He, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and other elected officials toured the site and met with local leaders of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington Sunday morning.
Early Saturday, an explosive device shattered windows and damaged an office at the mosque, which primarily serves people from the area’s large Somali community.
“What a terrible, dastardly, cowardly terrible act this was that was committed yesterday,” Dayton said. “As someone said in the meeting, if the roles were reversed, it would be called a terrorist attack. And that’s what it is, an act of terrorism.”
“That action is despicable and hateful, but it does not represent who Minnesota is,” Smith said. “It does not represent the vast majority of the people who live in this fantastic state.”
State representatives Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, and Andrew Carlson, R-Bloomington as well as Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota.
The FBI is seeking suspects and trying to determine whether the incident Saturday was a hate crime.
“Anything I could do to put a stop to it, I would gladly do,” Dayton said. “Because in Minnesota, we accept one another, we support one another, we respect one another. … We’re not going to let one bad person get in the way of all that.”
Asad Zaman, director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, said six Muslim groups have combined their resources to offer at $24,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.
Mohamed Omar, the center’s executive director, estimates the mosque holds up to 300 worshippers for Friday prayers. The mosque opened at the site of a former elementary school in the suburb of about 85,000 and serves people primarily from the area’s large Somali community. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community in the U.S., roughly 57,000 people, according to the latest census figures.
Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead noted the Islamic center has been in the city for six years.
“It has grown to be an important part of our community going forward,” Winstead said. “And we’re happy to have them here. That said, when there’s an attack on part of our community, it’s an attack on our entire community.”
Police say there were no injuries, but the explosion damaged the imam’s office.
Investigators have recovered components of the device to figure how it was put together.
Muslim groups are noting an uptick in anti-Muslim incidents across the country. There have been reports of arson attacks and vandalism at mosques, harassment of women wearing Muslim head coverings and bullying of Muslim schoolchildren. Just recently in Minnesota, an Islamic cemetery in Castle Rock Township reported it had been vandalized with spray painted profanities and swastikas.
The national office of the Council on American-Islamic relations, or CAIR, recently released a report showing a 57 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents in 2016 over the previous year. The Washington-based Muslim civil rights organization also noted the spike in anti-Muslim incidents was accompanied by a 44 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during the same period.
Law enforcement officials investigate an explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. (Photo: David Joles, AP)
CAIR and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota documented anti-Muslim Facebook posts responding to news of the bombing, including calls for more violence. Ellison said the uptick in hate preceded the election of President Donald Trump, but Trump has not helped the situation.
“I could tell you that other (presidents), including President Bush, have spoken up for tolerance,” Ellison said. “We’re hoping for a word from President Trump to say that we want a tolerant community and we will condemn all hate crimes by anyone, including against the Muslim community.”
However, Ellison said, he’s heartened by the local response since the bombing.
“There is no better way to condemn the person who would throw the bomb into this mosque, this house of worship, than to react in a loving, kind and inclusive way,” he said.
Leaders at Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center have setup a a Gofundme page to raise money to repair damage from the bombing. It is available at gofundme.com/support-dar-al-farooq-center. The page has raised more than $19,000 from more than 400 people in just under a day, as of Sunday afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
People make phone calls as law enforcement investigate an explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. (Photo: David Joles, AP)