BLOOMINGTON, Minnesota — Hundreds of Minnesotans gathered at a soccer field near an Islamic center on Tuesday in a show of solidarity for their Muslim American neighbors, just days after a bomb was thrown through the window of an imam's office.
Jewish and Christian faith leaders joined locals and politicians, ranging from state officials to Sen. Al Franken, in an outpouring of support for the Muslim American community, while the FBI continues to search for the suspect responsible for the attack.
Speaker after speaker, the message was singular: American Muslims are not alone.
"This outrageous attack came at a time of peace and prayer," said Asad Zaman, director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, in reference to the bombing. "The attacker wanted to divide us but he failed," he said to long applause.
"What happened Saturday morning was an attack on all of us," Franken told the crowd. "It wasn't just an attack on this center, or on Muslims, it was an attack on all Minnesotans. On all religious faiths. It was an attack on those Minnesotans who are non-believers," he said to the crowd, the vast majority of which was unaffiliated with the mosque.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar echoed those statements in a letter: "No one should be afraid to worship in the United States of America. I hope the outreach from so many people of so many faiths brings much solace to our Muslim community."
In the early morning hours on Saturday, an explosive was thrown into the imam's office at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis. The blast caused damage to the room and filled the building with smoke, but did not result in any injuries to mosque congregants preparing for morning prayers in an adjacent room.
The bombing also affirmed the fears of many American Muslims, who have seen an increase in hate crimes in the last couple of years, according to data from the FBI. A report released in June by the Council on American-Islamic Relations showed a 91% increase in anti-Muslim incidents in the first six months of 2017 compared to the previous year.
On Sunday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called the incident an “act of terrorism” during a visit to the center. Dayton was joined by Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, and Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American state lawmaker in the US, along with other local and state legislators.
President Trump and the White House have yet to comment on the bombing.
On Tuesday, White House adviser Sebastian Gorka said the administration may respond when a "finalized investigation" occurs. Gorka insinuated that "fake hate crimes" that were "propagated by the left" were one of the reasons for the silence from the executive branch, though incomplete investigations have not deterred the White House, or the president, from issuing statements of condemnation in the past.
The FBI field office in Minneapolis, which has not called the incident a hate crime or an act of terrorism, has said the investigation is a "top priority." The FBI has previously called the bomb an “improvised explosive device.” A command center has been set up in Minneapolis, with agents analyzing evidence and cellular data, KSTP reported.
As the sun set behind the dozen speakers on Tuesday, Rabbi Alexander Davis, president of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association, chose to quote the late Sen. Robert Kennedy.
"Ultimately, America's answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired," he said. This diversity, Davis continued, is "in the face of those who seek to do harm. Let us stand firm, let us stand strong, let us stand proud, and let us stand together."
Talal Ansari is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His secure PGP fingerprint is 4FEE 894C 8088 7E08 E170 A515 2801 7CC6 95D3 11C2
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