The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Saturday took over the investigation of a bombing of a mosque outside Minneapolis that caused no injuries.
Anti-Muslim incidents have risen sharply in the United States over the past year, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the Minnesota mosque bomber.
The Minneapolis FBI field office is investigating an early morning explosion in Bloomington, Minnesota, when a bomb went off at about 5:05 a.m. Saturday, five minutes after the first morning prayer had begun at Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center.
According to the FBI, a preliminary investigation indicates that the explosion was caused by an Improvised Explosive Device. The bureau is asking anyone with information to send tips to 1-800-Call-FBI.
“I was sad, and I was surprised,” said Mohamed Omar, executive director of Dar Al-Farooq. “I was shocked. It was first prayer, it was 5 a.m. and the whole neighborhood was calm, people were supposed to be sleeping. That’s how peaceful it should be.”
Omar said that five minutes into first prayer, the congregation saw smoke billowing out of a broken window leading to the center Imam’s office. When they saw the broken window, they called police.
There were said to be dozens of people inside during the incident, though no one was injured. Those present describe the office that contained the explosion as having broken and burned furniture.
Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota spoke at the press conference as well, condemning the act of violence.
“Hate is not okay,” said Zaman. “We need a better America, we need an America where people are safe with their neighbors. Targeting people because of their race, their ethnicity or their religion is absolutely and completely un-American.”
In the past, Dar Al-Farooq has been subject to Islamophobic threats and messages. During the press conference, Omar described hateful messages, calls and emails the center has received lately, but said he has faith the police will find out more with their investigation.
During another press conference, spiritual, religious and government leaders from around the state gathered to show their support for Dar Al-Farooq.
Leaders of all faiths spoke, spreading messages of love, acceptance, support and encouragement. Many asked more people to speak up concerning religious intolerance, and encourage more interfaith dialogue.
Among the speakers was Father Dennis Zehren, Pastor at the Nativity of Mary church in Bloomington who was authorized to speak on behalf of the Archbishop of St. Paul. Curtiss DeYoung, the CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches also spoke.
“It is a tragedy that we have to gather here today,” said DeYoung. “An attack on a mosque is an attack on a synagogue, an attack on a church, it’s an attack on all faith communities, so we stand with you, a million protestants in Minnesota.”
“Together we can, together we will,” said community member Mahamud Kanyre, leading a chant. “This is Minnesota, this is what we are about.”
Gail Anderson, with Empathy Works, spoke out about interfaith education, and repercussions of actions like those taken on Saturday morning.
“If you’re out there and feeling uneasy about Muslims, take advantage of all the opportunities around you to get to know your Muslim neighbors,” said Anderson. “Anyone who thinks that throwing a bomb into someplace called a youth and family center is going to solve any problems, is the problem.”
The Muslim American Society of Minnesota is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to the conviction and incarceration of the person responsible. Additionally, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is offering a $10,000 reward for information.
“We hope a reward will help law enforcement authorities quickly apprehend the perpetrator of this act of violence targeting an American house of worship,” said a statement from CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Amir Malik. “If a bias motive is proven, this attack would represent another in a long list of hate incidents targeting Islamic institutions nationwide in recent months.”
Bloomington police have not called this a hate crime, though Zaman said all indications lead toward it being one.
One worshipper said they saw a pickup truck speed out of the parking lot just after the incident, as well as a man standing near the broken window. Zaman said the likelihood of anyone from the congregation leaving during that time was highly unlikely.
Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI, option #1 or call Bloomington police at (952) 563-4900.
The Dar Al-Farooq community started a GoFundMe page, which you can find here.
A day before the explosion, the local FBI office posted images of Muslim citizens as part of a community outreach effort.
Statement from Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar
“This is a time for Minnesotans to stand together in opposition to hate. It saddens beyond words to know that someone in our state would set an explosion in a place where children gather every day to learn and play. This building is more than a religious symbol, it’s a place where Minnesotans are gathering to create community, to talk to their neighbors, to learn about our world and each other, and to help care for children. My thoughts, prayers, and love are with the families and neighbors in this community who feel a bond with each other shaken today.
“We cannot tolerate this sort of act in our state. I’m reminded that today is the fifth anniversary of a shooting massacre at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and I feel the need to remind my community that attacks on places of worship – no matter who commits them, no matter what religion is targeted, no matter the city or state or immigrant community – these attacks are attacks on our founding principles as Americans. I’m thankful no one was harmed in this explosion, unlike the shooting in Wisconsin, but targeting faith communities shakes all of our American pursuits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must all unite to stand against them as Americans who cherish the ability to worship freely, and who cherish the ability of our neighbors to do the same.”
Statement from Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton
“Every place of worship, for all Minnesotans of every faith and culture, must be sacred and safe. My prayers are with the children, families, and faith leaders of the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center today.
“I thank the Bloomington Police and Fire Departments, all other first responders, the FBI, and the ATF for their swift responses to this incident. Their investigations will be crucial in determining what happened this morning. I will remain in close contact with Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman throughout the weekend and until this investigation is complete.”
Statement from Lt. Governor Tina Smith
“Governor Dayton and I offer our unwavering support to the faith leaders of the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center, and the families and children who call the Center their place of worship and learning.
“Every Minnesotan has the right to worship in peace and safety. Though we do not know what happened this morning, or who was responsible, we all stand together for love and acceptance, and against hate and intolerance.
“We are grateful for the first responders, law enforcement, and the Bloomington Police and Fire Departments, who have been working all day at the Islamic Center to investigate this incident and protect the safety of our community.”
Statement from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo
“The Minneapolis Police Department continues to monitor the incident and information released by investigative authorities related to the explosion that occurred at the Dar Al Farooq Mosque in Bloomington, MN earlier today. At this time there are no known threats to any Minneapolis Mosques or Islamic organizations. The MPD will work with our local Muslim community members and continue to provide public safety in the neighborhoods where their places of faith and organizations are located.”
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