A Minneapolis mosque was targeted with a suspected arson early Thursday morning while prayer was in session, the mosque director said. No one was hurt in the incident, but dozens of books and other equipments were destroyed.
Sheikh Abdirashid Hassan, the director of Abubakar Assadique Islamic Center located in 2824 13th Avenue S., which was bought by Muslims a year ago for $1.7 million, said he believes a hate crime is involved.
Here’s the chronology of the account Hassan gave on Thursday’s event:
• 2:00 a.m. A member of the congregation reported that he has seen two suspicious-looking men in their car in the back parking lot of the mosque.
• 2:54 a.m. The mosque security cameras show that a man broke into a back window downstairs and wandered around in the dark before exiting the building without doing anything else wrong. That part of the building is under construction.
• 5:15 a.m. The morning prayer was called upstairs. About seven members of the congregation attended.
• 5:18 a.m. Security cameras show a second man getting into the mosque through the same window and quickly moving into an unused warehouse where hundreds of copies of the Koran and other books are stored. Using a snowplow machine owned by the mosque, the man apparently started the fire, according to Hassan.
• 5:38 a.m. Cameras show members of the congregation heading to the back parking lot of the mosque on the tip of the two suspicious men reported earlier. Apparently, they spotted nothing.
• 5:39 a.m. Cameras show the suspected arsonist quietly exiting the same window he came through.
Several minutes after that, a member of the congregation decided to check downstairs. Fumes of smoke struck him in the face. He dialed 911 immediately. Firefighters showed up three minutes after his call and successfully managed the blazing fire.
By Thursday evening, half-burned books and an almost unrecognizable snowplow machine were still at the scene. The smell of the smoke could still be detected in the air.
Fresh graffiti showing the Star of David and what looks like a Menorah, both Jewish symbols, have been painted on the wall facing the 13th Street side of the building.
Mosque officials are saying that they are not sure if the two separate men caught on camera or the Jewish symbols are connected. They are also not sure if the graffiti was the work of the two suspicious men or if they were painted last night. Other members of the mosque, however, say that they have never seen the graffiti before.
“While we think this case has the fingerprints of a hate crime, we’re not making any judgment on any particular people, community or faith,” said Hassan, the director of the mosque.
Mosque leaders said that they have been receiving weekly – and sometimes daily- fax messages riddled with insults and “go back to your country” rhetoric since they bought the property.
Police are still investigating the incident, which caused limited damage.
It’s not the first time that a mosque in Minnesota has been targeted by arsonists. Columbia Heights’ Islamic Center was also attacked last year, when arsonists burned down a portion of the mosque.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported on its Web site that attacks against Muslim interests in America have increased “pointedly” since September 11 terrorist attacks.
Mosque leaders are hoping to discuss the incident with city officials and neighborhood and community leaders Friday.