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Minnesota mosque bombing fuels anxiety among Southern California Muslims

posted on: Aug 8, 2017

Law enforcement officials investigate an explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. Bloomington police Chief Jeff Potts said Saturday that investigators are trying to determine the cause of the blast. Authorities say the explosion damaged one room but it didn’t hurt anyone. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP)

By: Brenda Gazzar
Source: Los Angeles Daily News

Southern California Muslims voiced concern over Saturday’s mosque bombing in Minnesota, saying they feared it could be further evidence of an anti-Muslim backlash that has worsened in recent months.

While American-Muslim leaders were still waiting for the results of the federal probe, they noted the explosion came amid a national uptick in incidents targeting Muslims around the country that includes harassment, workplace discrimination and school bullying.

“It only fuels that concern; it fuels that anxiety,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Greater Los Angeles chapter, of the bombing. “Hopefully, we’ll find out this was not hate-motivated, not bias motivated. I pray it is not.”

FBI investigators Sunday were seeking the person or persons responsible for a homemade bomb that tore through a suburban Minneapolis mosque as people were gathering for early morning prayers. No one was injured. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton reportedly condemned the bombing as “an act of terrorism.”

At the Islamic Center of Reseda, John Abedi said they turned to Los Angeles police last week for extra security after an Islamic religious leader in another area made remarks widely considered inflammatory toward Jews related to the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. A Los Angeles Police Department patrol car could be seen parked adjacent to the Reseda mosque on Sunday.

On June 30, a worshipper from the mosque was waiting for the bus at a nearby bus stop following prayers when four males got out of a car and beat him up while using anti-Muslim slurs, said Abedi, who is the mosque’s director of operations. Abedi said he found the man, who was wearing traditional Islamic garb and appeared to be in his early 60s, on the bench with his head bloodied and dropped him off near his home at his request.

“You see a lot of these things, and I asked this guy if he wants to go to the police and he said no; he didn’t want to,” Abedi said, adding that he didn’t know the man’s name and hadn’t seen him in recent weeks.

The Islamic Center of Reseda used to have a weekend school but that ended early this year when parents stopped bringing their children out of concern for their safety, Abedi said.

When asked why that was, he said there are Muslims who feel that President Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has given people “the green light” to take action against Muslims.

Some people “just think this is their opportunity that they can go ahead and do whatever they want to do and somebody is going to take their side,” he said.

While the mosque has a very close relationship with police, “they cannot be here 24 hours a day to see what’s going on,” Abedi said.

Mosques had already been on increased alert or heightened security after a number of them received death threats and hate mail in recent months, CAIR’s Ayloush said. Even during Eid al-Fitr, which marked the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in late June, the security of worshippers was mentioned as a top concern, he said.

CAIR noted last month that the number of reported anti-Muslim bias incidents nationwide increased by 24 percent this year compared with the first half of 2016. Thirty-three of the 451 such incidents reported occurred at mosques or Islamic centers, according to the Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

In an email to local Muslim leaders on Saturday, LAPD Officer Omar Ricci said police were briefing all divisional watch commanders about the mosque bombing in Minnesota and that all roll calls Saturday would be briefed. Electronic messages were set to be sent to all patrol cars via their in-car computers as well.

“Patrol officers are asked to increase their patrols around mosques in their division and step out and meet members of the mosque,” Ricci wrote.

Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, which represents more than half a million Muslims in the region, said the issue of security is expected to be discussed at the organization’s regular board of directors meeting on Monday.

“People are concerned about it and certainly, we condemn this kind of behavior on any part,” he said of the Minnesota mosque’s bombing. “All the places of worship, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist, all of them should be respected and people should be safe to go and worship there.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.