will always be pleasant and even though he wasn’t perfect he was my daddy and I am truly humbled and thankful to be his daughter. Now, that I am a bit older I can look back and see the sacrifices he made and the benefits of having him in my life. I am more confident as a young lady, I don’t engage in destructive behavior in search of the acceptance of another man because my daddy accepts me :) and the confidence he has implemented in me will always remain inshallah. My brothers are not gangsters and Allhamdulilah they are functioning and well mannered young men. The role of a father can not be underestimated , sometimes we downplay this because of the role of the mother. But a well adjusted child and a well adjusted community can only come from both parents.

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    • Amatullah

      Thumbs up to all Muslim fathers who take care of their children and are a part of their lives. It’s such a huge blessing to have a father who supports you and is there for you…Looking at the awesome dads (like yours Ifteen :) )we have nowadays, I can only imagine how amazing the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was as a father.

      I just recently saw this new blog, it made my day! http://muslimdads.blogspot.com/

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  19. ConcernedBrother

    Salaamu alaikum to all

    Though I do appreciate and see the many benefits of bringing to the forefront social problems afflicting our communities, at the same time I maintain that a more balanced, accurate and fact based approach needs to be adopted when describing the perceived ills of an entire community. As we all know the Somali community is quite new on the North American scene, as many of u have already mentioned, and have sought refuge here to escape the incessant war and devastation which has engulfed their once beautiful nation. The inherent culture shock of learning to live in an alien environment, with unfamiliar and confusing norms, mores and rules slapped the Somalis right in the face. For many this was coupled with the psychological stress and trauma of the war they had managed to escape. Somali men found themselves in a situation where their education, credentials and work experience and the status and power of their tribe amounted to nothing, and as a result they were offered menial jobs with very little pay. This was a major blow to these once proud and independent African nomads. The fact that many of them would want to come to coffee shops to connect and socialize with like minded Somali men is very understandable and even justified. In fact I maintain that this very practice is therapeutic and serves to maintain the psychological and emotional well being of the Somali man. Without such a venue to express and exchange ideas and opinions, vent and re create the tribal society they left behind, where they were all important men, many would be susceptible to mood disorders such as depression and many more would have irreparable damage done to their self esteem/ego. Even though I do agree that anything which is done to an excess usually proves to be antithetical to its original aims, i don’t think that this “SD” phenomena has reached such a level, and parts of the article and many of the comments here are misplaced and unwarranted. Somali men, like all men, are social beings. So this assumption that they socialize and waste time more than their counterparts from other Muslim ethnic groups is only “anecdotal” like the author of the article herself admits. An empirical and systematic study would be needed to prove that A. Somali men are unable to fulfill their roles as husbands and fathers due to their excessive socializing at coffee shops and those B. Somali men have a tendency to socialize more than the other men from Muslim ethnic groups. The fact that their socializing is done in such a public environment is what leads many people to subscribe to these two unfounded assumptions, and that is understandable. Seeing men sit around all day at a coffee shop can lead people to believe as such, but they have to bear in mind that other men do such socializing in other places which is culture specific to them. The coffee shop practice of Somali men is simply a cultural import from Somalia, and to crticize it without first substantiating either A or B, is an attack on Somali men and culture.

    Ps. I do believe a return to the Prophetic way of parenting is imperative, and this should be a goal for Somali men and all Muslim men. I totally agreed with that part of your article. Masha’Allah sister well done. Also sister one more thing. I was sort of disappointed when u mentioned that your last name Farole has a meaning in Italian. Your grandfather was named farole because he had an extra finger, and the Somali meaning of having extra fingers was intended when he was named this. I don’t see y u deemed it necessary to mention that it has a meaning in Italian. The colonization of Somalia by the Italians is nothing to be proud of nor is having a name that just so happens to have a meaning in Italian. I know u didn’t intend it like that…..but I wouldn’t want people thinking that Somalis have an inferiority complex and are proud of the colonial legacy, when in fact Somalis put up the fiercest resistance to colonialism in Africa.

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  20. ConcernedBrother

    Correction:

    And that (not those) B. Somali men have a tendency to socialize more than the other men from Muslim ethnic groups.

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  21. christinej

    I guess this is a waaay old post but never mind, it is interesting to me…

    its disheartening to see how the girls continue to do well and pursue university educations while their brothers drop out at an early age or at the most finish high school and go straight to work.

    I find the above quote fascinating on every level. What is it that is done differently to the girls than the boys? Surely, that could be an extremely useful understanding for the whole of society – there are so many children that fail and it is difficult to understand why some seemingly “give up” and others persevere.

    What expectations are the boys under or what expectations do they themselves have that they give up/drop out so easily and why do the girls not suffer from the same issue?

    I wish someone could answer that, I think it would be a very interesting point if a Somali mother could perhaps try to explain the difference.

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    • What? Do know Somali culture?

      @christinej- the girls are required to look after the children, help with cleaning and cooking, and be skillful and work hard. Most Somali girls have a part-time job (which also helps support low-income families), go to school, proficient in Islam (go to community meetings, memorize the quran etc) AND help around the house. Somali culture is very patriarchal, but in the sense that it is not uncommon to see a mother with five children, working two jobs and doing ALL the child rearing. Many boys just do not have male figure to help in their rearing NOR is high expectations (clean after themselves, work hard at school, work for the family etc) put on them. If the sister or mom has to cook, work, clean, farm work (if farmers or rural areas) etc then what do they do? Also boys have more lenience to go out and do what they want unlike the girls, both this trend is changing. The newer generations girls are still required to learn how to hold a house and study as well as work, but they can still go out and wear what they want (as long as it has a hijab or some sort with it).

      Of course there are hard working somali boys who turn into proper men, but these are very few and are usually raised in a more equal environment with their female counterparts.

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  22. halima m,

    Wow this article is great! I’m really glad there’s an article on this issue in the Somali community. It’s so prevalent. Here in San Diego we have that problem too. Not too far away from where I live is a Starbucks, and you’ll always see Somali men gathered around there all the time. Also around the city where’s there’s more Somali peeps you’ll see them gathered around Somali resturants as well. It’s consists of taxi drivers and younger men as well. It’s disheartening. I wish my people the best and hope we can pursue better careers here. Our community has it’s issues along with the Pakistani/ Arab communities though..and we have our pros. But I’m hoping Somali’s can work on their problems more effectively….great article again, thanks

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  23. What? Do know Somali culture?

    This is not new in Somali culture. Men usually just sit in groups and chat while smoking hashisha or chewing khat for hours! Women also do this but in their homes and outside their houses while their children play (without the khat and hashisha). Even in farm lands or rural areas they do this, but housework, family, even work is a women’s job.. The west didn’t change them in anyway, just brought them out of their private home to public areas, bc Somalia isn’t stable enough to have coffee shops.

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  24. What? Do know Somali culture?

    This is not new in Somali culture. Men usually just sit in groups and chat while smoking hashisha or chewing khat for hours! Women also do this, but only after work, and child rearing AND in their homes (bc its indecent outside) and outside their houses while their children play (without the khat and hashisha). Even in farm lands or rural areas they do this, but housework, family, even work is a women’s job.. The west didn’t change them in anyway, just brought them out of their private home to public areas, bc Somalia isn’t stable enough to have coffee shops.

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