Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
The Minneapolis City Council is likely to vote Thursday morning to drop restrictions on the hours that mosques may play amplified calls to prayer from their rooftops. At present, they can do so only between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Depending on the time of year, that means the mosques can play the calls only three or four times per day, instead of the customary five.
The change is a sensible one, and if anything it's overdue. Somalia is more than 99% Muslim. Minnesota is home to the largest Somali population in the United States, with most living in Minneapolis. The call to prayer is a treasured tradition among a significant share of the city's population, and allowing its broadcast only some of the time is an unnecessary constraint.
"As a Muslim leader, I feel as if my prayers are still incomplete when the morning one is left out," said Wali Dirie, executive director of the Islamic Civic Society of America and Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque, as quoted by Sahan Journal.
Minneapolis leaders earned goodwill among the Somali community in 2020 when they first permitted the broadcast of the call to prayer, known as the adhan, during Islam's holy month of Ramadan. Those were the early days of the COVID lockdown, and the gesture allowed some residents to hear the adhan from their homes. Last spring the city allowed the broadcasts to resume, but only within the limits that the City Council is expected to abolish on Thursday.
The adhan is delivered in Arabic, but its message is simple. It says, in part: "God is great. I bear witness that there is no god but the One God. I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God. Hurry to the prayer. Hurry to success." An iteration for early morning reads, "Prayer is better than sleep."
One need not be Muslim to appreciate the beauty of the call to prayer, any more than one must be Christian to enjoy the peals of church bells on Sunday mornings. Such sounds enhance the quality of city life, reminding residents of the rich blend of beliefs and ethnicities that come together here.
Hopefully, such a soundscape also reinforces the perception that these different communities are not visitors but full-fledged residents of the city. "It's a sign that we are here," said Yusuf Abdulle, of the Islamic Association of North America, quoted by the Associated Press.
Another sign is the composition of the Minneapolis City Council itself, which now boasts three Muslims among its 13 members. Minneapolis is also the home district of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat who has become a lightning rod for anti-Muslim sentiment.
Such sentiment finds vivid expression in the continuing acts of vandalism against Islamic centers. Another such act occurred Monday morning — during Ramadan, no less — when someone broke windows and a door at Umatul Islam Center in Minneapolis.
Ironically, attacks like these may serve to make the Muslim community feel a kinship with other persecuted groups. "The reality for the Muslim community today is that it shares some of the problems faced by other minorities," says a booklet on security practices distributed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. It specifies threats to abortion clinics, Jewish communities and civil-rights era activists.
If that's the price of feeling included in American society, it's too high. We hope the City Council affirms a better approach and approves unrestricted calls to prayer.