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Muslim leaders request emergency security funding following yet another mosque fire

Leaders are asking the governor to issue $50,000 to each mosque statewide for surveillance cameras and other security upgrades.

ST PAUL, Minn. — A man is in jail and faces first-degree arson charges after the Oromo American Tawhid Islamic Center went up in flames Wednesday morning. No one was hurt.

Muslim leaders say the fire was Minnesota's sixth mosque attack this year and many families are terrified. They expect low attendance at area mosques this weekend and likely beyond.

"When you leave your house, you either go to your school or go to your mosque and especially when you're younger like a teenager, this is where you hang out," said Imam Mohamen Omar of Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, which was targeted in 2017. "So when that place becomes a scary place to go, it tears apart the community."

A day after the St. Paul fire, leaders are already taking action to try to keep people safe in places of worship. They gathered at the State Capitol Thursday not only to pray but also to ask for emergency security funding. The group spoke with Governor Tim Walz's deputy chief of staff and left messages for Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic and House Speaker Melissa Hortman.

"We requested that $50,000 of emergency funding should be awarded to every mosque in the state so that they can upgrade their cameras and/or their security lighting," said Imam Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota.

They're also asking the governor to allow the Department of Public Safety to issue guidelines to police departments so that mosques, synagogues and churches are patrolled at night and on Fridays. They would also like DPS to appoint a security liaison to work with the Muslim community.

"We also ask the governor to take a more public stance talking about hate in the state," Zaman added. 

Jaylani Hussein, executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations - Minnesota, says the emergency security money they're requesting isn't part of any particular bill. Still, he says they'd like the governor to issue it by the end of the legislative session Monday. They plan to follow up Friday. 

"We're overwhelmed, we're under-resourced, and under attack," Hussein said. "Seventy-five percent of our community is in the poverty line. We already do not have enough resources to have enough needs for our families."

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