Gov. Mark Dayton met with about two dozen Muslim community leaders and imams Sunday morning at the Umatul Islam Center in south Minneapolis and commiserated with them about a break-in and vandalism at the mosque last Wednesday.
"The act that was perpetrated here last week was a terrible, terrible act," the governor said. "Vicious, illegal and cowardly. To sneak in the deep of night and desecrate a place of worship is so un-American and so un-Minnesotan … This is an assault against all Minnesotans to practice their faith as they choose."
The mosque and Islamic center, in a strip mall along Interstate 35W just south of E. Lake Street, contains prayer rooms, offices, a weekend school and a resource center. Surveillance cameras caught images of a burglar armed with a hammer breaking interior windows and doors in the offices and classrooms. Some computer equipment was stolen. Although an official damage estimate has not been prepared, repairing the damage and replacing the equipment will likely cost more than $5,000, said Abdi Wahid Osman, a board member of the mosque.
The incident comes at a time of high tension in the Muslim community, with some presidential candidates trading rhetoric about immigration and terrorism.
Osman and Ahmed Taajir Ibrahim, imam of the mosque, had kind words for Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who arrived with several staff members and stayed for more than an hour on Sunday.
"You have shown throughout your governorship commitment to protecting the rights of all Minnesotans without exception, speaking out against bigotry and other forms of discrimination," Osman said. "As the Muslim community, we are an integral part of the society. Yes, we may be the last who came here, but we aren't the last who will come and be a part of the American story."
Ibrahim told the governor that he knows "what happened here is not big compared to what happens elsewhere. But we are especially grateful you took the time to share your concern and your sympathy. It means a lot to us."
Dayton and Smith shared food with the leaders and shook hands with children who had come for their religious lessons. Afterward, Dayton again said the incident "deeply offends me and deeply offends all Minnesotans."
Osman said members of the mosque were "heartened by the outpouring of support" they have received from other faith groups and said local law enforcement has been "extremely helpful to us."
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.