Fort Morgan, Colorado, has been a popular destination for Somali refugees and while many have settled into the community, some say that until they get a permanent mosque, they’ll always feel like outsiders.
The refugees currently use two rented rooms as a makeshift mosque and say they’re having a problem finding someone willing to sell them the property needed to build a mosque, according to The Gazette.
“If we can own a mosque here, we will be more a part of the community,” Abdinasser Ahmed told the newspaper. Ahmed, now a U.S. citizen, fled war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, in 2003, and has lived in Fort Morgan since 2009.
But the Gazette said locals are not keen on the idea of a mosque being built in their small town:
Some longtime residents say they don’t want one in their city of 12,000, a step too far especially at a time when fears of terrorism have grown following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
Putting a mosque “right in the center of town” would be a symbol “as if to claim the town,” said Candace Loomis, who runs a coffee shop and whose grandparents settled this country of sweeping horizons in a two-room sod house.
It’s not that local residents don’t want to welcome refugees, but they remain hesitant about Muslim refugees in the wake of recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
According to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, more than 9,500 African refugees and asylum-seekers resettled in Colorado during the fiscal years 1980-2014, or ended up in the state after arriving elsewhere in the U.S.
Morgan County Sheriff Jim Crone spoke to the Gazette about local attitudes toward refugees.
“There’s a general feeling out there of, ‘Let’s slow this train down a bit,'” Crone said. “It’s a sense of: ‘We don’t mind people coming here. Just be part of the process.'”
The sheriff pointed to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino that claimed the lives of 14 people as a contributing factor to residents’ concerns. Another factor, according to the Gazette, is that the Somalis refugees tend to keep to themselves, leaving many in the majority white population to think they don’t want to assimilate.
“Some people will throw the racist card to that attitude. That’s not what it’s about,” Crone said. “It’s about a lack of social structure in their homelands. To ignore that kind of stuff is just not proper. But that does not mean you’re going to treat them any different.”
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