The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota is calling for increased security after a break-in at a St. Cloud mosque.
Police were called to the Islamic Center of St. Cloud early Thursday morning. An employee discovered that intruders had broken a door and entered the mosque, then caused additional damage inside, including breaking ceiling tiles and ransacking an office.
Mosque leaders say the intruders were caught on security camera for about two hours, walking throughout the mosque and carrying alcohol, which is prohibited in Islam.
At a news conference on Friday in St. Cloud, Muhayadin Mohamed, president of the Islamic Center, said people are afraid to come to the mosque following the incident.
“The community is really shocked that somebody can have intention to break into a worship place and do that kind of damage,” Mohamed said.
St. Cloud police later arrested two people, a 23-year-old Rogers man and a 25-year-old woman from New Hope, at a local hotel. They are being held in the Stearns County jail.
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Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-Minnesota, asked state and federal authorities to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
"These people will not deter us from practicing our faith,” Hussein said. “But it is important that we send a strong signal to them and to everyone who aims to threaten our community that we will not tolerate that, and we will prosecute them to the extent of the law."
Hussein also asked for state and local leaders to increase protection for houses of worship, including mosques and synagogues, especially around this weekend’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The St. Cloud incident marks the fifth time this year a mosque in Minnesota has been targeted, the most in the state's history, Hussein said.
Mosque leaders at Tawfiq Islamic Center in Minneapolis said a man broke in late Sunday night, causing more than $50,000 in damage and allegedly stealing donations.
Hussein also asked for support and unity from community members and allies.
“We are a resilient community,” he said. “We will not be deterred from coming to our mosques and place of sanctuary by these individuals.”
In a news release, St. Cloud police said they are working with the FBI to investigate the incident as a possible bias-motivated crime. They said they plan to provide extra patrols around local mosques.
“Although both suspects have been arrested and held for court, we recognize how this type of act can cause concern in the community,” the release stated.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the St. Cloud Police Department or Tri-County Crime Stoppers.