Muslim Call to Prayer Comes to Minneapolis Soundscape

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People walk at Palmer’s Bar, which is next to the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Minneapolis, Thursday, May 12, 2022. The Islamic call to prayer, or adhan, can be heard three times a day from the terrace of the bar . (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

PA

The chant in Arabic blared from rooftop speakers, drowning out both the rumble of traffic from nearby highways and the chatter and glasses clinking on the terrace of the dive bar that shares a wall with the oldest mosque. Somali from Minneapolis.

Dozens of men dressed in fashionable ripped jeans or impeccably ironed kameez tunics rushed to the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque. Teenagers clutched smartphones and some of the older devotees moved with the help of walkers from the high-rise complex across the street where thousands of Somalis live.

This spring, Minneapolis became the first major city in the United States to allow public broadcasting of the Islamic call to prayer, or adhan, through its two dozen mosques.

As more and more of them prepare to join Dar Al-Hijrah, the transformation of the soundscape testifies to the large and increasingly visible Muslim community, which welcomes change with celebration and caution, lest it only causes negative reactions.

“It’s a sign that we’re here,” said Yusuf Abdulle, who heads the Islamic Association of North America, a network of three dozen mosques mostly in East Africa. Half of them are in Minnesota, which since the late 1990s has been home to growing numbers of refugees from war-torn Somalia.

Abdulle said that when he came to the United States two decades ago, “the first thing I missed was the adhan. We give up everything and answer the call of God.

The adhan declares that God is great and proclaims the Prophet Muhammad as his messenger. He urges men – women don’t have to – to go to the nearest mosque five times a day for prayer, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.

Its cadences are woven into the rhythm of everyday life in Muslim-majority countries, but it’s a relative newcomer to the streets of Minneapolis, resonating with city traffic, the rumble of winter snowplows and tornado sirens. in summer.

Americans have long debated the place of religious sound in public, especially when communities are transformed by migration, said Isaac Weiner, a religious studies scholar at Ohio State University.

“What we take for granted and what stands out is informed by how we feel about ourselves as a community,” he said. “We respond to sounds based on who makes them.”

This is especially true when the sound is not a bell or a horn, but spoken words, as in the adhan.

“Hearing this voice is a connection with God even if at work or in the fields or a classroom,” said Abdisalam Adam, who often prays at Dar Al-Hijrah. “It’s a balance between this world and the hereafter.”

Dar Al-Hijrah was granted a special permit to broadcast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the spring of 2020, when Minnesota was in the grip of a pandemic, so worshipers could hear the adhan from home, the official said. director of the Wali Dirie mosque.

Soon it was blaring from loudspeakers set up with the help of First Avenue, a nightclub made famous by Prince.

People thought they were dreaming and wept at their windows.

This community need led to the recent resolution allowing broadcasts more widely. It sets decibel levels and hourly limits in accordance with the city’s noise ordinance, which means early morning and late night calls to prayer are only played indoors.

In Dar Al-Hijrah now, elders call for prayer three times a day, attracting young people like Mohamad Mooh, 17, who arrived just five months ago. He said he would like the broadcasts to be even louder like in Somalia, where early morning calls woke him up.

“I know it’s a little complicated because of society,” Mooh added after a recent crowded prayer service.

Just as some Americans opposed church bells in the 19th century, the call to prayer has led to conflict over the years, from Duke University to Culver City, California. In Hamtramck, a small town surrounded by Detroit, councilors exempted religious sounds from the noise ordinance at the request of a mosque. Coming in the aftermath of 9/11, the amendment was embroiled in national controversy, but a referendum to revoke it failed.

In the predominantly Somali neighborhood of Cedar-Riverside, nestled between the city center and two university campuses, the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque adhan has encountered no backlash.

Also hoping to prevent it, the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center in south Minneapolis, which hosts some 1,000 men for Friday noon prayers, plans to hold meetings with neighbors before broadcasting publicly this summer.

“We care about the neighbours,” said Abdullahi Farah, director of the center. “We need to talk to them, explain to them and at least share our views on this.”

Abdullahi Mohammed stopped in Abubakar on a recent afternoon while driving by and was alerted by a call to prayer app, which he and many others use in the absence of a broadcast public. He said he would like to hear the adhan ring out everywhere because it would teach Muslim children to pray “automatically” – but also acknowledged that non-Muslim neighbors “might feel different”.

Between the reluctance to cause tension, the technical complexities and the challenges of getting someone with Arabic and vocal skills to sing the call live, several mosques may decide not to broadcast, Jaylani Hussein said. , director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Reports.

But other mosques are already eager to seek permission to broadcast the Five Prayers and hope to see Minneapolis set an example for cities across the country.

“We want Muslims to fully exist here in America,” Hussein said, adding that the adhan is the “last piece to make this home.” It is extremely important for Muslims to know that their religious rights are never violated. »

Several neighborhood groups consulted by The Associated Press said that although no formal discussions have yet taken place, they expect most residents to agree.

“People are going to ask, What is it? and then say, that’s cool,” predicted Tabitha Montgomery, director of the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association.

In two churches, founded more than a century ago by Scandinavian immigrants and now within earshot of the adhan, leaders also had no objections.

The Trinity Lutheran Congregation collaborates with Dar Al-Hijrah on charity and awareness events. Pastor Jane Buckley-Farlee said she enjoys hearing the adhan from her office.

“It reminds me that God is bigger than we think,” she said.

Hierald Osorto, pastor of the predominantly Spanish-speaking St. Paul’s Lutheran Church near Abubakar and another mosque, also does not anticipate any reaction from his flock.

In fact, he thought of bringing back the long-broken church bell as a way to bring the congregation together and make them more visible in the neighborhood.

“It allows us to be known,” Osorto said.

Mowlid Ali, the Imam of Abubakar, said part of the purpose of spreading the adhan is precisely this mixture of claiming belonging and raising awareness.

“We hope that by calling the adhan in public, it will actually generate more interest from neighbors to know about the religion of Islam,” Ali said.

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Associated Press religious coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

About James K. Bonnette

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