Minnesota Muslims on edge after hit and run outside mosque

Minnesota leads the US in mosque attacks. [Getty]

A hit and run car collision on a pedestrian in front of a mosque in Minnesota has left the local Muslim community shaken after an escalation in attacks on their places of worship in recent years.

The incident, which appeared to be intentional, took place midday on Wednesday outside the Alhikma Islamic Center in Minneapolis. Osman Ahmed, director of advocacy for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on America-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was standing in the parking lot of the mosque, where he had been helping them apply for a security grant. 

A driver then accelerated into him, throwing him into the air and then quickly fleeing the scene, video footage shows. Ahmed sustained serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.

The suspect, identified as James Evan Suttles, was soon arrested. He was charged with second-degree assault for using a car as a dangerous weapon to intentionally hit a person. He was found to have been harassing this same mosque since it first opened in 2020.

“I think the biggest thing for us to figure out is how to get to the bottom of this issue,” Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-Minnesota, told The New Arab. “This is having a big impact on our community, and it’s definitely creating a sense of fear.” 

He added that he is also concerned about rehabilitation of the driver, who is believed to be mentally ill.

“When you have hate combined with mental illness, you don’t want the person to just suffer in prison. We want the best outcome possible, if that means this person needs to go to a treatment centre rather than prison,” he said.

Minnesota, home to the largest Somali community in the US, leads the country in mosque attacks, with 22 incidents occurring in the past three years, including the first half of 2024. Moreover, since the outbreak of Israel’s war in Gaza, there has been a sharp increase in anti-Muslim incidents across the US. 

It is believed that a major factor for Minnesota’s high rate of mosque attacks is the national profile of US Representative Ilhan Omar, who has become a key target for the far right, often by individuals or groups from out of state.

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