Recent attacks on mosques in Minneapolis, in the Midwest U.S. state of Minnesota, have increased concerns by Somali American imams, mosque administrators and community activists about the safety of their congregations.
Fires were set at the Masjid Omar Islamic Center on April 23 and Masjid Al-Rahma Mosque on April 24, Minneapolis police said. The locations are close to each other.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota, was inside the Masjid Al-Rahma Mosque when someone set fire to the third floor.
“I was inside the mosque, meeting with the imam about the safety of his congregation, when I heard someone shouting with, ‘There is a fire. There is a fire,’” Hussein told VOA recently. “Thank Allah no one was hurt.”
He added that more than 40 children who were in the mosque’s day care were safely evacuated.
Hussein has been involved in the American-Muslim community’s fight against hate attacks, but he said this was the first time he witnessed one.
“I could not believe my eyes, I was shocked and bewildered that I was witnessing one of the things I have been documenting for many years,” Hussein said. “We have been receiving threatening calls and messages, but this was the first time I practically witnessed it.”
On April 29, authorities arrested Jackie Rahm Little on a state charge of second-degree arson regarding the April 24 fire at the Masjid Al-Rahma mosque.
On Thursday, Little was indicted on federal charges of arson and damage to religious property while investigators look into a series of crimes targeting Muslims and Somali Americans, The Associated Press reported.
Authorities are also investigating LIttle as a suspect in a fire that damaged the Masjid Omar Islamic Center on April 23, as well as in the January vandalism of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Minneapolis office, among other crimes, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said at a news conference last week.