The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington has been the target of on and off harassment and violence going on years.
On August 6, Imam Mohamed Mukhtar was assaulted on his way to evening worship. At Park Avenue and 82nd Street East, just outside the Islamic Center, Mukhtar was found clutching his left shoulder, which was fractured in two places. He told police he’d been kicked and hit by a white male and a Black male.
And around this time three years ago, anti-government domestic terrorists from Illinois who called themselves the “White Rabbits” drove to Dar Al-Farooq, broke an imam’s office window, and tossed in a pipe bomb that caused an explosion and fire. The leader of that group is scheduled to stand trial in November.
Friday afternoon, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced charges against two boys, 16 and 13 years old, for the attack on Mukhtar. The 16-year-old is charged with aiding and abetting third-degree assault. No further information is available because they are minors.
Later Friday, Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (CD-3) gathered on the football field behind the Islamic Center to call for the prosecution of Mukhtar’s assailants and for Minnesotans to end their racial and religious intolerance.
“Imam Mukhtar is not defined by that attack as he went to worship. But Minnesota could be, if we don’t choose together to decide how we’re going to address and push back, whether it’s Islamophobia, or anti-Semitism, or hatred toward our LGBTQ community,” said Walz.
“We continue to hear messages that, 'this simply isn’t who we are,'” added Flanagan. “But Minnesotans, we have to reckon with the fact that this is exactly who we are.”
Minnesota doesn’t have a specific hate crime law, though the element of hate in a criminal act can exacerbate the consequences. Ellison asked for passage of a bill, recently stalled in the legislature, that would have strengthened hate crime investigations and increased penalties for hate-based vandalism of property.
“We also need to support the investigation and prosecution of the people who attacked Imam Mukhtar,” he said. “You cannot have impunity – meaning you do wrong acts, and nobody ever has to answer for it.”
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips called the alleged attackers “cowards,” and “anti-Americans.”
Religious leaders including Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Rabbi Jill Crimmings of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association, and Rev. Curtiss DeYoung of the Minnesota Council of Churches also attended and spoke in support of Dar Al-Farooq.
Imam Mohamed Omar said when the Islamic Center was bombed three years ago, he was in the room next door. After Mukhtar was attacked, he asked himself where Dar Al-Farooq’s imams could hide to be safe.
“Today we are not hiding anymore,” he said. “This is what it means to be in Minnesota, and this is the Minnesota where I chose to live, with my kids. I’m a father of six, and I will tell this story to my kids, that once upon a time I was about to die, but what happened after that is great, and we are greater than fear.”