The anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks weighs heavily on the minds of Minnesota Muslims as they prepare to celebrate one of the most important holy days of the year.
For weeks they had worried that Monday’s Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, might fall on the 9/11 anniversary. Though the sighting of the moon placed this year’s Eid on Sept. 12, the proximity of a major holiday and a painful anniversary has fueled anxiety and led community leaders and local law enforcement to tighten security measures for Eid celebrations.
“There has been a long internal discussion about this since last year,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “The overwhelming answer has been that the community should do what they are doing, but there should be extra vigilance.”
CAIR has issued safety guidelines to mosque leaders and community members.
As the presidential campaign has heated up, CAIR has chronicled a rise in threats and incidents targeting local Muslims. On Wednesday, the U.S. attorney’s office charged Daniel Fisher, 57, for threatening to blow up the Tawfiq Islamic Center mosque in Minneapolis. Fisher, who lived a few blocks from the mosque, “had become increasingly angry with Muslims since 9/11,” according to a sworn affidavit from FBI special agent Kevin Kane.
Mosque leaders say they are relying heavily on local law enforcement to secure large gathering areas while equipping members of their community with safety tips.
At Minnesota Da’wah Institute in St. Paul, which holds Eid prayer services at the Xcel Energy Center, Muslim youths are getting training to keep congregants safe, according to the mosque’s imam, Hassan Mohamud.
“We are not strangers,” Mohamud said. “We are part of this [country’s] fabric. Our obligation by faith is to protect and save our neighbors. I will pray for world safety.”
Preparing his sermon is not a difficult task for the outspoken Mohamud. It will be about discrimination and unfair treatment Muslims have faced since the 9/11 attacks.
At the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, one of the largest mosques in the state, the new executive director, Nasir Nur, has thought a lot about the nearly 20,000 congregants who will flock to the Convention Center and what prayer times to allot.
“We are not that much scared,” Nur said, adding, “The Convention Center will be in charge of security.”
Business owners are also being put to the test. Basim Sabri, a landlord to many Somalis at Minneapolis’ Karmel Mall, said that his tenants expressed concern for the safety of the expected crowd of Sunday shoppers who will file through their shops for last-minute Eid items.
“I am doing a little extra [security] this time since the original date was Sept. 11,” he said. “Karmel is not just a mall, it’s a home to many people.”
To ramp up security, Sabri has increased the number of security cameras, added new security vehicles, held meetings with his security guards and taught tenants how to spot an intruder. Most importantly, he said, he is teaming up with new Fifth Precinct Inspector Kathy Waite to improve safety.
Minneapolis police spokeswoman Sgt. Catherine Michal said authorities will be attentive.
“Each precinct that has a mosque is doing extra patrols those days,” she said.
Interfaith groups are also speaking out about the two major events. On 9/11, a group of Muslims, Jews and Christians are holding a vigil at the Wayzata Community Church to show solidarity and support for one another.
The Minnesota Council of Churches also is gearing up. Days after the 9/11 terror attacks, the council spearheaded one of the first interfaith dialogues at the State Capitol, attracting more than 60,000 people of all faiths.
“I think with the 9/11 attack being claimed by those who’d call themselves radical Islamists, it certainly put a new spotlight on Muslims living in the United States,” said the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, the council’s executive director. “The majority of Muslims are democracy-loving community leaders and community neighbors. We just want to remember that in the midst of these kinds of anniversaries.”