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Voices From the Somalian Community in Boston

by Talia Whyte

While most people were buying last minute gifts and preparing for the first major snow storm of the season during Christmas weekend, approximately 2,000 Somali young people from around the country gathered at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury at the biannual National Somali Youth Conference. The theme of the conference was “The Lost Somali Youth: The Tribulation of Family.”

Some of the conference organizers said they hoped to reach out to “lost” Somali-American youth who have left their communities and fallen into a life of street crime or have been indoctrinated by Islamic fundamentalists. This conference coincidentally occurs almost a month after the attempted car bombing in Oregon by Mohammad Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali-American. Mohamud reportedly has connections with Islamic radicals in the Middle East and was placed on the no-fly list earlier this year. Last year he was accused but not charged with date raping an intoxicated woman on the Oregon State University campus

Some attendees said that Mohamud had lost connections with his family to pursue radical ideology years ago. Nonetheless, they say he has brought shame onto the larger

Somali-American community because they feel the national media has portrayed Mohamud as a representative of the community.

The goal of the conference was to discuss this and other issues, and figure out solutions.

“The beauty of this conference is that it is organized by the youth,” said one organizer. “We are the future of our community, and we must do everything to keep it together and strong."