Hate crimes have become a rising issue in the United States in recent years, particularly towards marginalised communities such as Muslims. The recent arson attacks on two mosques in Minneapolis have left the local Muslim community shaken, and the impact of these crimes can have lasting effects.
Arson at Two Mosques
Jackie Rahm Little, a Minneapolis man, was charged with second-degree arson for starting fires that damaged two mosques in the city. The first fire occurred on April 23rd at the Masjid Omar Islamic Center, and the second fire was set on April 24th at the Mercy Islamic Center, which is less than a mile away. Little is accused of entering the Mercy Islamic Center with a gasoline can and setting a fire on the third floor. The surveillance footage shows Little carrying a gasoline can inside, and a melted plastic gas can was found where the fire started.
Little, who has had three cases of mental illness petitions filed against him, is currently wanted by the authorities, and his whereabouts are unknown. Meanwhile, recent fires in Minnesota have left the Muslim community feeling unsettled and fearful of Islamophobic motives. Community leaders spoke out against the attacks at a news conference, though the complaint did not cite any possible motives or factors related to anti-Muslim bias.
Mosques on Heightened Alert
Two mosques in Minneapolis, the Mercy Islamic Center and the Masjid Omar Islamic Center, were targeted by an unknown arsonist. The fires occurred one day apart from each other, and the police suspect that the same person was responsible for both incidents. The suspect, described as a white man, entered the Masjid Omar Islamic Center with a full red gas canister before lighting a fire in the bathroom. All Minnesota mosques are on heightened security alert as leaders fear for potential future attacks.
Community Leaders Speak Out
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), expressed his relief that a suspect had been identified in the recent mosque fires. However, he warned that the Muslim community in Minnesota is still on edge until the perpetrator is apprehended. All mosques in the area are on heightened security alert, as there is concern that the individual responsible for the fires could target another mosque. In an effort to help the investigation, CAIR-MN has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has not commented on possible motives for the fires at two Minneapolis mosques. A spokesperson declined to offer further details, citing an ongoing investigation. The complaint filed against the suspect, Nicholas Kimball, was intended to aid efforts to apprehend him. It is unclear if the fires were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment or other factors, as the criminal complaint does not specify any potential motivations.
Second-degree arson carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines. It is defined as intentionally destroying or damaging a real or personal property valued at more than $1,000. Little could ultimately face additional charges.
The recent arson attacks on two mosques in Minneapolis have once again highlighted the impact of hate crimes on religious communities, particularly Muslims. These crimes can cause immense harm and leave communities feeling vulnerable and isolated. Preventing hate crimes requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the root causes of these crimes, including prejudice, discrimination, and bias.