By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A man was hospitalized Thursday night after being assaulted while walking to his local mosque in the south metro.

The Bloomington Police Department says the assault happened shortly before 10 p.m. in the area of 82nd Street and Park Avenue, less than a block from the Dar al-Farooq mosque.

At the scene, officers found a wounded 50-year-old man. Emergency crews brought him to Southdale Hospital to treat a non-life threatening wound to his upper body.

The victim, who is from Bloomington, told investigators that he was walking to the mosque when two individuals approached and assaulted him. Police say that there isn’t any indication that this was a bias crime, noting that the investigation is in its early stages.

Officers searched the area for the perpetrators, but did not find them. The suspects are described as two people in their late teens or early 20s. It wasn’t clear if the perpetrators used a weapon. Authorities released an image of two persons of interest in this case.

(credit: Bloomington Police Department)

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on authorities to investigate the incident as a potentially bias-motivated crime.

“We are thankful that the assault victim did not suffer life-threatening injuries. We urge public officials to uncover the motivation behind the assault and to take concrete steps to ensure that Muslim and minority communities will be safe from such attacks in the future,” CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said.

Anyone with information on the assault is asked to call Bloomington police at 952-563-4900.

Dar al-Farooq has been the target of anti-Muslim violence in the recent past. Three years ago, a bomb was thrown into the building through an office window. The bomb damaged the building but hurt no one. Three Illinois men were charged in the attack; two pleaded guilty.

Mohamed Omar, the executive director of Dar al-Farooq, identified the victim as Sheikh Mohamed Mukhtar. He says Mukhtar is a popular imam and a hardworking family man.

“Our imam is one of the icons of our community,” Omar said.

Omar says Mukhtar is recovering at home with a fractured shoulder.

“Physical wounds can heal, but the emotional wound and the loss of sense of safety and security is a permanent scar,” Omar said.

He says having to live in fear of an attack is a public health crisis for Muslims.

Omar is struggling with how to answer children’s questions, Mukhtar’s included, who came across the spot of the assault before they knew what had happened.

“[Mukhtar] thought the guys might come back and assault his kids,” Omar said. “His daughter’s bending and picking up his shoes and saying, ‘It looks like my dad’s shoes.’”

This comes almost exactly three years to the day of the mosque being bombed.

Last month, a Confederate flag was found hanging in the park next door.

Muslim leaders urge people to be vigilant of hate groups polarizing Americans with Islamophobic fear.

“The community’s on edge, so I encourage people to just see the humanity in this, see the humanity in all of us, and recognize that we can’t allow hate and evil to win,” said Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of CAIR Minnesota. “This is a moment where we all are [Mukhtar] and his family.”

Bloomington city council member Patrick Martin has condemned this “act of hate and violence.”

Neighbors gathered Friday to show their support for the imam and the mosque.

A GoFundMe has been set up for Mukhtar.

David Schuman