Monday, October 14, 2013


Somalis living in Knoxville — and across the country — are anxious about the new negativity being circulated around the world by the actions of a few. The forecast isn’t getting any easier.
Hollywood is rolling out a brand new blockbuster movie — “Captain Phillips,” starring Tom Hanks — that depicts the Maersk Alabama hijacking. The ship’s crew has a court date set in a lawsuit they have filed against Maersk claiming the captain endangered them by ignoring repeated piracy warnings and when advised to sail the freighter no closer than 680 miles from Somalia’s coast, he instead sailed just 270 miles away.)
“The reason these guys are becoming pirates is because their livelihood is fishing, but international companies come and fish in Somalia’s (territorial) waters illegally because the (Somali) government can’t control it,” Sudi Issak, 22, said in an interview last week.
“And other companies also come and dump tons of chemicals and waste off Somalia’s coastline. So what are these people supposed to do? Somalia is war torn and other companies steal hundreds of millions of dollars of fish every year. I think it’s shady that these issues are never really addressed. It’s not like these people just wake up one day and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a pirate today.’ ”
Her sister, Kowsar, 19, added: “And what can they do about it? Half of them are like my age — 17, 18, 19. The negative depiction of Somalis — or African-indigenous people in general — in movies or media, particularly in the role of savage antagonist, is not new with the release of ‘Captain Phillips,’ but I hope that the public will research the issue further to uncover the truth.”
Both women are students at the University of Tennessee and are Memphis residents. But Sudi was born in Kismayo, Somalia, a southern port city, while Kowsar was born in Memphis. They also have a brother at UT — Abdinasir. After their family left Somalia in the 1990s, they were first refugees in Kenya before heading to the southern African country Zambia, which is where Abdi was born. From there, a Catholic church from Memphis helped arrange their relocation to the West Tennessee city, which is where their family, including their parents, now call home.
Abdi, 20, interviewed Tuesday, said, “With the emergence of the recent events concerning the Kenya mall attacks, pirate activity in the Indian Ocean and the subsequent film ‘Captain Phillips’ set to be released, I fear that Somalis in the U.S. and all over the world will be ... disparaged by these and past events. I only hope that the rising defamation of my nation’s people will decline, (along) with the violence corresponding to it.”
Sudi added: “There are some stereotypes. It started after 9/11. People will sometimes stop their cars and look. I’ve seen someone walk into a wall as they were walking — they were staring so hard at me. And it’s mostly about Islamophobia than Somali-phobia.”
‘we are not some kind of monsters’
Mohamed Issak, the father of the three UT siblings, lives in Memphis with his wife.
“I’m very sad about what happened in Kenya,” Issak, 63, said by telephone on Tuesday of the recent deadly mall attack. “We left our home ... and became refugees there — it was one of our homes after Somalia before coming to the United States. In my view, those people with the Shabaab are evil terrorists.”
He said he considers the pending release of the “Captain Phillips” film to be a “commercial business” venture to make money, but doubted it would have a positive outcome for Somalis in the U.S.
Khadra Baskin, an administrator with the Department of Equity and Diversity at UT who was married to a retired U.S Army serviceman before his untimely death this year, doesn’t care for the way Hollywood has depicted Somalis. She saw the movie “Black Hawk Down” and said there were several aspects of it that were inaccurate.
“We are not all animals,” Baskin, 52, said on Wednesday. “Somalis by far are the most kind, loving human beings. But they made us look like we are always ready to kill. Sometimes I think Americans are really so naive. They really don’t get the whole picture — and I’m not calling them stupid. But sometimes when you don’t open your eyes to the world, you don’t see the whole truth. And I’m not defending these extremists, but you have to ask yourself questions that need to be asked.”



  1. Not my problem. Let them go to the U.N. with a tin cup like every other beggarly African country. If they refuse to allow aid workers to enter the country without beheading them in the name of Islam, then let them eat dust. And every nest of pirates along the Somali coast should be mucked out with gunboats.

  2. I'm sure that every criminal class has its socioeconomic causes/justifications. And for every one you can write a narrative that will bring a tear to the eye. But armed robbers need to be captured or shot. As in war, that is sad -- even shooting Germans in WWII was a sad affair, and they were fighting for perhaps the most evil cause in history -- but one mustn't let such emotions still one's trigger finger, until victory is had.

  3. They're ruined their country and now they want to bleed ours dry.