Bloomington, MN

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Description

In 2011, a Lutheran school building in Bloomington, MN was converted into the Dar al Farooq Center. Since then, there have been controversies over the center’s disruption of the lives of other residents, as well as how facilities should be shared among mosque-goers and the general Bloomington public.

Creator

Aiden Parrish, Natalia Ruich, and Ananya Singh

Year

2011

Proposed Project

The Al Farooq Youth and Family Center sought to convert a Lutheran school building to serve as an Islamic center, mosque, school, community center. 25 parking spaces were to be added.

Outcome

The project was approved under a conditional-use permit. Under this, the DFC is required to abide by the City Code as well as requirements put forth in regard to parking/traffic.

Narrative

Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, Dar al-Farooq Center (DFC) is the largest community center serving Muslims in Minnesota and the surrounding four states. While DFC serves a majority Black Somali population, the center’s membership is diverse, representing at least 26 countries. Controversy over the center’s presence in Bloomington began in March 2011, when a public hearing notice of Dar al-Farooq’s application for a conditional use permit was published in the local Bloomington Sun Current (Planning Division, n.d.). Dar al-Farooq sought to accommodate its growing congregation by expanding out of its smaller Minneapolis location into an empty building in Bloomington. Vacated by a Lutheran high school in 2009, the building includes a gymnasium as well as shared athletic fields and parking amenities with the city (Hank, 2011). 

During a Bloomington city council meeting in April 2011, council members discussed potential parking and capacity issues related to the use of the former school building by Dar al-Farooq. A day later, the council approved Dar al-Farooq’s application for use of the existing building as a community center, school, daycare, and place of assembly (​​Planning Division, n.d.). The approval was met with resistance during a city council meeting two weeks later from Bloomington resident Sally Ness. Ness claimed that Bloomington city council members approved Dar al-Farooq’s application out of fear of a lawsuit rather than the “facts specifically regarding capacity” (Mayer-Bruestle, 2016). She voiced additional concerns about capacity-related issues such as increased traffic she felt would make the neighborhood unsafe for children. Responding to the limited community resistance, Hyder Aziz, executive director of Dar al-Farooq, said in an interview with the Bloomington Sun Current that “[p]art of [DFC]’s mission will be to coexist with neighborhood residents and respond to concerns that are raised when the building is in operation” (Hank, 2011). In August 2011, the sale of the school building to Dar al-Farooq was finalized (Planning Division, n.d.).

As the center opened its doors in 2012, complaints about its operations and membership bubbled up among community members whose comments were used by anti-Muslim actors to amplify the controversy. In September, prominent Blogger Pamela Geller published a letter from an anonymous Smith Park resident on her blog that claimed DFC was disrupting neighborhood peace, specifically by creating increased traffic and noise, and that mosque-goers were harassing neighborhood residents. In 2015, a community-wide discussion of how DFC’s facilities should be used, involving both mosque-goers and other residents of Bloomington, prompted the city to address DFC’s place within Bloomington. In March 2015, the city of Bloomington reached an agreement with the center to clarify the shared use of DFC’s facilities (Hanks, 2015). This laid out terms of use for indoor DFC facilities, an outdoor athletic field, community gardens, and Smith Park as a whole. Despite this agreement, a small number of local residents continued to resist DFC’s presence, questioning whether it abided by the conditions set forth by its conditional-use permit. In a 2016 city council meeting, the “Friends of Smith Park'' group submitted a petition signed by four residents that called for the enforcement of DFC’s permit conditions by the City of Bloomington. Citing traffic and noise concerns, the group claimed that the city had violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by allowing DFC to operate outside its permit conditions (Hanks, 2016). No action was taken by the city in response to the petition. In November 2016, Mosques in America: A Guide to Accountable Permit Hearings and Continuing Citizen Oversight was published by the Center for Security Policy, an anti-Muslim think tank, discussing how readers can prevent the building of mosques in their neighborhoods. Within the book, the Center for Security Policy accuses DFC of deceiving city officials in order to move into Bloomington.

Since the opening of the center in 2012, community and city government resistance has been limited while external agitation has grown steadily. On August 5, 2017, Emily Claire Hari, Michael McWhorter, and Joe Morris carried out a non-fatal bombing attack at DFC. Emily Claire Hari was convicted on federal hate crime charges and sentenced to life in prison for her role in the attack (Department of Justice, 2021). In 2020, an imam was attacked (Peters, 2021). In 2021, the mosque’s operations were interrupted by an intruder (ibid.). Dar al-Farooq continues to operate out of its Bloomington location.

References

Last Updated

March 20, 2022

Collection

Citation

Aiden Parrish, Natalia Ruich, and Ananya Singh , “Bloomington, MN,” U.S. Mosque Controversies, accessed June 24, 2022, https://usmc.ecdsomeka.org/items/show/83.

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