9 Minnesota men charged with planning to join ISIS are scheduled to be sentenced next week. Ahead of those court dates, 13 letters were sent to Judge Michael Davis in the case of defendant Abdirahman Yasin Daud, including a letter from state Rep. Ilhan Omar, who on Election Night became with first elected Somali-American lawmaker in the nation.
Rep. Omar asked Judge Davis for “compassion” and a “restorative approach to justice,” concluding that “this ruling can set a precedent and has the potential to be a landmark case in addressing extremism.”
Ilhan Omar’s letter to Judge Davis, dated Nov. 8:
Honorable Judge Davis,
As you undoubtedly deliberate with great caution the sentencing of nine recently convicted Somali-American men, I bring to your attention the ramifications of sentencing young men who made a consequential mistake to decades in federal prison. Incarcerating 20-year-old men for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence. Society will have no expectations of the to be 50 or 60-year-old released prisoners; it will view them with distrust and revulsion. Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment: “Americans do not accept you and continue to trivialize your value. Instead of being a nobody, be a martyr.”
The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion. We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to affect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation. A long-term prison sentence for one who chose violence to combat direct marginalization is a statement that our justice system misunderstands the guilty. A restorative approach to justice assesses the lure of criminality and addresses it.
The desire to commit violence is not inherent to people -- it is the consequences of systematic alienation; people seek violent solutions when the process established for enacting change is inaccessible to them. Fueled by disaffection turned to malice, if the guilty were willing to kill and be killed fighting perceived injustice, imagine the consequence of them hearing, “I believe you can be rehabilitated. I want you to become part of my community, and together we will thrive.” We use this form of distributive justice for patients with chemical dependencies; treatment and societal reintegration. The most effective penance is making these men ambassadors of reform.
The restorative approach provides a long-term solution – though the self-declared Islamic State may soon suffer defeat, their radical approach to change-making will continue as it has throughout history – by criminalizing the undergirding [sic] construct rather than its predisposed victims. Therein, this ruling can set a precedent and has the potential to be a landmark case in addressing extremism.
Thank you for your careful attention,
State Representative-Elect – MN 60B
KMSP FOX story Archived