The seven-million strong American Muslim community is alarmed over Saturday’s mosque bombing in Minnesota, which the community sees as a further evidence of an anti-Muslim backlash that has worsened in recent months.
A blast caused by what the FBI called “an improvised explosive device” rocked the Dar Al Farooq Center before dawn Saturday (August 5), just as a small group of Muslim worshipers had gathered for the day’s first round of prayers.
No one was hurt in the explosion, which heavily damaged an imam’s office at the Islamic Cente and shattered windows in the office.
The blast was reported at 5:05 a.m. as about a dozen people gathered in a room nearby for morning prayers and jolted awake many residents of the neighborhood, according to Minnesota Star Tribune. Congregants and neighbors expressed relief that there were no injuries.
While American-Muslim leaders were still waiting for the results of the FBI probe, they noted the explosion came amid a national surge in incidents targeting Muslims around the country that includes harassment, workplace discrimination and school bullying.
The FBI investigators were seeking the person or persons responsible for the homemade bomb that tore through a suburban Minneapolis mosque.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has condemned the bombing as “an act of terrorism.” He, Lt. Governor Tina Smith and other elected officials toured the site and met with local leaders of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington Sunday morning.
“What a terrible, dastardly, cowardly terrible act this was that was committed yesterday,” Dayton was quoted by USA Today as saying. “As someone said in the meeting, if the roles were reversed, it would be called a terrorist attack. And that’s what it is, an act of terrorism.”
“Anything I could do to put a stop to it, I would gladly do,” Dayton said. “Because in Minnesota, we accept one another, we support one another, we respect one another. … We’re not going to let one bad person get in the way of all that.”
On his part, Lt. Governor Tina Smith said: “That action is despicable and hateful, but it does not represent who Minnesota is,” Smith said. “It does not represent the vast majority of the people who live in this fantastic state.”
Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead noted the Islamic center has been in the city for six years. “It has grown to be an important part of our community going forward,” Winstead said. “And we’re happy to have them here. That said, when there’s an attack on part of our community, it’s an attack on our entire community.”
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on President Trump to condemn the attack. “Silence on the part of public officials at the national level only serves to empower Islamophobes,” Hooper said in a statement.
Mosques around the nation had already been on increased alert or heightened security after a number of them received death threats and hate mail in recent months, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Greater Los Angeles chapter. Even during Eid al-Fitr, which marked the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in late June, the security of worshippers was mentioned as a top concern, he said.
CAIR noted last month that the number of reported anti-Muslim bias incidents nationwide increased by 24 percent this year compared with the first half of 2016. Thirty-three of the 451 such incidents reported occurred at mosques or Islamic centers, according to CAIR.
Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California said: “People are concerned about it and certainly, we condemn this kind of behavior on any part.” “All the places of worship, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist, all of them should be respected and people should be safe to go and worship there.”
Last week, CAIR-MN called on law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, to investigate a possible bias motive for vandalism targeting the Muslim Cemetery Al Magfirah in Castle Rock Township.
The vandals went into buildings on the property and spray-painted profanities, Nazi swastikas and a statement that appears to be “leave, you r dead.” They also damaged walls, ceilings, furniture, and equipment on the property.
Tellingly, according to the PEW survey released on July 26, Muslims in the United States perceive a lot of discrimination against their religious group, are leery of Trump and think their fellow Americans do not see Islam as part of mainstream U.S. society. The PEW survey also finds:
Nearly two-thirds of Muslim Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. today. And about three-quarters say Donald Trump is unfriendly toward Muslims in America. On both of these counts, Muslim opinion has undergone a stark reversal since 2011, when Barrack Obama was president, at which point most Muslims thought the country was headed in the right direction and viewed the president as friendly toward them.
In addition, half of Muslim Americans say it has become harder to be Muslim in the U.S. in recent years. And 48% say they have experienced at least one incident of discrimination in the past 12 months.
However, Muslim Americans express a persistent streak of optimism and positive feelings. Overwhelmingly, they say they are proud to be Americans, believe that hard work generally brings success in this country.