Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and the number of Muslims here in Minnesota and Wisconsin is the one of the largest in America. Although Minnesota is home to the largest group of Somali-Muslims in the United States, there are still many challenges that Somali-Muslims face. Because of the recent political climate, there has been a rise of Islamophobia, which is the fear, hatred, or prejudice against Islam and those who follow it. Statistics show that assaults and attacks on American Muslims have risen sharply in the past two years and are the highest they have been since 9/11.
You may have girls in your troop who practice Islam or know someone who does. As a troop leader, it’s important to model and practice inclusivity. Read on for some tips to help you navigate some questions you might have about the Muslim faith, and how to best support and include all girls. In this post, we’ll be diving specifically into the Somali-Muslim community, but remember that there’s a wide spectrum of beliefs within one religion.
A Brief History of Somali-Muslims in Minnesota
Minnesota has the biggest Somali-Muslim population the U.S., and there’s a reason for that! The Somali immigration to Minnesota happened mostly in two large waves, one in the 1980s, and the other in the 1990s. Many Somalis emigrated in the 1980s to attend colleges and universities in the United States. Then, in the 1990s, another wave of Somalis came to Minnesota when a civil war broke out in Somalia. Many voluntary agencies helped Somalis transition and settle in their new home, and now, there are over 80,000 Somalis living in Minnesota.
Be in the Know
An important part of supporting your Muslim girls is to do your own research and learn some basics about their religious and cultural background. Arming yourself with this information is also a good way to address and combat harmful stereotypes and better advocate for your girls.
For example, most Muslims don’t eat pork, so be aware of this when hosting parties or outings with your troop. In addition, many Somali-Muslims wear clothing that is modest and loose-fitting, and because of this, some may incorrectly think that they can’t do certain activities. Continue to encourage your girls to participate in troop and camp activities. A good idea is to suggest wearing sweatpants under skirts or dresses so that girls can be comfortable, but still stay true to their faith.
Visit the Islamic Resource Group, where you can learn more about the five pillars of Islam, Muslims in Minnesota, and even schedule a visit to a mosque! Another great online resource is Muslim Girl, an online blog that features articles, videos, and topics relevant to today’s Muslims. Learn about the incredible women from all over the world who have created a flourishing community for Muslim women.
Spreading Love, Not Hate
One of the best things about Girl Scouts is that it’s an organization that’s focused on including all girls and fostering healthy relationships between girls of many different backgrounds. As a troop leader, state from the beginning that your troop is a safe place for girls to be themselves and express any concerns they have. Simply listening to your girls can be a very powerful gesture.
Girls in your troop may also be curious about someone who practices a religion that’s different from their own. Encourage your girls to explore and connect to their own and others’ spirituality by working on the My Promise, My Faith pin.
Have questions? Want to explore more?
We’ve collected a few additional resources for you to explore further:
- Experience artifacts, photos, and stories of Somali history at the Minnesota History Center.
- Go to The Somali Museum of Minnesota. This museum displays a collection of over 700 pieces and the museum is open to everyone who wants to learn more about Somali art and tradition.
- Visit the Karmel Mall, where many Somalis and Muslims shop for clothing, get henna, or grab something to eat!
Khadra M. Mohamed – Khadra is a Program Coordinator for the Girl Scouts ConnectZ program at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She graduated from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities with a degree in child psychology. She has worked as a Promise Fellow with AmeriCorps and as a Program Supervisor for after-school and summer programs. In her free time, Khadra enjoys going to concerts, sewing, and skating with her siblings.