Minnesota mosques vandalized, robbed amid increase in reported hate crimes

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Two mosques were robbed and vandalized in the same days earlier this month. Each suffered tens to thousands of dollars of damage.


Although the motives of both suspects remain unclear, hate crimes against Muslims Minnesotans and other communities are on the rise. Experts and activists agree that this troubling trend is evident in Minnesota as well as nationwide. Each attack increases fear within the state’s Muslim communities.


The incidents


Congregants of Tawfiq Islamic Center arrived at the mosque to pray on Labor Day morning. Surveillance footage showed that an individual broke into the mosque’s back door in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood the night before. He then proceeded to cause more than $50,000 of damage and forced his way into almost every room.


He ripped open safes and boxes containing tens of thousand of dollars worth of donations from worshippers, and then ran off with the cash. He is still at large.


The Islamic Center of St. Cloud said that two men broke windows, emptied alcohol containers, smeared blood all over the building, and attempted to steal two Quran copies. Two men were later arrested after the vandalism, robbery and destruction of two copies of the Quran. Officials at the mosque estimated that there was between $15,000 to $20,000 in damage.


St. St. Cloud police arrested the two men at a nearby motel hours later. They were tracked down by police using the motel key they left at the mosque.


Jaylani Hussein (executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-MN) stated that the vandalism at the St. Cloud mosque was vandalized this year for the fifth time. This is the most recent attack on a place of worship in Minnesota’s history. In June, a woman lit a fire in a East Grand Forks mosque using a lighter and spray can.

Courtesy CAIR-MN
Vandalism at the Tawfiq Islam Center


Although police are still trying to determine motives, both cases have put the communities of mosques in danger.


“Font-weight: 400 Every attack creates an increased sense of anxiety and fear. It also brings home the possibility that something might happen to their mosque,” Hussein stated. “Mosques that haven’t had any incidents are not less concerned – they’re even more worried because it feels like they’re next on span>


Hate crimes


After Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act in 1991, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), began publishing annual reports on hate crimes data. Hate crimes are defined by the legislation as “crimes that show evidence of prejudice based upon race, religion or sexual orientation span>

The latest FBI data, which was compiled by Anti-Defamation League from 2020, shows that 8,263 hate crime reports were made across the country. This is the highest number since 2001. Minnesota had 194 hate crimes reported, the highest number since 2005.

Reports of hate crimes in Minnesota, 2000-2020
Notice: According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, hate crime is a “committed crime motivated in whole or part by the offender’s bias(es), against a race or religion, disability sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or ethnicity.” Not all hate crimes can be reported.
Source: FBI


According to FBI data, hate crimes against religion in the U.S. increased significantly in 2016. The number of hate crimes against Muslims reported jumped to 307 from the average of 170 per year five years ago. This was the highest anti Islamic attack since the flood of terrorist attacks on the Muslim community in September 2001. The number of religious hate crimes reported increased in the next year. They remained higher until 2020, when they dropped to lower levels. This may have been due to fewer reports being filed during this pandemic.


Minnesota’s anti-Islamic hate crime reports have fluctuated over time, but they have been generally higher in recent years than years past. Recent years have seen an increase in hate crimes related to religion.


span style=”font weight: 400 We can see that attacks against houses of worship are becoming more common over the past decade,” stated Steve Hunegs (executive director, Jewish Community Relations Council) of Minnesota and Dakotas. “There is nothing worse than attacking people who go to houses of worship for religious observation span>

Reports of hate crimes against Minnesotans based on religion, 2000-2020
Notice: According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program, hate crime is a “committed crime motivated in whole or part by the offender’s bias(es), against a race or religion, disability sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or ethnicity.” Not all hate crimes can be reported.
Source: FBI


Michael Lieberman, of the Southern Poverty Law Center (a civil rights organization that monitors extremism) said that recent years have seen more hate speech. This may be due in part to Trump’s rhetoric which may have affected people’s willingness and ability to take action on it.


He stated that Trump was someone who participated in racist, anti-semitic dog whistles, hate speech, xenophobia and intentionally polarizing words, actions and words.

Courtesy CAIR-MN
Another image showing the destruction at the Tawfiq Islamic Center.


He stated that only the perpetrator of hate crimes is responsible, but the environment in the which they would be encouraged to act is what we believe is a reason for the increase in hate crimes.


Lieberman stated that the FBI’s data was “extraordinarily incomplete.” Only 2,400 of the 18,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies reported hate crimes within their jurisdiction. It is difficult to tell if more hate crimes have been committed or if reporting has improved.


Hussein stated that the solution is to increase public awareness and provide more resources for investigation by law enforcement agencies in order to prevent such attacks.


CAIR helped 17 mosques across the state to gain federal grants to increase security. Minnesota’s Muslim communities that were attacked at their mosques are able to pick up the pieces and continue to go to their mosques.


span style=”font weight: 400 ;”>” We just want it to be clear that no matter where you are from, we will still come to the mosque.” Muhayadn Mohammed, president of St. Cloud Islamic Center during a solidarity gathering.

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