Councilman Abdi Warsame accuses DFLers of being racist Islamophobes

Abdi Warsame says he believes LGBT love is beautiful in English; marriage exclusively between a man and a woman in Somali.

Abdi Warsame says he believes LGBT love is beautiful in English; marriage exclusively between a man and a woman in Somali. Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

Minneapolis legislators think city council member Abdi Warsame needs to get a new job. They urge voters to elect challenger Mohamud Noor on Tuesday, whom they call the “only” progressive candidate in Ward 6.

“Warsame is the only elected official in Minneapolis who is against marriage equality,” according to a recent letter signed by state Reps. Ilhan Omar, Karen Clark, Raymond Dehn, Jim Davnie, and Sens. Scott Dibble and Patricia Torres Ray.

The six went on to criticize Warsame for shoring up donations from big business and the police union over the needs of regular people, and failing Our Revolution’s rubric on progressive issues, including bike lanes, minimum wage, and police liability insurance. They also called him out for helping to kill a 2016 bill to improve interpretation services, because it would harm his family’s command of the interpretation business.

In response, Warsame posted a letter in English on E-democracy, as well as a video in Somali on Facebook. But the messages appear to contradict each other on whether or not he supports gay marriage.

In the English letter, Warsame mildly chastises the city legislators as “a group of people who do not live in the 6th Ward,” and offers his unequivocal support for gay rights.

“I support full marriage equality for all Minnesotans. Any person who tells you otherwise is trying to deceive you in the last days of this campaign,” he wrote. “Those negative tactics are exactly what we need to reject.”

In the Somali video, however, Warsame appears to waffle on gay rights, but goes hard after the legislators, denouncing them as racist and anti-Muslim. According to a third-party translator, Warsame clarifies that as a Muslim, he personally believes marriage is solely between a man and a woman.

Warsame could not be reached for comment.

Omar, the first Somali elected to the state legislator, says she was amused to hear Warsame accuse “social justice oriented, inclusive DFL legislators of being racists and anti-Muslim.”

“Many residents from all backgrounds tell me they lost confidence in his ability to truthfully communicate with them,” she says. “They feel like he takes advantage of the language barriers that exist in the community to manipulate and misinform them. I was surprised to see someone transcribe one of his videos, because I long joked about how shocking it would be if all of his constituents could hear what he was actually saying.”

Noor, who has publicly supported gay marriage since his run for the legislature in 2011, says Warsame is trying to capture votes from socially conservative circles.

“He’s trying to create a wedge issue,” Noor says. “Whatever you believe in, that’s your own position, but when you’re representing your constituents, you leave your own beliefs on the side and you represent everybody equally. He should show respect. He should show he cares about everyone.”