Neighbors Together in Solidarity Friday Gathering
“Neighbors Together in Solidarity” is a community coalition of Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors formed in 2017 to affirm and promote everyone’s right to worship, work, and play in peaceful harmony. We have a thriving diverse Facebook group, which serves as a rapid response and information network, and a small group (of mostly white/Anglo non-Muslim neighbors) who meet weekly on the lawn outside the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center to exchange smiles and waving hands with Muslim worshipers, mostly of Somali and other East African heritage, on their way to and from Friday prayers. We’ve also shared iftar dinners during Ramadan and shown up in alliance with the permitting process of Minnesota’s Muslim Cemetery, in Farmington.
Our history: One of our Bloomington, MN, mosques, Dar Al Farooq Center (DFC), is a thriving center for youth and family which houses a charter school and gym as well as a mosque. DFC is a regional hub for a mostly Somali Muslim community. Although most people in Bloomington welcome and celebrate our diversity, there has been continual harassment of mosque members, including a bombing in 2017 that wrecked the imam’s office, followed by members of a local anti-Muslim group showing up to videotape women and children on their way to worship. So, in 2017, some of us neighbors met together to create a plan for gatherings at DFC that would embody a spirit of welcome, affirmation, and harmony. We found that when smiling, waving, neighbors with our blue and gold “Neighbors Together in Solidarity,” “Love Your Neighbor,” “Blessed Ramadan” and similar signs were present outside the Friday services, the group who had been harassing worshipers by filming them and their car license plates gave up and melted away. They still exist but are not actively, visibly, hassling people anymore. Worshipers became more confident about coming back to the mosque. The Friday group, initially intended to show up for a month or two, but now is in its third year of being there every single Friday, despite rain, snow, and heat, except when the temperature is below zero. Sometimes there are only a few, sometimes many more, but for everyone involved, there is a joyful spiritual uplift in exchanging smiles and affirming that in our community, Love is louder and lasts longer than disdain, harassment, or hate.