Dozens gathered Friday at a mountain of dirt in north Minneapolis and imagined how it would be transformed into a shining dome and the first minaret in Minnesota.

“This will be the hopes, dreams and desires of many people,” said Makram El-Amin, imam of Masjid An-Nur, during a groundbreaking ceremony outside the mosque’s headquarters at 18th and Lyndale Avenues N. “Their efforts and legacy have powered us to move forward. This will be historic.”

Last week, thousands attended a conference that accompanied the grand reopening at another Muslim institution, Abuubakar As-Sadique Islamic Center in south Minneapolis.

But that gathering was clouded by frustration that no arrests have been made in an arson two weeks earlier that destroyed several religious books.

These two events reflect the simultaneous hope and unease in the Twin Cities’ growing Muslim community, nearly five years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks, some local Muslims found themselves the victims of random assaults and federal authorities shut down several money-wiring services used by Somalis and other immigrants. The scrutiny was intensified after revelations that Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man charged in connection with the attacks in New York and Washington, had been enrolled at an Eagan flight school.

Since then, Muslim leaders in the Twin Cities say there has been some progress on both sides on outreach and understanding one of the world’s fastest-growing religions.

“There has been some profound changes. The communication is far … greater than five years ago,” said Zafar Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Resource Group in Edina. “But there still is not a clear picture of who we are as a community.”

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman with the Council of American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group based in Washington, said Muslims across the country are expressing similar views.

“We have done surveys where participants say yes, there has been more tolerance,” Hooper said. “But there’s a certain percentage that say they’ve been discriminated against and a similar amount they’ve also experienced kindness.

“They balance each other out in a strange sort of way.”


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