Former Sheriff Bob Fletcher's Somalia seminar called "anti-Muslim"

After he lost the election for Ramsey County sheriff, Bob Fletcher declared a new passion: educating law enforcement about Somali culture and history. He dubbed the new venture the Center for Somalia History Studies, and its first event -- an educational seminar called "Understanding the People of Somalia" -- takes place on Thursday.

However, in a letter sent out to several law enforcement agencies as well as the press, members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Minnesota called the seminar "anti-Muslim and anti-Somali," and called on those agencies to withdraw from the event.

The six-hour event will be a lecture on the history of Somalia and its conflicts, terrorism, Al-Shabab, khat, youth gangs, and the Somali experience in America. In addition to Fletcher, speakers include Omar Jamal, the former head of the Somali Justice Action Center; the current director, Dahir Jibreel; and Abdirizak Bihi, the head of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy center.

One of many components of Fletcher's flier that have raised CAIR-MN's hackles.
One of many components of Fletcher's flier that have raised CAIR-MN's hackles.

​The four-page letter from CAIR-MN lists many grievances with the event, including the wording of the brochure, the expertise of the speakers, and the legitimacy of the center. It points out that Jamal was convicted of immigration fraud, questions Bihi's educational background, and claims that the event does not make a distinction between terrorism and Islam.

"Your agency was misled about these presenter's qualifications and attendees will receive inaccurate and biased information about Muslims and Somalis," the letter reads. "Trainings by unqualified, agenda-driven individuals influence the way peace officers perceive and treat the American Muslim community."

The letter was also signed by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, Somali Action Alliance, and several mosques. Read the whole thing here.

Fletcher defended his seminar, saying that he hoped judgment would be withheld until after the event and he's "befuddled" that three Somali presenters could be perceived as anti-Muslim.

It remains to be seen whether any of the roughly 100 participants -- each dolling out $150 a head -- will drop out. 

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