The Cedar Riverside section of Minneapolis is home to the University of Minnesota, some tasty ethnic foods and brutally cold winters. It's also a known hotbed of Islamic terror recruitment.
Al-Shabab, the Islamist group based in Somalia, has had a field day there over the past six or seven years.
Dozens of young Muslims have left the streets of Cedar Riverside, referred to by some Minnesotans as "Little Mogadishu" for its high concentration of Somali refugees, to travel abroad and fight for terrorist groups. Some have joined Somalia's notorious al-Shabab, which slaughtered 147 Christians at a university in Kenya last month, while others have opted for ISIS in Syria. Their goal is the same – to join their brothers in the fight to establish a Shariah-compliant utopia known as a caliphate.
But one would expect those who walk the streets of this quiet neighborhood to be a bit less fanatical in their views, right?
Let the questions begin
On Friday a camera crew with the David Horowitz Freedom Center released a video posted to Robert Spencer's blog, Jihad Watch, in which documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz captures Somali men and women on the streets of Cedar Riverside answering simple questions.
Their answers to questions about Islamic law, American law and issues of peace and freedom were revealing.
Several of the Muslim men told the interviewer it was "easy" to be Muslim in America. They said persecution was non-existent. They're free to worship as they please.
One Somali-American stood out from the rest.
"This is a free country; that's the beauty of it. We love America, it’s a great country, freedom of choice, freedom of religion, so we don't have any issues," said the neatly dressed man with a sport coat and tie.
Things devolved from there.
One young man with dark sunglasses and a big smile, followed by another in a plaid dress shirt, and another with long hair stuffed under a Brooklyn Nets baseball cap, all said they would prefer to live under Islamic law rather than American law.
"I'm a Muslim. I prefer Shariah law," the man in the dress shirt said.
"Shariah law, yes," said another.
"Of course, yeah," said the one in the Nets baseball cap.
Asked if most of his friends felt the same way, he responded, "Of course if you're a Muslim, yeah."
A woman wearing a pink hijab and traditional dress was asked if it's OK for a father to make his young daughter marry a man of his choice.
"Yeah, yeah, he can, he can. He has the authority, you know, yeah, to do that."
"How young do you think it is OK?" the interviewer asked.
"Ah, yeah, 15," she answered.
The youngest person interviewed, a boy who appeared no more than 14 or 15, said it was easy to be a Muslim in his local school. He said he did not experience any persecution being a Muslim in Minneapolis.
He said he would prefer Shariah, however, because it was a much "tighter" society and, therefore, less prone to crime.
"Shariah law, it says that if you steal something, they cut off your hand," the boy said, making a cutting motion with one hand against the other. "So, basically, they can leave their doors open. Nobody's going to steal anything because Shariah is so tight. Usually, they don't do anything. The smallest things usually have big consequences.
Blaspheming the 'prophet'
Then the questions turned to Islamic blasphemy laws and the controversy with people depicting the Muslim "prophet" Muhammad in cartoons.
"How does that whole thing make you feel?" the interviewer asked.
"That really pisses me off, you know what I mean. I mean, they know it is a button to push," said the young man in the baseball cap.
"It makes me angry," said the man in the sunglasses. "Everyone gets like the big freedom. And then, they don't see that, the freedom that they're getting is causing a problem. And causing hatreds for other people."
Would it be better if we made it illegal in America to make fun of the prophet Muhammad?
"Definitely yeah," he said.
"So in a way, they kind of deserve whatever happens to them?" he is asked.
"Yeah, yeah, every action has a consequence," the young man in the ball cap said.
"Do you think we should make a law that makes it illegal?"
"That would be better, yeah, that would be better," said the man in the plaid dress shirt. "To stop, you know, aggression."
'I was so upset, so mad'
Then came another Somali man with a beard and a jacket. He was more animated than the others.
"I was so upset, and I was so mad. They insulted our religion. They insulted our prophet, and we couldn't take it," he said, shaking his fist and flailing his arms.
"And you shouldn't be allowed to do that?" the interviewer asked.
"Oh my God, big time, yes!" he answered.
They were then asked if they understood the motivation of people who struck back violently against such depictions of the prophet.
"Yeah, I understand totally where they're coming from, yeah," said the young man in the ball cap.
'Is it right to kill someone who insults the prophet?'
"Yes," said the bearded man with the animated personality. "Because when you, every day you face frustration. And you know, every day you have, uh, you're mad, or somebody says that, and you feel hate your soul. You could do anything you wanted. If you committed suicide, you don't care, because your heart, your heart is telling you, 'I don't want to live no more,' because you couldn't take that much hate. Or you, you kill someone."
The interviewer got even more pointed with a reference to Pamela Geller, who hosted the cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, earlier this month that was attacked by two Muslim men.
"Is it right to kill someone who insults Muhammad?"
"Yeah," said the woman in the pink hijab. "Because she is just, she had her religion, I understand, but she shouldn't pick on the prophet, you know."
"So you understand why people would want to attack her?"
"Yeah," the woman stated.
Would you rather live in America or Somalia?
The interviewer asked one final question: If they had a choice, would the Somalis rather live in America or back in Somalia?
"I'd rather to live in a Muslim country with my people," the young man with the Brooklyn Nets cap said without hesitation. "I'm not Americanized. I just speak fluent (English) and I'm articulate, and I can articulate what I'm trying to say. That's about it. But as far as that my culture and my preferences and everything, it's still Somali, you know what I mean?"
"I would rather live in Somalia," said the man in the sunglasses.
"For me, I think Somalia," said the woman in the pink hijab.
"We have a terror recruitment problem in Minnesota'
U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger, at April press conference said Minnesota "has a terror recruitment problem" involving the local Somali population but didn't say how the Somalis got to Minnesota.
The U.S. State Department has distributed about 100,000 Somali Muslims into cities across America since 1991 as part of its refugee resettlement program. In Minnesota, the resettlements, paid for with U.S. tax dollars, have been carried out by Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities and World Relief under contract with the federal government.
Andrew Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, admitted last month following the arrests of six Somali men from his state on charges that they repeatedly tried to book and board flights to join up with ISIS in Turkey and Syria, "We have a terror recruitment problem in Minnesota."
But in the eyes of some Somalis in Minneapolis, it's clearly not terrorism to kill someone for criticizing their prophet. It's just part of being Muslim.
They are taking serious the advice of Omar Ahmad, founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR. Speaking before a packed crowd at the Flamingo Palace on Peralta Boulevard in Fremont, California, in 1998, he urged American Muslims not to shirk their duty of sharing the Islamic faith with those who are "on the wrong side."
WND reported in 2003 that the newspaper reporter who covered the CAIR event that night, Lisa Gardiner, paraphrased Ahmad's message by writing, "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith but to become dominant."
Gardiner's article, appearing in the Argus of Fremont, stands to this day as one of the most stark displays of Islamist intentions by CAIR, whose leaders typically choose their words more carefully when they know a reporter is present.
Muslim institutions, schools and economic power should be strengthened in America, Ahmad said. Those who stay in America should be "open to society without melting (into it)," keeping mosques open so anyone can come and learn about Islam, he said.
"If you choose to live here (in America) … you have a responsibility to deliver the message of Islam," he told the Muslim crowd.
The Quran, the Muslim holy book, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth, he said.