The Somali of the United States are a diaspora people who fled their native Somalia when their country collapsed in 1991. It is estimated that nearly 1 million Somalis fled Somalia in 1991 to Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. More affluent Somalis escaped to Western Europe and eventually to the United States of America (USA). A 2000 report by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) records 5,200 Somali refugees being granted asylum in the USA. This small number has continued to grow, however. 2003 US Census data shows the Somali population in the USA at 30,000, however, the current population estimates range between 30,000 and 150,000. Data is hard to gather because multiple Somali families in the USA often live in one domicile and fear the landlord may evict for over occupancy.
Where Are they Located?
Somalis in the USA primarily live in 3 cities: 1) Minneapolis, MN; 2) Columbus, OH; and, 3) Seattle, WA (listed in order of population). However, Somalis are also a part of what is called “second migration.” Initially most Somalis were placed in Virginia, near Washington, D.C. However, due to economic reasons many Somalis moved away from Washington, D.C. to the areas listed above. Smaller numbers of Somalis have moved to Lewiston-Portland, ME and to other rural areas.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The influx of Somali immigrants has been met with mixed reaction. They often face prejudice on many levels. Most Somali immigrants do not speak English finding it difficult to understand available governmental services but also causing some service providers to ignore them because of the language barrier. They also face the challenge of adjusting to a new culture and prejudice against Islam after 9/11. Lastly, Somalis in the USA struggle to find affordable housing in the cities where they live.
What Are Their Beliefs?
An intrinsic link exists between the history of Somalia and history of Islam. Daarood and Isaaq, for whom two Somali family clans are named, are believed to have brought the Islamic faith to Somalia. Much debate about the veracity of these claims exists. Lewis, however, argues that Islam made its appearance in Somali â€œshortly after Hijrahâ€ and entrenched itself in the local landscape by the 9th or 10th Century B.C. The historical trajectory would correlate to the overall account of the spread of Islam into the Horn of Africa. Somalis, by and large, practice Sufism. Classic Sufism believes intimate relationship with Allah can be obtained before one dies. Intimacy with God, for the Sufi, comes by following “tariqah” (the path). The disciplines practiced along tariqah vary but the result should be “ma’rifa,” or “absorption into God.”