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Voices of Masjid An-Nur
Imam Makram El-Amin
Imam Makram El-Amin is the resident Imam at Masjid An-Nur. He was born in Chicago but has lived in Minneapolis since 1976. His father, Charles El-Amin was also an Imam at Masjid An-Nur. Imam Makram El-Amin became the youngest resident imam at Masjid An-Nur in 1996. Since that time, he has continued to be seen as a progressive religious leader. He is often in the media spotlight for his interfaith work—he was the first Imam invited to sit on the Minneapolis Downtown Council—and he gained a national reputation when politican Keith Ellison was elected to as the first Muslim in Congress.1
In the video below, Imam El-Amin reflects on his understanding about the reasons he believes Islam teaches that Masjid An-Nur needs to be active in the community.
Samuel G. Freedman, "Congressman's Imam Is Taking a Lead in Interfaith Efforts," New York Times, February 10, 2007, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/10/washington/10religion.html.↩
Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, he said, when you see something that is wrong or hurtful, He said, you first look to change it with your hand and if you are unable to do that then you change it with your tongue. You speak out against it. Your hand meaning action, your tongue meaning to speak. And thirdly, if you are unable to do that, then at least you hate it within your heart. You detest that, you resist it, even if there’s nothing I can do, it’s beyond my control, that I at least [must] resist it in my own being….So we use that saying of his as a motivation to do something about the things that we see, to voice the advocacy, that organizing around what we want to do, and then just having that rest within us, to say, “You know what, this is not right, we don’t support that, we’re not in a position to do anything about it, but we’re united all in our resistance of something.” I think that is [what]…we take as our catalyst for a lot of the work that you might see us do.
Valerie Shirley is a mother of five, a teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, an activist, and a member of Masjid An-Nur. She is the co-founder of Global Deaf Muslims-Minnesota Chapter (GDM-MN) and a national board member of GDM. She reflects on her relationship to the masjid, community service, work with the Hard or Hearing community, and her experience of covering.
What brought you to Masjid An-Nur?
I started to learn all the good things they were doing here, they were doing a lot of things that mosques were not, like other mosques were very closed to the community surrounding them, they were not open to the non-Muslim community that surrounded them, just because I don’t know if it was the language barrier or cultural barriers, or what. But this was. They had a food shelf. They had volunteer activities...It was just so many things, and they welcomed those who were Muslim and those who were not. And so eventually I just migrated here and I felt more comfortable here than I felt at any other mosque that I went to in the Twin Cities.
Why do you do community service?
Because I grew up in the inner city in Chicago and I saw such a need for social services, and individual needs and family needs and there was like no money or resources for it. So I was inspired to do community service ’cause I felt that was the only way to help uplift the community.
How are Islamic teachings made accessible for Deaf Muslims?
Masjid An-Nur is the first masjid in Minnesota to have sign language and interpreted sermons.
What has been your experience with covering?
When I actually covered and covered properly, it commanded more respect. People outside of me didn’t shun me as I thought I would be shunned but I actually got a lot more respect, especially from the African American community. Then I turned to love the hijab, which is the full dress, not just the scarf. But at first it was a little bit scary. But I had women around me who embraced it, so it was easier for me to embrace it...honestly, hijab has been empowering for me. I actually really love wearing it...
What has raising children in the Islamic faith been like for you?
I remember feeling like I had joined a family of millions. it’s really nice because it’s a social system that works. It’s such a wonderful support system. Raising kids in this community has been a wonderful thing cause it’s easy to try to keep them away from a lot of, um… the social decay, that affects the world. So it’s really—it’s nice.