Congressman's Imam Builds Bridges

Building bridges with both Jews and Christians alike in his district, Makram El-Amin, the spiritual adviser of Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, has set himself up as a paradigm of peace and inter-faith advocates in American society.

Congressman's Imam Builds Bridges

"We've always expected to be respected and accepted," Amin told The New York Times in an interview published Saturday, February 10.

Amin, the imam of Masjid An-Nur in the North Minneapolis neighborhood, has gained a reputation of engaging across racial and denominational lines.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he took part in several events to promote inter-faith dialogue.

"We've always been prepared to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens, as taxpayers," said the 36-year-old imam.

He has cleared misconceptions associating Islam and Muslims with terrorism.

"I'm not offended that the American people want to know what we believe and why we believe," he said.

The imam has established strong ties with Rabbi Marcia A. Zimmerman of Temple Israel, a large Reform Jewish congregation.

"He has always been insistent about being a peacemaker," Rabbi Zimmerman said of Amin.

"He has a real desire to know people in other traditions. He has a true interest, and he asks questions with integrity. In our conversations, we're able to acknowledge our differences and our similarities."

Both the imam and Rabbi jointly taught lessons on linguistic similarities of Hebrew and Arabic, using etymology as a symbol of a shared Abrahamic heritage.

When ground was broken for an expansion of Masjid An-Nur, Amin invited Rabbi Zimmerman to say a blessing.

Spiritual Adviser

Amin has been a spiritual adviser for Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison.

"Be the person you've been all along," Amin recalls telling Ellison during the Minnesota's Democratic primary last September.

"Be a public servant, not an Islamic spokesman. Keep the interest of all the people in the forefront. That's what (Prophet) Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) himself would do."

Two months later, Ellison defeated his two contenders in the Minnesota district of Minneapoli during the November elections, securing a seat in the 435-member House of Representatives.

He made history becoming the first American Muslim ever elected to Congress.

Amin has been seen by many Americans as the Congressman's imam, similarly to the role played by the Rev. Billy Graham for Richard M. Nixon and the Rev. Jesse Jackson for Bill Clinton.

"If there's something we're uncomfortable with, we're going to say it. We're going to be involved in the political process. We say, 'This is the system and this is the way we get engaged,'" said Amin.

Amin, a father of three, owns and operates a fish restaurant in North Minneapolis.

He has helped raise $1.5 million from Muslims in the city for current expansion at the neighborhood mosque.

Several of his siblings work in real estate and his brother plays professional basketball in Europe after having starred at the University of Connecticut.

"We've hung on to the discipline we had, the sense of self-reliance," he told the Times.

"We grew up hearing our father say, 'We have to have our own.'"

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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