Min­neapo­lis mosque ex­plo­sion ‘deeper and scarier’ than threats

CAIR urges U.S. Mus­lims to step up se­cu­rity ef­forts

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY JEFF BAENEN

MIN­NEAPO­LIS | The Dar Al-Fa­rooq Is­lamic Cen­ter in sub­ur­ban Min­neapo­lis, like other U.S. mosques, oc­ca­sion­ally re­ceives threat­en­ing calls and emails.

But lead­ers say they’re more fright­ened after a week­end at­tack in which an ex­plo­sive shat­tered win­dows and dam­aged a room as wor­ship­pers pre­pared for morn­ing prayers.

“We feel like it’s much deeper and scarier than like some­thing ran­dom,” Mo­hamed Omar, the cen­ter’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said Sun­day. “It’s so scary.”

No one was hurt in the blast, which hap­pened around 5 a.m. Satur­day. Win­dows of the imam’s of­fice were shat­tered, ei­ther by the blast or by an ob­ject thrown through them.

The FBI is seek­ing sus­pects and try­ing to de­ter­mine whether the in­ci­dent was a hate crime.

Gov. Mark Day­ton, who joined other pub­lic of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity lead­ers for a meet­ing inside the build­ing Sun­day, de­scribed the bomb­ing as “so wretched” and “not Min­nesota.”

“This is an act of ter­ror­ism. This is against the law in Amer­ica,” Mr. Day­ton said at a news con­fer­ence af­ter­ward, the Star Tri­bune re­ported.

Be­sides serv­ing as a place of wor­ship and com­mu­nity cen­ter, the mosque in Bloomington, just south of Min­neapo­lis, has a fit­ness cen­ter, gym­na­si­ums for boys and girls, a foot­ball field and ad­joins a city park, Mr. Omar said. He es­ti­mates the mosque holds up to 300 wor­ship­pers for Fri­day prayers. The com­mu­nity cen­ter also hosts com­puter classes, a bas­ket­ball league, re­li­gious classes, lec­tures and other events.

“It’s a place that a fam­ily can come and get ev­ery­thing they need,” Mr. Omar said.

The mosque opened in 2011 at the site of a for­mer el­e­men­tary school in the sub­urb of about 85,000 and serves peo­ple pri­mar­ily from the area’s large So­mali com­mu­nity.

Min­nesota is home to the largest So­mali com­mu­nity in the U.S., roughly 57,000 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est cen­sus fig­ures.

Some res­i­dents op­posed the cen­ter’s open­ing, and com­plaints have been made about park­ing, noise and traf­fic, the Star Tri­bune re­ported. Mr. Omar said the cen­ter gets along with “92, 93 per­cent” of its neigh­bors.

And while the mosque has re­ceived threat­en­ing calls and mes­sages, Deputy Bloomington Po­lice Chief Mike Hart­ley said Sun­day he was un­aware of any hate crimes re­ported at the cen­ter.

Satur­day’s bomb­ing comes amid a rise in re­ports of anti-Mus­lim in­ci­dents in the U.S., in­clud­ing ar­son at­tacks and van­dal­ism at mosques, ha­rass­ment of women wear­ing Mus­lim head cov­er­ings and bul­ly­ing of Mus­lim school­child­ren.

Just re­cently in Min­nesota, an Is­lamic ceme­tery in Cas­tle Rock Town­ship re­ported it had been van­dal­ized with spray-painted pro­fan­i­ties and swastikas.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity said Satur­day in a state­ment on the Bloomington ex­plo­sion that the depart­ment “fully sup­ports the rights of all to freely and safely wor­ship the faith of their choos­ing and we vig­or­ously con­demn such at­tacks on any re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tion.”

The re­ward for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to an ar­rest or con­vic­tion has grown to $24,000, said Asad Za­man, di­rec­tor of the Mus­lim Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Min­nesota. The Min­nesota chap­ter of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions, or CAIR, said its na­tional of­fice is urg­ing Is­lamic cen­ters and mosques to step up se­cu­rity.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

An ex­plo­sion shat­tered win­dows as wor­ship­pers pre­pared for prayers early Satur­day at the Dar Al Fa­rooq Is­lamic Cen­ter in Bloomington, Min­nesota. The Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions has now urged U.S. Is­lamic cen­ters to step up se­cu­rity.

Min­nesota Gov. Mark Day­ton con­demned the at­tack on the mosque, call­ing it “not Min­nesota.” “This is an act of ter­ror­ism. This is against the law,” Mr. Day­ton said.

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