Makram El-Amin, a 2014 Bush Fellow and the resident Imam of Masjid An-Nur in north Minneapolis, marked his 20th anniversary of leading the mosque in 2016. Over the years, El-Amin has grown the size and diversity of his congregation. While it has remained predominantly African American, the mosque has become home to a sizeable number of East Africans, Arabs and other Muslims of different cultural backgrounds. Beyond creating an environment that serves the needs of diverse segments of his community, El-Amin has dedicated himself to building ties to religious leaders of various faiths. Those friendships have brought comfort to El-Amin and his flock as anti-Muslim sentiments, rhetoric and violence have risen.
How do you want Muslims to be viewed in our society?
I long for the day when Islam is not an anomaly. I long for a day when it’s not strange… when it becomes such a part of the fabric of what we do. I mean, Catholic Charities serves everybody. We know what gave birth to Catholic Charities; it’s in the name. But it’s so synonymous with society that it’s the norm. It’s normal to go there and get your needs met. We want to be normal like that. We want to be seen as normal in that way. That “Oh, Muslims live in this neighborhood? Crime’s going to be down over here. It’s going to be safe around here. Property values are going to go up. Why? Because they feel obligated to God to take care of whatever is in their surroundings.” We want to be normal like that.