Open Letter 

It has come to my attention that there is false information about me pertaining to my involvement in a program called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) .

For the benefit of the residents of 62A, let me set the record straight on my service to our youth and my involvement against violent extremism.  

  • I have never received any financial gain from the CVE program, and my limited involvement was spent as a volunteer offering leadership and expertise pertaining to mental health. I was invited to participate as a community leader, and I initially hoped to create a space for a meaningful conversations around the difficult issue of violent extremism.
  • I am no longer involved with CVE, do not support CVE, and stepped away in 2016 after understanding that this was not a community led process and was counterproductive to empowering youth of color.

Background on my commitment to youth and against violent extremism.

Through my service as a social worker and a mental health professional I am committed to a life of work that benefits youth and the community.  I believe that when we do not fully recognize that mental health is a contributor to many of issues pertaining to extremism, we criminalize mental illness.  I have always fought against programs and policies that seek to surveil communities of color, and will continue doing so if elected as a state legislator.

On September 23rd, 2013 my nieces were victims of a terrorist attack at Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, perpetrated by Al-Shabab, a terrorist organization based in Somalia. As a result, one of them had her leg amputated. Following this attack, I took a leave of absence for 8 months as a Hennepin County Social Worker and moved to Toronto to take care of my family, and help my nieces recover from this traumatic and life changing experience.

On my return to Minnesota, I was invited to the Obama White House as part of delegation of Somali community leaders to attend a summit to address violent extremism with over 60 countries participating.  I was both hurt and outraged by the impact of terrorism on my family, and I wanted to funnel this into something positive for my community.

Upon returning I had high hopes to serve the Obama administration through a community led process to address violent extremism. In the summer of 2015, I joined leaders in the Minneapolis Somali community, and chaired a community taskforce to facilitate community conversations.  I was one of the only two women volunteering time and leadership, and I was the only one sitting at the table who held the trauma of being personally affected by acts of terrorism.

As I facilitated community conservations as a Task Force member, it became clear that the federal CVE program was not supportive of our community led process, and its effects would be counterproductive and create mistrust and divisiveness in the community. I stepped away from CVE in 2016.  CVE became about fear tactics and division, and it did not prioritize creating community among us. I believe that CVE perpetuates islamophobia in our community. Radicalization is not unique to the Somali Community, and CVE is not the right vehicle to combat it here in Minneapolis or in other cities throughout the country.

As a state representative, I will advocate for programs that benefit and enrich the lives of young people in the district, no matter their background. I will continue to advocate for increased mental health services and do my part to help remove the stigma around mental health.

Thank you,

Hodan Hassan

Candidate for MN House District 62A

 

Heartland Democracy Error

  • A recent publication by Heartland Democracy included my name as a potential partner without my knowledge and consent. This is inaccurate in that it assumes I both benefited financially and was involved with their project. The organization has recently issued statement confirming that I was never a partner and never made any financial gain. Below is the statement from Heartland Democracy:

“It has come to our attention that specific attacks have been leveled against Hodan Hassan, a colleague we have connected with at times in the past, relating to her purported involvement with our organization and the work described in our proposal. These attacks are unfounded. To be clear: Ms. Hassan is not, and has never been, a partner in our work. Unfounded attacks have also been directed at other individuals listed in our proposal with whom partnerships never materialized, including Abdirashid Abdi and Christa Perkins. We consider these false accusations to be counterproductive and contrary to the spirit of community and collaboration we are trying to build.” – Mary McKinley, Executive director of Heartland Democracy