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Great Immigrants

Mukhtar M. Ibrahim
Founder and Executive Editor, "Sahan Journal"
Born in:
Somalia

In 2007 Mukhtar M. Ibrahim was studying biochemistry and premed at the University of Minnesota when he read about a group of young Somali American men who left Minnesota to join the terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia. The Somali-born Ibrahim, who immigrated to the United States at age 17, was engrossed by the story, but felt that the reporters were disconnected from the community they were covering. He switched his major to journalism, with the goal of providing more nuanced coverage of his community. As a reporter at Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Ibrahim became one of the first Somali American journalists working for a major media outlet in the state, which has the country’s largest Somali American population. He is known for his award-winning reporting on Islamic State recruitment of Somali Americans and how law enforcement’s response is affecting Minnesota’s Somali American community. Ibrahim’s reporting on the assault of a woman speaking Swahili in a restaurant helped spur a hate crime bill in the Minnesota legislature. This year, in partnership with MPR, he launched Sahan Journal (“sahan” means “pioneer” in Somali), a nonprofit news organization dedicated to covering Minnesota’s immigrant communities. Reflecting on his naturalization ceremony, he wrote, “When Judge John Tunheim declared us citizens, the hall exploded with excitement.… We waved to our loved ones; we waved the little American flags. This new citizenship comes with a special power: the right to vote, the right to participate in the political process at every level.… I am proud to call myself an American.”