A man trying to impose what he calls “the civil part of the sharia law” in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis has sparked anger among local residents and Muslim leaders.
Abdullah Rashid, 22, a Georgia native who moved to Cedar-Riverside last year, has been making the rounds in the Somali-dominated neighborhood, telling people not to drink, use drugs or interact with the opposite sex. If he sees Muslim women he believes are dressed inappropriately, he approaches them and suggests they should wear a jilbab, a long, flowing garment. And he says he’s recruiting others to join the effort.
But local Muslim leaders are sounding the alarm. They are working to stop Rashid’s group, General Presidency of the Religious Affairs and Welfare of the Ummah, and have notified Minneapolis police, who say he’s being banned from a Cedar-Riverside property. Some say the group is preying on vulnerable young Muslims in a community that has dealt with national scrutiny around radicalization and terrorism.
“What he’s doing is wrong and doesn’t reflect the community at all,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Minneapolis police received reports in February from concerned residents who saw Rashid in a dark green uniform that said “Muslim Defense Force” and “Religious Police” and had two flags associated with ISIS and other terrorist groups.
“We’ve had conversations with community members that live over there,” said Officer Corey Schmidt, a police spokesman. “Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to deal with it, but it’s something we’ve been monitoring.”
Jeff Van Nest, an FBI spokesman for Minneapolis, declined to comment.
In a recent interview, Rashid said he aims to turn Cedar-Riverside into a “sharia-controlled zone” where Muslims are learning about the proper practices of Islam and that “non-Muslims are asked to respect” it.
“People who don’t know me would say I’m a terrorist,” he said. “I’m someone who’s dedicated to Islam and trying to help the community all ways I can.”
But the Islamic Institute of Minnesota issued a statement Wednesday saying Rashid “does not in any way speak for the Islamic Institute of Minnesota or the Muslims in Minnesota.”
“We consider this matter as a dangerous precedent and a threat in our country and our way of life,” the statement said. “We ask our law enforcement agencies to consider this grave matter to protect Minnesotans.”
Read more: MST