The Islamic call to prayer, known as the adhan, was performed at Dar Al-Hijrah mosque Monday afternoon following Mayor Jacob Frey’s signing of an updated noise ordinance allowing the adhan to be broadcast at any time of the day for the five daily prayers observed by Muslims.
The previous noise ordinance allowed “sounds related to religious worship” between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Because the Islamic prayers are based on the position of the sun, the prayer times change over the course of a year with morning prayers occurring before sunrise and evening prayers taking place long after sunset.
On April 13, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously agreed to change the City’s noise ordinance.
The updated noise ordinance goes into effect on April 21, which would make Minneapolis the first major city in the United States to authorize the adhan to be broadcasted outside of typical noise ordinance hours.
The updated noise ordinance is the latest development in a sustained effort by local leaders, community members, and city officials to bring more recognition and awareness to the city’s Muslim community.
In April 2020 the adhan was broadcast throughout Ramadan, the 9th month on the Islamic calendar in which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown. At the onset of the pandemic, members of the Cedar Riverside community had found comfort in hearing the call to prayer though they were unable to congregate at their neighborhood mosque. At this time, the adhan was only permitted at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque.
Last year the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution officially recognizing the month of Ramadan and authorizing the adhan to be performed between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Previously, the adhan was not part of the “sounds related to religious worship” being exempt from noise violations.
On Monday, Mayor Frey was surrounded by Ward 10 Councilmember Aisha Chughtai, Ward 6 Councilmember Jamal Osman, Ward 5 Councilmeber Jeremiah Ellison, and religious leaders as he signed the the ordinance into law. Frey spoke to the press about his support for expanding the ordinance to accommodate religious freedoms.
“Today we are taking this a step even further, that is a step even further towards inclusivity and religious freedom. This is a victory here in Minneapolis, one that should be celebrated,” Frey said. “I truly hope that other cities around Minnesota around our country and around the globe choose to take this path as well.”
The mayor also recalled how the members of the Muslim community were one of the first groups of people to make him feel welcome in a new city.
“When I first moved out here to the city of Minneapolis I really didn't have many friends or family, but it was the Muslim community and specifically the East African community that brought me in, embraced me, and made me feel at home,” Frey said. “And so this is a great honor that we are able to now take the next step for all of us in our city to tell them regardless of where they're from, that they are at home.”
The ordinance was crafted at the City Council level.
Osman, Chughtai, and Ellison spearheaded the effort, who all share the Muslim faith.
Chughtai said State laws regarding broadcasting the adhan were less restrictive than the City and that it was only a matter of having municipal laws reflect that of the state.
She described the work to reach this point as a collaborative effort between her colleagues and the City Attorney’s Office along with the Minneapolis Health Department which enforces the laws on noise regulation and the Minneapolis Pollution Control Agency which regulates noise pollution.
Chughtai noted that her office worked closely with each agency and the attorney’s office to ensure that the adhan’s approval would go smoothly. Once the research and legal process was squared away, she and her colleagues at the council engaged their constituency on the change.
“I'm especially grateful to our community partners and the elders in our communities who have really been patient and vigilant while we went through the City's process to make this a reality over the last year,” Chughtai said.
As the first Muslim woman elected to the City Council, this was an important moment for Chughtai and her family.
“My mom doesn't super track the work that I do at City Hall, but she saw this and called me and was like, ‘thanks for working on it,’” she said. “I grew up in the U.S. and I went back home for a Ramadan when I was in high school. It was just like a complete, it's like a completely different experience and it's really awesome that our kids can experience that here too, especially since we're all here to stay.”
The adhan’s approval process through the City Council comes at a time in which Passover, Easter, and Ramadan overlap, an event that some supporters of the ordinance highlighted as a reason to stand together.
Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of Minnesota’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-MN, alongside the leaders of Dar Al-Hijrah, helped advocate for the amended noise ordinance since 2020
On March 29, City Council members in the Public Health and Safety committee listened to testimony from community members and faith leaders who spoke in favor of the ordinance change. Hussein was able to work with the mosque leadership and coordinate a significant turnout from the community to testify in favor for a change in the ordinance. Members of the Jewish and Christian faiths were also in attendance to support.
“We really had a really powerful testimony, I think for the public record to show that this was not something that just Muslims fought for but Muslims and their allies and those who care about freedom of religion all fought together,” he said.
He believes that it’s important for the Muslim community to find opportunities to stand side by side with other faith communities, especially during times regarding the First Amendment.
“Having a bunch of us just show up and not having other people, part of the conversation is kind of sometimes doesn't get us across the line,” Hussein said.
Pastor David Ostendorf, a retired minister of the United Church of Christ, has long participated as an organizer for socioeconomic and racial justice causes. He testified in favor of the adhan at the committee hearing and spoke to its importance in religious liberty.
“Over these years it's been clear that there's a strong commitment to doing interfaith work,” Ostendorf said. “There's a deepening awareness among all the communities about the need to do that level of relational work with each other to move shared commitments and agendas.”
Ostendorf recalls when interfaith leaders rallied around the Jewish community back in 2017 after there had been a series of violent threats directed toward community centers. This incident led to more coordination and a sense of comradery between the faith leaders according to Ostendorf.
“I think it was so critical that people from all the faith communities showed up to be there with each other and with the community that was under attack and under threat,” he said.
Beth Gendler is the executive director of Jewish Community Action, a local organization founded in 1995 to bring the Jewish community together to rally around social and economic justice issues in Minnesota. She was also in attendance at the March 29 hearing and gave a supportive testimony for the adhan and to show solidarity with the Muslim community.
“I am motivated by, and live by the values that I was raised with, which come out of the Jewish tradition,” Gendler said. “I feel like we are all better people when we operate by a sense of values.”
Gendler said that for any cultural group to be engaged politically and socially, having a sense of support and inclusion from the broader community goes a long way. She shared how hearing the call to prayer in the past has served as a reminder for her toward a higher purpose.
“When I have been in places in Minneapolis or around the world, when I hear the call to prayer, even though it is not my faith, it's a calling and it's a reminder to me. I think it's beautiful and I think if more people stop and listen and notice and understand that it is calling people to a higher place where they follow the ideals of justice and love,” Gendler said.
For Hussein, the effort to have the adhan authorized by the City Council and mayor was an exercise in religious freedom and utilizing the rights protected in the Constitution to the fullest degree.
“It's the Constitution of the United States that protects our rights and therefore, if we don't exercise that right, we are the ones undermining the Constitution. And if anyone denies us, then they're in violation of the United States Constitution. So it's a big win for us,” Hussein said.
Looking forward, CAIR-MN aims to work with the City of St. Paul to pass a similar ordinance that would allow the city’s mosques to broadcast the adhan.