From Mosque Visit

Last week we, along with the entire community, were invited to visit a mosque that is about 5 blocks from our house.  I run by this center almost every day but had never been inside.  For a variety of reasons I won’t mention the name in text but you can see their sign pictured below and in the news reports.

According to news reports well over 100 non-Muslim neighbors showed up for the opportunity to tour the Mosque, observe prayer time, eat good food, listen to a presentation, and meet some of our Somali neighbors. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a completely altruistic move on the Mosque’s part but a brazen attempt at crisis management.

From Mosque Visit

You see, in recent months this mosque has all but been accused of creating terrorists.  It is hard to really judge the facts for sure, but the FBI was convinced enough that it added the mosque’s Imam (spiritual leader) and youth director to the no-fly list and they were denied travel for haj or the pilgrimage.  There is some truth to the concern because in October a young Somali man from Minnesota traveled home to Somali and blew himself up as a suicide bomber,  (Newsweek reports) a fact that was recently confirmed by FBI Director Mueller.  The young man was a member of the mosque, although they adamantly deny helping radicalize or fund his trip to Somalia.  (A note that it is perfectly legitimate for Somalis to be traveling back and forth and many who attend this and other mosques are US citizens with no desire but to live here peacefully and obtain the American dream)

As you can imagine this created quite a bit of controversy within the Somali community as well as the broader Twin Cities metro area.  Admitted or not, this was the primary reason for the mosque opening its doors, inviting everyone inside (including the FBI Director).  They wanted to provide answers about Islam, their local teachings, and to build some community trust.

We embraced this opportunity to see the mosque and to meet some of our neighbors and hopefully be able to connect and begin building friendships.  Our initial reaction is mostly of disappointment and confusion.  This was a great publicity stunt and opportunity for some to learn more about Islam and to raise awareness of some of the mosque’s programs but only a few from our group really felt like we walked away from the experience with a more positive feeling about the mosque or their desire to befriend us.  My wife and I actually had a great conversation with a local business man but time will only tell if it was a superficial “hosting” experience or something more solid.

It is hard to make snap judgments and we hope and pray that our initial reactions are wrong and that this serves as a turning point for the mosque.  We would love to see it more involved in the inner-working of the neighborhood and that their continued promise of open doors would hold true.

We enjoyed our evening at the mosque and the generosity of their community.  I just wish they had made the effort long before the negative publicity had occurred.

I actually video taped the entire 30 minute presentation from mosque leaders which you can see here.  There was also a 15 minute Q&A session afterward that I captured as well.

New Results from the event:

Minneapolis Star-Tribune includes a picture of my Pastor’s wife and kids.

Pioneer Press (AP Story ran by many news sources)

WCCO Video and Print

Minnesota Public Radio

Fox 9 (video includes a clip of us!)

Twin City Daily Planet

Refugee Resettlement Watch (an ultra-conservative perspective)

MinneAfrica blog

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