Saturday, June 14, 2008

Defending The Mosque

Photo by John Hoff

About a week ago I was on a "night patrol," driving around looking for 911 situations and armed not only with my phone, but a video camera loaned by Jake and Gabe of "612 Authentic." Near the mosque pictured above...

I saw an intoxicated young black man in an almost-knee length plain white T-shirt staggering toward the door of this mosque, which is on Lyndale Ave. N. He was standing right about where the little boy is standing in this picture, until he collapsed in the doorway where you see many mosque members entering, behind the hedge.

This mosque has mostly Somali members, according to a cab driver I spoke to recently, though there is apparently a mosque on the North Side which has mostly Oromo members. (Addendum: I do not know if the information is accurate. Others are saying this mosque is mostly Oromo)

I called 911 about the (apparently) intoxicated man passed out in the doorway of the mosque. He was, at a minimum, trespassing. Obviously the mosque would not care for a drunken man to sleep in their doorway. It being late at night the police responded quickly, and I even saw an ambulance present. However, one of the officers at the scene told me they simply "sent him on his way."

I was, I confess, disappointed in their response. I may not necessarily wish for a punitive response--even though the individual in question probably just staggered to another property to trespass and sleep off his intoxication--but just playing "catch and release" isn't going to get this man the substance abuse counseling he rather obviously needs.

Calling 911 seemed a waste of time but then I thought, well, it's God's House, after all. And at least I stopped a drunk from desecrating God's House. The very next day I was at Bangkok Market and saw somebody from the mosque--an older man wearing a flowing blue headdress--walk into the store to purchase groceries. I know he was from the mosque because as I was driving by, I saw him return there.

I had never before seen somebody from the mosque shopping at my favorite grocery store so close to my block and--I must confess--I took it as something of a sign.

As you can see, the mosque is a former Christian church. If I had to take a guess--based on the many denominational doors I have darkened in my spiritual journey--I would say it is an old Baptist church. I'm very curious to know what happened with the old stained glass windows.

By the way, the cab driver told me some interesting things. First of all, he said the intersection of 6th St. N. and 30th Ave. N. as well as 4th St. N. and 31st Ave. N. are places he considers some of the most dangerous areas in Minneapolis. Good to know. He also said Blue and White is the only cab company which will work North Minneapolis. Other companies will go there to drop off fares, but they won't work the neighborhood because it is too dangerous.

How well I know this. My father almost died this way, driving for Blue and White.

As I usually do, I tried to convince the driver North Minneapolis is the place where many Somalis should move and buy houses. The driver said there were, in fact, many Somalis in North Minneapolis but they were "mostly single."

"Why are they mostly single?" I asked, thinking perhaps North Minneapolis was the happening place for young Somalis to meet and socialize.

"Somalis don't want to raise their children in North Minneapolis," the driver explained. "Too much crime."

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