In a show of solidarity, hundreds of people gathered Tuesday night at a Minnesota mosque that was fire-bombed over the weekend.
Mohamed Omar, executive director of the Islamic center, told VOA that the gathering, which included community and political leaders and congregants, was meant to send message to those behind the attack.
“The goal of the gathering was to show those targeting us because of what we believe that there are many other non-Muslim Minnesotans who oppose their ideology,” said Omar.
Since the bombing that targeted the mosque, many community members, mainly non-Muslims, have visited the mosque to show solidarity.
Aqil Ahmed, one of the congregants of the mosque said the community reaction was very encouraging.
“The last three days, the mosque has been receiving people from all aspects of the community, including politicians’ church leaders and ordinary citizens who left us healing notes, flowers, gift cards and other donations in show of their solidarity with us,” said Ahmed.
A VOA reporter who attended the Tuesday night event said the evening began with a readings from the Quran verses on how Islam is a peaceful religion. Politicians, community leaders and imams then took turns condemning Saturday's bombing.
“The number of people who showed up here today and their diversity will give a relief and confidence to our community, particularly, the mosque congregants who lived with fear and uncertainty since the attack,” said Osman Irro, a Somali American.
But Islamic center executive director Omar said such attacks would never deter the center's members from practicing their religion.
This Islamic center was fire-bombed on Saturday, an incident being investigated by the FBI.
The mosque administrator at the time said “a congregant saw a man driving a pickup truck, then heard a sound of a banging car door, before smoke came out and a huge explosion followed.”
Although no one was injured, the attack damaged the office of the Imam. About 20 worshipers were in the building at the time to perform their dawn prayers along with some students who go there for to study Islam.
Rowdo Bashir was getting ready to go to the mosque on Saturday when a fellow student texted her a message about bombing.
“You can imagine the shock when you receive a text message around five in the morning and you are told that the center you are coming has been bombed,” Bashir told VOA Somali. “It shocked me a lot.”
On Sunday, one day after the attack, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, leading a delegation of politicians, visited the mosque and met with about 100 community members to show solidarity.
He described the attack on the Islamic center as “an act of terrorism” and a "hate crime.”
Among those who visited the mosque Sunday were U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, the nation’s first Somali-American lawmaker.