Last Saturday’s early-morning attack on the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington was indeed “dastardly” and “cowardly,” as described by Gov. Mark Dayton. And the attack comes amid an uptick in anti-Muslim bias incidents in Minnesota — a record 14 such cases occurred last year.
Targeting a group based on its religion betrays our laws and values. Hate crimes must be met with a rigorous response, with the perpetrators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In a hopeful sign, Saturday’s attack drew immediate and widespread condemnation.
On a bipartisan basis, elected officials expressed dismay, including Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison, a Democrat representing the Fifth District, represented the entire state when he also lauded the community’s response. “This is the right spirit, and there is no better way to condemn the person who would throw a bomb into this mosque than to react in a loving, kind, inclusive way,” Ellison said Sunday while touring the damage.
Minnesota faith leaders were unwavering and eloquent in their support.
“An attack on a mosque is an attack on a synagogue is an attack on a church is an attack on all faith communities,” said the Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches.
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, issued a statement saying, “Today, I joined other local faith leaders at Dar Al Farooq to express our support and sympathy to our Muslim neighbors.” Hunegs recounted how Muslims rallied around the Jewish community earlier this year during the wave of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers.
This kind of interfaith, cross-community unity is the real face of Minnesota — not the hateful cowardice shown in the mosque attack. And it’s not just rhetorical: By late afternoon Monday, a GoFundMe page (http://tinyurl.com/support-mosque)set up to raise the $95,000 needed to repair the damage done by what the FBI described as “an improvised explosive device” already had received more than $52,000.
Minnesota has a national reputation for tolerance and inclusion, but that ethos is increasingly under attack. Although the mosque explosion is still under investigation and no arrests have been made, Dayton called it “an act of terrorism.”
Among the images from Saturday’s attack were poignant photos of mosque members praying on a grassy patch outside their damaged place of worship. They’re surrounded by instantly recognizable yellow tape with the familiar warning: “POLICE LINE: DO NOT CROSS.”
The tape refers to the site of the explosion, but in a broader sense it speaks to an attack on our freedoms and way of life. Fellow Minnesotans were targeted in their sanctuary. That’s a line that should never be crossed.