by Aysha Qamar
Tragedy took place when a neo-Nazi entered a Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wis. fatally shooting six worshippers and wounding many others, including a police officer on Aug. 5, 2012. Five years after this tragedy, a firebomb was thrown into a Minnesota mosque, while worshippers gathered inside for morning prayers.
According to the Star Tribune, a local newspaper, there were between 15 and 20 people inside the building at the time. The attack resulted in no injuries at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, but police say the imam’s office has been damaged.
Worshippers managed to extinguish the fire before firefighters arrived, according to a statement from the Muslim American Society of Minnesota.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has launched an investigation into the attack caused by an “improvised explosive device, around 5 a.m. local time.
Richard Thorton, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division, said that the investigation will determine whether the incident was a hate crime and who may have been behind it.
In a statement, Thornton said the investigation was the agency’s “top priority”, with his office adding on Twitter that “all hands [are] on deck”
The FBI has not announced any arrests or publicly identified any suspects.
A witness reported seeing something being thrown at the imam’s office window from a van or truck before the blast, Asad Zaman, the society’s director, told reporters.
Prior to the attack, the predominantly Somali mosque, has received threatening calls and emails, Mohamed Omar, the mosque’s executive director told local media.
“It was 5am. The whole neighborhood was calm. People were supposed to be sleeping, that how peaceful this should be,” he said. “I was shocked to learn this happened”.
Unfortunately, the mosque was unable to afford security cameras that could have captured the attack.
The local chapter’s civil rights director, Amir Malik, said that “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”.
The number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the US has nearly tripled since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It reported that the number of organizations opposing Muslims “leaped” from 34 in 2015 to 101 this past year.
The President has not yet spoken about the attack, with many angered at his lack of acknowledgment.
Minnesota state Governor Mark Dayton has called the bombing a “criminal act of terrorism” after visiting the site.
A GoFundMe page has been created “to garner support to rebuild this community center and mosque damaged after an Islamophobic attack,” the page reads.
Many have called for justice and supported members of the community, with the fundraising page raising more than 69,000, at this time.
Although the incident has been described as unimaginable and horrific, the support has strengthened the community.
“Good people came out, and they outnumber that one bad guy, and we are so pleased and so happy to see this community coming together in our support,” Omar said.
If you’d like to donate to rebuild the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center, visit their fundraising page here.