The Muslim call to prayer will be broadcast the traditional five times a day in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, beginning with the start of Ramadan this week and continuing through the end of the religious holiday in May.

It will be the first time the call to prayer, commonly broadcast from mosques in Muslim nations, will be heard in Minnesota.

Designed to encourage Muslims to maintain safe distancing during a holiday typically marked by community prayer, the arrangement was approved Tuesday by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, working in collaboration with Minnesota's Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque.

"At a time when physical distancing requires we pray apart, it's incumbent on leaders to create a sense of togetherness where we can," said Frey in a news release. "Adhan [the call to prayer] provides solidarity and comfort, both of which are essential during a time of crisis."

The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is home to one of the largest populations of Muslim Americans in Minnesota. The majority are from east African nations such as Somalia and Ethiopia.

Imam Sharif Mohamed of the neighborhood's Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque said the broadcasts are a way to remind the faithful that they "are not alone," even as they've spent weeks inside their homes.

"This is a reconnection, a calming, to give people assurance that we are with you," said Mohamed. "That's what we try to achieve."

While not unprecedented, the broadcasting of the Muslim prayers in a U.S. city is unusual, said Jaylani Hussein, director of CAIR-Minnesota. The city of Dearborn, Mich., has permitted the broadcasts for a number of years, and the city of Paterson, N.J., approved a request in March, according to news reports.

Minneapolis is a little different, because the prayers will be broadcast in the heart of a large metropolitan area, Hussein said. The common thread linking the cities with broadcasts is their large number of Muslim residents, he said.

"This is a unique opportunity," Hussein said. "It's a reminder to everyone that we are all in this [pandemic] together."

Hussein acknowledged that the daily broadcasts could fuel anti-Muslim sentiments. But those sentiments already exist, he said.

The broadcasts are a matter of freedom of religion, he said. Plus they are a public show of support to the Muslim community, in particular to the elderly and the sick who will be comforted by the broadcasts.

"Just as we have historically allowed churches to call out for prayers using a bell, this is a continuation of the same freedom that other faiths have had," Hussein said.

CAIR provided the funding for the audio equipment that will be used to broadcast from the mosque. The broadcasts will begin at sunrise and end at sunset. They will run through the evening of May 23, the end of Ramadan.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511