A 57-year-old man is facing federal charges after prosecutors say he sent a letter to a Minnesota Islamic Center, threatening to "blow up your building with all you immigrants in it."
“The free expression of religion is at the heart of what it means to be American,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said in the release. “Those who seek to infringe the rights of others to practice freely their faith are not only violating the law, but are ignoring a freedom that our founders held so dear."
The Islamic center got the anonymous handwritten letter on Sept. 30, 2015, which included the phrase above. The letter, according to prosecutors, also had profanities, racial and ethnic slurs and other derogatory statements about the members of the Tawfiq Islamic Center.
FBI agents interviewed Fisher in June. He reported he was angry that the Islamic center selected Minnehaha Avenue for its new location and he wanted it built somewhere else. He said he had become "increasingly angry with Muslims since 9/11," according to the release.
According to Southside Pride, the Tawfiq Islamic Center moved in to the Minnehaha Avenue location this summer, after acquiring the property in 2014.
Fisher confessed to writing and mailing the letter to the center with "the intent to threaten and scare" its members, the U.S. Attorney's Office says. The official charge he's facing is obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs. He faces up to a year in prison if convicted, U.S. law says.
Mosques in Minnesota
Vandalism of mosques in Minnesota are not common occurrences, but there have been a few notable incidents in recent years.
The most recent occurred in Mankato, where someone vandalized a sign – and it was caught on surveillance camera (see the video above). The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations wanted it investigated as a hate crime.
In February of this year, a vandal caused $5,000 of damage to the Umatul Islam Center in Minneapolis after breaking in, while there were a spate of vandal attacks on Islamic faith centers in St. Cloud towards the end of 2014.
According to PEW Research Center there are about 3.3 million Muslims living in the U.S., a number that is likely to double by 2050.
According to a recent PEW Research study, Muslims are one of the most negatively viewed religious groups in the U.S.