U.S. Attorney Andy Luger is asking Somali-Americans for feedback on a new pilot program aimed at offering young people healthy alternatives to religious radicalization.
Luger told about 50 community leaders Monday he wants to bolster youth and job-training programs and reduce extra security hassles many Muslims face while traveling through the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
The Minnesota U.S. attorney said these efforts are separate from the investigation into the departures of about a dozen Minnesotans who are believed to have joined radical groups in Syria.
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"This plan has nothing to do with our law enforcement side of what we do," Luger said. "This is not about gathering intelligence, it's not about expanding surveillance, or any of the things some people want to claim it is. It's not that."
Kamal Hassan of Edina said Luger is trying to empower the Somali community so it is better equipped to address problems.
"This is the first serious effort from the government to deal with the causes, instead of just the symptoms," Hassan said. "I believe Washington should listen to him and fund his proposal."
Luger is expected to ask for millions of dollars from the federal government but did not disclose any hard figures.
Reporters were asked to leave after the first four minutes of Luger's presentation, but those who attended the private meeting offered a glimpse of his proposal.
Mohamud Noor, director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said the U.S. attorney wants to build partnerships with local school districts and the state Department of Employment of Economic Development in an effort to create more opportunities for youth.
Others said he wants to channel federal grant money through local Somali-American nonprofits that are already doing important work.
Faisal Ahmed said he generally supports the plan, but cautioned people will be wary of Luger's efforts as he tries to strike a balance between two goals.
"One agenda is to help, and one agenda is to gather information an dlearn more about crimes," Ahmed said. "That is going to create some fear."