SHAFAQNA – The Muslim families rallying in support of the new Qur’an school seemed to swallow up the opposition that night in 2013.
Hundreds of adults and children overflowed the Blaine City Council Chambers, with school supporters stepping up to the podium to talk about the American values of family and freedom. It worked: The council approved the new school, even though more than 80 neighbors had signed a petition opposing it.
As the Muslim community grows in Twin Cities suburbs, community organizers have proved astute at navigating local politics. They have mobilized supporters to win backing for schools and mosques and to challenge bias. And they’ve made powerful allies, including U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger and Gov. Mark Dayton.
In the past two years, new mosques have been approved in St. Anthony and Rosemount. The Qur’an school opened in Blaine. And in Columbia Heights, community members recently mobilized to protest comments allegedly made by a school board member.
“It’s a really conscious effort,” said Amber Michel, a Muslim community organizer. “Experience forces us to organize better and mobilize people more effectively. After a couple of really, really negative experiences, we just approach it differently. There is always a building of community support first.”