U.S. Mus­lims on edge af­ter bomb­ing

The FBI is lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an at­tack that dam­aged a Min­nesota mosque.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Kur­tis Lee kur­tis.lee@la­times.com Twit­ter: @kur­tisalee

Ter­ror tore through a sub­ur­ban Min­neapo­lis com­mu­nity on Satur­day af­ter the bomb­ing of a mosque, am­pli­fy­ing grow­ing con­cerns among some Mus­lims who have felt tar­geted na­tion­wide in re­cent months.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said the ex­plo­sion oc­curred around 5 a.m. at the Dar Al-Fa­rooq Is­lamic Cen­ter in Bloomington, Minn., out­side Min­neapo­lis. Fire and smoke en­gulfed much of the red-brick struc­ture, but there were no in­juries.

The FBI is lead­ing the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, along with lo­cal law en­force­ment.

Au­thor­i­ties say they be­lieve an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice was to blame for the blast at the mosque, which pri­mar­ily serves the area’s large So­mali com­mu­nity.

Mo­hamed Omar, who has been ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the mosque for two years, said Satur­day that he was re­lieved no one was hurt.

“It’s sad and just an in­hu­mane act,” Omar said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “There is too much anger out here.”

He said that a few peo­ple were in­side the mosque for morn­ing prayers and that many in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity re­mained shaken.

“We must work to find who did this,” he said.

The ex­plo­sion in Min­nesota, which au­thor­i­ties had not yet la­beled a hate crime, oc­curred at a time when stud­ies have shown an uptick in vi­o­lence against Mus­lims, and as vit­ri­olic ral­lies tar­get­ing Is­lam have popped up across the coun­try. Mus­lims make up about 1% of the pop­u­la­tion in the United States — or about 3.35 mil­lion peo­ple — and are one of the fastest-grow­ing re­li­gious mi­nori­ties, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter.

Last month, Pew re­leased a sur­vey that showed 48% of Mus­lims said they had faced some form of dis­crim­i­na­tion in the last year, such as name-call­ing or threats. The sur­vey, which ques­tioned about 1,000 U.S. Mus­lims from Jan­uary through May, also found that 74% viewed Pres­i­dent Trump as un­friendly.

Dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign Trump called for a com­plete ban on Mus­lims en­ter­ing the United States af­ter a ter­ror­ist at­tack in San Bernardino car­ried out by a mar­ried cou­ple who were in­spired by Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists. More re­cently, Trump is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive order ban­ning travel from six ma­jor­ity- Mus­lim coun­tries, an ef­fort that has led to le­gal wran­gling and is headed to the Supreme Court. (The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has said the ban is needed to keep Amer­i­cans safe.)

The sur­vey from Pew found over­whelm­ingly neg­a­tive views among Amer­i­can Mus­lims to­ward Is­lamic ex­trem­ism, with more than 4 in 5 de­scrib­ing it as a threat to the world.

While many Mus­lims voiced con­cerns in the Pew sur­vey, nearly 84% cat­e­go­rized Amer­i­cans in gen­eral as friendly. More­over, more than 6 in 10 U.S. Mus­lims polled said they be­lieved Is­lam was still not viewed by oth­ers as part of the coun­try’s main­stream. Even so, an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity said they were proud to be both Amer­i­cans and Mus­lims, and a large ma­jor­ity saw no clash be­tween Is­lam and democ­racy.

On Satur­day, as po­lice con­tin­ued to in­ves­ti­gate the bomb­ing at the Min­nesota mosque, Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions, called on Trump to con­demn the at­tack. The White House did not re­lease a state­ment and did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

“Si­lence on the part of pub­lic of­fi­cials at the na­tional level only serves to em­power Is­lam­o­phobes,” Hooper said in a state­ment. His group has put up a $10,000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion on a sus­pect as­so­ci­ated with the Min­nesota at­tack.

In the spring, CAIR re­leased a re­port that doc­u­mented a 57% in­crease in anti-Mus­lim in­ci­dents last year com­pared with 2015. To pro­duce the re­port CAIR in­ves­ti­gated thou­sands of calls and emails made to dozens of its of­fices around the U.S. and re­viewed data from na­tional and lo­cal me­dia re­ports.

The process in­cluded in­ter­views with wit­nesses and po­lice. So far this year, mosques in Florida, Texas and Wash­ing­ton state have been set on fire in in­ci­dents that stoked fear among Mus­lims.

Re­cently pro­test­ers have taken to the streets to speak pub­licly on their con­cerns about Is­lam.

In June, a wave of so­called anti-Sharia law ac­tivists demon­strated na­tion­wide, but were met by counter-pro­test­ers who as­sailed their rhetoric as in­sen­si­tive and de­mean­ing.

Sharia law is a philo­soph­i­cal code de­rived from Is­lamic scrip­ture and meant to guide ob­ser­vant Mus­lims. In ad­di­tion to civil and crim­i­nal law, it pre­scribes a wide range of faith prac­tices, such as ab­stain­ing from al­co­hol and pray­ing five times a day.

“We have to pro­tect Amer­ica, our cit­i­zens and our way of life,” Lila Mercer, 49, told The Times in June.

“Sharia law does not be­long in Amer­ica,” added Mercer, an as­sis­tant man­ager for a big-rig deal­er­ship who protested in At­lanta.

At the mosque in Min­nesota on Satur­day, many were just seek­ing an­swers to what had oc­curred.

Yasir Ab­dal­rah­man, a wor­shiper at the mosque, told the As­so­ci­ated Press the ex­plo­sion was “unimag­in­able.”

“We came to this coun­try for the same rea­son ev­ery­one else came here: free­dom to wor­ship,” Ab­dal­rah­man said. “And that free­dom is un­der threat. Ev­ery other Amer­i­can should be in­sulted by this.”

For Omar, who spent much of the day speak­ing to law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and try­ing to con­sole mem­bers of his mosque, hate is not some­thing he fears.

“This is chal­leng­ing,” he said, “but we will be OK. We will.”

Aaron Lavin­sky Star Tri­bune

MEM­BERS OF Dar Al-Fa­rooq Is­lamic Cen­ter pray out­side af­ter Satur­day’s bomb­ing, which left no in­juries.

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