Terror tore through a suburban Minneapolis community on Saturday after the bombing of a mosque, amplifying growing concerns among some Muslims who have felt targeted nationwide in recent months.
Law enforcement officials said the explosion occurred around 5 a.m. at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. Fire and smoke engulfed much of the red-brick structure, but there were no injuries.
The FBI is leading the ongoing investigation, along with local law enforcement. Authorities say they believe an improvised explosive device — also known as an IED — was to blame for the blast at the mosque, which primarily serves the area’s large Somali community.
Mohamed Omar, who has been executive director of the mosque for two years, said Saturday that he was relieved no one was hurt.
A boy who has said he wants to be the first Muslim president is taking on Donald Trump, ahead of Republican presidential nominee’s appearance in Minneapolis scheduled for Friday.
Yusuf Dayur, 12, said Trump says things that fuel ill-will toward his fellow Muslims. Trump’s campaign is instilling fear in people, Dayur said, “who do not really know what Islam stands for and do not really know what the Muslim community believes.”
In Minnesota, 10 young men of Somali or Oromo descent have been charged with conspiring to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS. Six pleaded guilty, three were convicted and a 10th is believed dead. In addition, more than 20 young men traveled to Somalia to join the ranks of the terror group al-Shabab starting in 2007.
But those figures represent a small fraction of the tens of thousands of Somali-Americans who call Minnesota home.
Christianity and Islam are the two dominant religious groups in our world. According to the Pew Research Center Report, the number of Muslims worldwide will be “nearly as numerous as Christians” by 2050. The study also points to the interesting statistic that for the first time in history, the number of Christians and Muslims will be 2.9 billion and 2.8 billion respectively. In view of this, interfaith relations assume an added significance. Christians and Muslims have a duty to work toward peace and betterment of humanity through a shared framework. It is imperative that the mainstream leadership take an active role in promoting positive relations that are based on the universal principles of these two world religions.
The extremely heinous acts committed by “Muslim” terrorist groups like ISIS are a betrayal of Islamic teachings, in the same way the genocide of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR) by “Christian” terrorists is a betrayal of Christian teachings; or the violence against Christians and Muslims in India by “Hindu” terrorists is a betrayal of Hinduism; or the violence against the Rohingiya Muslims in Burma by “Buddhist” terrorists is a betrayal of Buddhism. These horrendous acts should not be allowed to deflate the desire and passion among mainstream followers of all religions to continue to build relationships toward making this world safe for our future generations.
As I noted in my earlier blog, the Christian-Muslim Dialogue sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Dr. Jay Rock and Dr. Jamal Badawi were the keynote speakers at this celebration. Dr. Badawi’s framework for Muslim-Christian relations from a Muslim perspective was quite compelling. I would like to summarize that framework, quoting from his world renowned research paper, which is considered a mainstream thesis.
1. Faith in One Universal God (Allah in Arabic language): Islam is founded on the belief that there is only one God, who is the universal Creator, Sustainer and Cherisher of all. Being the sole creator of all humankind precludes any notion of multiple, competing creators, each marshalling his creation against the other “gods” and their creation. Allah is One and is impartial toward His creation. He provides for all, including those who reject faith in Him, or even those who defy Him. He cares for the well being of all and gives them ample opportunity to repent to Him and end the state of separateness suffered by those who reject Him or are unmindful of Him. This belief implies that all humans are equal before Allah in terms of their humanity, irrespective of their particular beliefs. Only Allah is the ultimate judge of any person’s “theological correctness.” No human should be oppressed or mistreated by other fellow humans because of a perceived “theological incorrectness.”
“Say, ‘O people of the book’ [a term which particularly refers to Jews and Christians] ‘come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him (in His powers and divine attributes); that we erect not from among ourselves lords and patrons other than God.‘” (Qur’an,3:64)
The history of dialogue between Muslims and Christians goes back 1400 years when a delegation of Christians visited the Prophet Muhammad in Medina for a dialogue. They stayed in the Prophet’s mosque for three days and even prayed in their own custom when it was time for their prayers.
In 1989, Minnesota saw the birth of the Muslim Christian Dialogue program jointly organized by the Islamic Center of Minnesota (ICM) and the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC). The largest Islamic center in Minnesota and a major Christian umbrella organization coming together for such an edifying project set the tone of Muslim Christian relations in our state. The increasing Muslim population and an overriding need for Muslims and Christians to understand each other in a deeper way was a major motivator behind the initiation of this program.
There have been similar efforts in other parts of the country and even in Minnesota in the past, but what sets this program apart from others is the consistency and commitment that both the organizers and the audience have shown for the past 25 years. To meet month after month, all the while sustaining the intensity of the spirit for dialogue to understand each other’s religious traditions better, requires a genuine passion for coexistence, acknowledgement of pluralism around us, and a belief in taking ownership to bring about a positive change in Muslim-Christian relationship. The ICM and MCC deserve to be applauded for this tremendous effort.
The Minnesota Council of Churches has a program called, Respectful Conversations which opens the doors to communicate across difference on areas of disagreement. The program tries to frame the topic and design some questions for attendees to meet with trained facilitators, to have a conversation in a spirit of empathy for those with there is strong disagreement.
If you are interested in a Respectful Conversation to bless your community, contact Jerad at (612) 230-3211.
Since the start of the project, MCC had over 1500 people throughout Minnesota who have gathered together for a Respectful Conversation on important, often divisive issues in our community. This month MCC will hold their first one in an Islamic Center! Now is your chance to join the conversation as participants from the Islamic Center of Minnesota and the Minnesota Council of Churches adopt the Respectful Conversation model, a method of discussion promoted by Minnesota Council of Churches and designed not to change minds, but soften hearts.
In conversation with MCC, we have chosen a conversation about Drones and Violence.
The University of St. Thomas (UST) in Minnesota has converted a former seminary building room into a prayer space to accommodate the growing number of Muslim students, according to the Star Tribune.
The university has reportedly created its own Islamic prayer rooms, as well as “Wudu” stations for the ritual washing of hands and feet in Loras Hall, which used to be part of a seminary, at a cost of approximately $60,000.
In recent years, the number of students from Middle Eastern countries attending Catholic universities has grown. The number of students from Saudi Arabia alone at UST has reportedly grown from 12 students in 2008 to 121 this semester, many of whom reportedly received scholarships from the Saudi government.
Theology professor Terence Nichols, who is co-director of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center at UST told the Star Tribune he’s not surprised. “There’s been a growth of Muslim students across the country in Catholic universities,” said Nichols, “because we take religion seriously, and they’re accepted.”
Lori Friedman, director of international student services at the school, agreed. “In a Catholic university, faith is pretty important in general,” she told the newspaper. “Our Muslim students feel that they can have their faith valued here as well, and be respected.”