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Minneapolis makes inclusive changes for its Muslim population ahead of Ramadan


The Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts this weekend. And in Minneapolis, the city council has decided that the Muslim call to prayer can be broadcast outside of mosques several times a day, like the way churches ring their belts. Minneapolis Public Schools also adopted Eid as a religious holiday in their calendars, so children will be able to miss school to celebrate with their families. We're joined now by Imam Makram Nu’man El-Amin. He leads the Masjid An-Nur in Minneapolis. Thanks very much for being with us, Imam.

IMAM MAKRAM NU’MAN EL-AMIN: It's my pleasure to be with you as well, Scott.

SIMON: How are you feeling about these changes?

EL-AMIN: I'm feeling great. I'm feeling excited. These are, you know, historical milestones for the Muslim community here in Minneapolis and Minnesota in general. My wife, Sharon El-Amin, is also a school board director and was really pivotal in getting the school board to acknowledge the Eid holidays this year. So we're very excited about that. And then the wonderful news just ahead of this month starting of the - Adhan (ph) being able to be called by the city council's approval has also sent a wave of good vibes through the Muslim community going into Ramadan. So we're very - we feel very fortunate, very blessed right now.

SIMON: I got to tell you, the whole idea of hearing the call to prayer loudly proclaimed in Minneapolis, a city which I have grown to love over the years, that's going to be something.

EL-AMIN: Yes. I mean, you know, I've had the privilege and honor to travel the world and to many Muslim countries, and to hear the call proclaimed at the time of prayer for us is definitely a soothing to our spirits and our souls. But it also helps to keep us orientated, keeping, you know, God, the creator, first and foremost in our lives. So this is something that, you know, we're hopeful that will add to the wonderful tapestry that is - that we call Minneapolis and be an asset to - not only to the Muslim community, but also to our friends, neighbors and allies as well.

SIMON: It will, however, be yet another Ramadan during a pandemic.

EL-AMIN: Another pandemic Ramadan - yes. Yes, it will be.

SIMON: Yeah.

EL-AMIN: Yeah.

SIMON: How are you and your mosque planning to observe this Ramadan?

EL-AMIN: You know, firstly, we're grateful that, you know, the infection rates have definitely declined way down. As of right now, we're praying that no variants, you know, show their ugly heads during the month of Ramadan or any time in the future. But we're taking things in stride, to be honest with you. You know, we're following, you know, a lot of the CDC protocols. The attendance has not fully come back all the way - maybe 70%, 80%. I anticipate that increasing during the month of Ramadan, as it generally does, anyways.

So we're hopeful. We're hopeful about that. You know, we generally break our fasts at sunset every day. And we generally have communal dinners at the mosque. We haven't had that in a couple of years. This year we're going to do a hybrid model. We're going to have some seating, but not to the degree we've had it before. And also just a lot of, you know, to go and carry out, those kinds of things as well, just to have people get into the feeling and the spirit of it as much as we can.

SIMON: Well, people will be able to see each other, even if it's just to pick something up and leave, I guess.

EL-AMIN: Exactly. You know, we definitely come to pray together at sunset. But yes, the issue is about community, being in community, being in touch with folks. You know, when we have crisis and different things that happened in our lives, part of our go-to is to come together, is to be together, is to fellowship together, is to share, is to pray together, all those things. And we've been restricted in many ways. You know, we closed for just about a year during the pandemic. And then when omicron flared back up, we closed again for another month or so. So it was that up and down kind of thing that has really been a test for our community.

SIMON: Imam, are there words in your heart this Ramadan that you can share with us?

EL-AMIN: The biggest is gratitude, honestly. It's gratitude, being grateful to be able to see each other. You know, I think it is always trusting that the creator will provide a way for us, you know, even in the midst of all of these tragic things that has happened in our city, whether it's, you know, the murder of George Floyd and all the uprising that's taking place to us. Obviously the pandemic has touched my family. I had the virus. My mother had it. We lost my aunt from the virus as well. So - I mean, so this has touched home in many, many ways. So just the idea of being able to come back together during this special month - the month of fasting, the month of reflection, the month of, you know, self-development and all of it, the month of being charitable, etc.. All the things that we love to do, desire to do, we'll be able to do, at least in a greater measure than we have been over the past couple of years. So I'm just excited. And I'm so grateful for this moment.

SIMON: Imam Makram Nu’man El-Amin in Minneapolis, thank you so much for being with us. And Ramadan Kareem.

EL-AMIN: Thank you as well. Thank you so much. Ramadan Mubarak.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.