ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The governor of Minnesota says an explosion at a mosque outside Minneapolis over the weekend was an act of terrorism. The FBI has not yet given it that label. A small explosive device blew up inside an imam's office. The mosque was damaged, but there were no injuries. Doualy Xaykaothao of Minnesota Public Radio reports many questions remain about who did it and why.
DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO, BYLINE: On Saturday morning minutes before 5:00 a.m. prayer service, a loud explosion was heard at the state's largest mosque, the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, south of Minneapolis. Waleed Meneese is the imam there. Standing inside his blown-out office, he points to damage around his desk and window.
WALEED MENEESE: For sure he's a non-Muslim. Already witnesses - they say that guy is an American, white guy. He come with his car at the grass and near the window here. When this happened, all the neighbors woke up because - sounds too loud.
XAYKAOTHAO: Meneese has been an imam for nearly 18 years. He's an Islamic scholar and author of numerous books. He doesn't think he was the target.
MENEESE: Some people hate Muslims with no reason but just that they are different than them. Many people misunderstand Islam.
XAYKAOTHAO: The FBI and local law enforcement collected evidence, including the center's video footage and fragments of the IED. But they have not publicly named a suspect or speculated on motivation. Over the last year, there have been at least 14 anti-Muslim bias incidents reported to police in the state. Yesterday, Minnesota's governor Mark Dayton visited the Islamic center and spent more than an hour talking to those gathered.
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MARK DAYTON: If this were where the roles were reversed, it would be called a terrorist attack. And that's what it is. It's an act of terrorism, and the destruction it's done to this sacred site is just unthinkable, unforgivable.
ERIN MILLER: We shouldn't wait for a label of terrorism to come from me or from law enforcement or from anyone else to care about what happened here.
XAYKAOTHAO: Erin Miller is with a research group at the University of Maryland that studies national incidents of terrorism.
MILLER: So regardless of, you know, what the outcome of the investigation is, you know, violence at a place of worship is an important and not isolated incident.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar.
XAYKAOTHAO: Following Sunday prayers, Abdulahi Farah, a mosque volunteer, told the congregation about the outpouring of support they've received both from other mosques and some strangers. Outside the Islamic center, he carried cinnamon sugar cookies that he received moments ago.
ABDULAHI FARAH: What's the right response to this? The best response is to show love to your neighbor, reach out to a person and say, you know, this is not OK. I don't support that, and here's cookie (laughter), you know?
XAYKAOTHAO: Ben Osborn and his wife baked those cinnamon cookies for the Islamic center. They came from South Minneapolis. Holding his young sons Colin and Kyle, he said he just wanted to show some love for his Muslim neighbors.
BEN OSBORN: You know, I don't know how long it's going to take to get through this tumultuous period. I have faith that we will, and we'll kind of come back to a more truer version of our values in America.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: What were they doing here at night?
XAYKAOTHAO: Tomorrow night the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center plans to hold what it's calling a solidarity event to thank the public for its support while the FBI continues its investigation. For NPR News, I'm Doualy Xaykaothao in Bloomington, Minn.
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