Shelbyville, TN and Somalis in the news again

Yesterday, Christian Broadcasting News presented a detailed look at the “culture clash” in this small southern town that has been flooded in recent years by Somali refugees seeking work at the Tyson chicken plant nearby.   We have written extensively about Shelbyville, a town I am hoping to visit this spring.

To set the scene:

At first glance, Shelbyville is your typical sleepy southern hamlet. It’s nestled in middle Tennessee, where the walking horse is king.

There’s Main St., the local sheriff, a movie theatre. It’s all very “Mayberry,” except for one big difference: the recent arrival of hundreds of Somali Muslims.

Small Town Having Difficulties

Shelbyville is about an hour’s drive from Nashville, in the heart of the Bible Belt. Like many Americans, the citizens of Shelbyville knew little about Somalia other than the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident, in which 18 U.S. servicemen were killed while battling warlords and Islamic jihadists in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

So when hundreds of Somalis began turning up in the town–many of them dressed in traditional Islamic garb–locals quickly took notice.

“They’ve had an impact here. Unfortunately, it’s not been a good impact,” said Brian Mosely, a reporter for the local Shelbyville Times-Gazette.

Mosely won an award from the Associated Press for a series of articles he wrote for the paper about Shelbyville’s Somalis. [Mosely’s reports are here.]

“I found that there was just an enormous culture clash going on here,” he said. “The Somalis were–according to a lot of the people I talked to here–were being very, very rude, inconsiderate, very demanding. They would go into stores and haggle over prices. They would also demand to see a male salesperson, would not deal with women in stores”

But no one taught them how to behave, says a Somali leader in Nashville.  Some federally contracted refugee resettlement agency was responsible for them at one point, so why weren’t they taught about American cultural practices?

Abdirizak Hassan is the director of the Somali Community Center in nearby Nashville. He says the state of Tennessee has no programs to help immigrants integrate into their new surroundings.

“They come, and the only thing they can do is go to work, and then after work they go back to the apartment,” Hassan said. “They’re totally isolated and there’s no interaction between them and the locals.”

I guess Mr. Hassan has put his legal problems with the US government behind him and readers should know that the Somali Community Center he heads has changed its name.  Go here to learn about the financial funny business that Hassan and the Center were embroiled in in 2007.

So some want to go home, my that is “rare.”  [for new readers, I am being sarcastic, we are hearing of more and more cases of refugees wanting to go home.]

He added that some have even expressed a desire to return to Somalia.

“A lot of them face eviction. They put them in an apartment complex that costs $600 a month. They can’t get a job that gives them that much money,” Hassan explained.

As I said before, the volags, the federal contractors resettling refugees, should have funds to buy plane tickets for any refugees who would like to return to Africa, the Middle East or wherever.

For more information on why the Somalis might intentionally isolate themselves, see Jihad Watch here.

Here is an archive of all the posts we have done mentioning Shelbyville.  If we had known it would be such a hot topic starting more than a year ago, we would have created an entire category for it.

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