Responding to a minor blast at a mosque in suburban Bloomington, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said on Sunday that the explosion is “an act of terrorism.” Dayton visited the mosque on the day after the explosion. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dayton said: "What a terrible, dastardly, cowardly act was committed." Dayton added, "Anything I can do to put a stop to it, I would gladly do.”
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is offering a $10,000 reward in the case. "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," said Amir Malik, CAIR's civil rights director in Minnesota.
On Saturday, the FBI said that an improvised explosive device damaged a room at Bloomington’s Dar Al Farooq Community Center. Television news coverage showed a broken window, while smoke damage was also reported. No one was injured by the blast. The agency is looking for suspects.
Witnesses claimed to have seen a pickup quickly leave the center’s parking lot just after the explosion. The incident occurred at approximately 5 a.m. local time on Saturday. Police report that 15 to 20 people were gathered in prayer at the mosque at the time of the explosion, which wrecked the office of the mosque’s prayer leader.
In a statement, the US Department of Homeland Security said it "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. We are thankful that there were no injuries, but that does not diminish the serious nature of this act."
Dayton greeted members of the largely Somali Muslim community outside the center, saying that the incident was “so wretched. Not Minnesota.” He was flanked by Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, US Rep. Keith Ellison (D) -- the first Muslim elected to the US Congress -- state Rep. Andrew Carlson (D), Mayor Gene Winstead (D), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) -- the first Somali-American elected to the Minnesota Legislature. Approximately 100 members of the Muslim congregation were on hand. Dayton conveyed official “concern and solidarity” to the Muslim community. Smith said, “That action is despicable and horrible, but it does not represent what Minnesota is.”
Ellison claimed that the explosion was part of a pattern of anti-Muslim incidents across the nation. “This is an opportunity for us to reach out to each other.” Ellison said, adding that he was heartened to see supporters outside with signs. “There is no better way to react ... than to react in a loving, kind inclusive way.”
Executive Director Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota said that his community is “saddened” by the incident while offering a $24,000 award offered for information leading to the perpetrator.
After the news conference, Mohamed Omar, executive director of the Islamic center, showed Ellison the damage done to the imam’s office and said it was a close call. The imam missed the blast because he was late by a few minutes. “Normally he would be in there and waiting for his prayer,” Omar said.
Ellison, Dayton, and Smith granted the Muslim prayer leader a private interview. According to a press release from the US. Department of Homeland Security, acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke is “in close contact with federal, state and local authorities and local community leaders as the investigation into this matter continues.”
The Muslim community center was once the site of Northgate Elementary School and Concordia High School. Later it became a worship space for Maranatha Community Church. The Dar Al Farooq Center bought it in 2011. Since it opened, some residents have complained about noise, traffic, and parking.
The Somali Muslim community in Minnesota continues to grow. Also, it has become the focus of attention of law enforcement because of a number of members who have joined Muslim terrorist organizations, including ISIS.