At Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, Walz and religious leaders decry bigotry

    Gov. Tim Walz was at Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center to decry religious bigotry. Photo by Aviva Waldman/Minnesota Reformer.

    Elected officials and religious leaders from different faiths gathered Friday at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center to condemn a recent attack on one of the center’s imams. 

    On August 6, Sheikh Mohamed Mukhtar was walking from his home to the Islamic Center when he was attacked by two people who beat him and fractured his shoulder. A 16-year-old and 13-year old were later charged in connection with the assault, although the attack is not currently being prosecuted as a hate crime.

    In summer 2017, Dar Al-Farooq was bombed by a right-wing militia group that sought to “scare [Muslims] out of the country,” according to federal charges. 

    Gov. Tim Walz spoke at the Islamic Center Friday, calling on Minnesotans to support the Center and Bloomington’s Muslim community as it grapples with the fear of violence.

    “Dar al-Farooq is not defined by that bombing. Imam Mukhtar is not defined by an attack when he went to worship,” Walz said. “But Minnesota could be, if we don’t choose together and decide how we’re going to address inclusion, how we’re going to address and push back on Islamophobia or anti-Semitism or hatred toward our LGBTQ community.”

    Walz was joined by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips and Attorney General Keith Ellison, who called for strengthening Minnesota’s hate crime laws. Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Rabbi Jill Crimmings and Reverend Curtiss DeYoung expressed interfaith solidarity and discussed how their organizations — the Archdiocese, Minnesota Rabbinical Association and Minnesota Council of Churches — planned to support Dar al-Farooq.

    Dar al-Farooq’s Imam Mohamed Omar said the attack on Mukhtar frightened many of his congregation into staying home from services the next day. He said that the most recent attack is only the latest in a series of harassing incidents that have made the community he serves feel unsafe.

    “There have been guys coming here to bring Confederate flags or right wing media would come here to portray our center as if we are some sort of terrorist group supporting bad people,” Omar said. “One of our neighbors took the city to the Supreme Court because they wanted to take pictures of our innocent kids who come to the school.”

    Omar added that he worried Islamophobic sentiment stirred by the impending 2020 election could continue to make the center a target. Personal attacks motivated by prejudice reached a 16-year high in 2018, The New York Times reported in late 2019

    “This is the reality that we live in,” Omar said. “Who knows what’s going to come if this series of things happens to us and we become a national target for white supremacists. Whoever wants to make a point, they will come to our mosque to do something.”

    Omar said that Dar al-Farooq had convened political and religious leaders to address the toll that continued harassment and the attack on Imam Mukhtar had taken on the community’s well being.

    “This is a health crisis for our communities: living with fear and not knowing what is going to come next,” Omar said. “We cannot take it and we say no, we need everybody in Minnesota to stand up with us and say no.”

    Reformer intern Avi Waldman is a junior at the University of Chicago working on a degree in English language and literature. She edits and reports for the independent student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon. She previously interned at San Diego CityBeat. In her free time, she enjoys cross-country road trips and is a proud cat parent.