Three incidents in just days have members of the Twin Cities' Muslim community concerned they may be the victims of hate crimes.
Doctor Hamdy el Sawaf calls it a disturbing pattern. Early Sunday morning, someone set fire to the storage shed behind the mosque in Columbia Heights. Friday evening before prayer service, three unknown people came inside the mosque and tossed a bottle of rotten eggs into the lobby — then ran away.
An Islamic school in Fridley, where 360 students attend classes, has also been vandalized — someone shot paintballs at the building, leaving a big mess to clean up.
"Our mosque, our place of worship, is under attack," says el Sawaf, who is with the Islamic Center of Minnesota. "We have no explanation for this."
Columbia Heights police would not speak to KARE 11 on camera, but say the crimes are being investigated.
"Because of the incidents that happened, I don't feel safe for myself or for my kids," says worshipper Shireen Karim.
El Sawaf worries about the timing of the attacks.
"I hope that nothing bad will happen again, especially with the holy day coming in two weeks."
Ramadan, the holiest month on the Islamic calendar, is two weeks away. Muslims around the world will fast by day, and feast after sundown. El Sawaf wants to ensure safety for those attending prayer services at the mosque.
The mosque has existed for a quarter century with few incidents, but given recent events El Sawaf plans to have security cameras installed.
By Rondah Kinchlow, KARE 11 News
(Copyright 2004 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)