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Countering Hate Through Interfaith Connections

In the face of rising hate and islamophobia, MAS MN is challenging stereotypes and fostering healthy interfaith relationships.

Photo of Asad Zaman
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

The 2020 US elections are coming. Hate is ramping up as candidates continue to fuel whatever groups they need to in order to gain votes. As a result of this growing hate, faith communities in Minnesota are coming to MAS MN and the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC) to say this hate needs to be addressed. In order to do so, MAS and MCC are teaming up to create partnerships between members of mosques and churches throughout the state of Minnesota. This project is being proposed to help immigrants and refugees in Minnesota and set a foundation for future people settling in Minnesota too. It was reported in 2018 that “Minnesota has the highest number of refugees per capita nationwide, according to the U.S. Census and refugee-support agencies. With 2 percent of the nation’s population, Minnesota has 13 percent of its refugees.” Muslims are racially and ethnically diverse. The and root cause of islamophobia and the hate that fuels it is fear, lack of understanding and racial bias. MAS MN is proposing an extension of our successful Taking Heart program, Taking Heart 2.0. In partnership with MCC, the Taking Heart program started in 2005 to bring Christians and Muslims in together over an Iftar meal and conversation in Minnesota’s Twin Cities region. It breaks down stereotypes and fosters healthy interfaith relationships and understanding. It is regular people of different faiths talking over an Iftar meal at mosques. This past year, Taking Heart connected and served more than 1000 people. Taking Heart 2.0 takes things to the next level. Instead of being focused on the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, it expands it statewide and increases gatherings from once yearly to multiple gatherings and activities throughout the year. We see MCC churches throughout the state partnering with urban and rural mosques. Not only is this building a bridge between a variety of interfaith cultures, but we are also bringing different Muslim factions together to build capacity as one community.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

This idea is targeting the state of Minnesota in the United States where the Muslim American Association (MAS MN) resides. Minnesota has a large Muslim population and has been a popular place for immigrants and refugees to settle because of social ties and a foundation built by decades of African and South Asian resettlement here.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Taking Heart 2.0 builds a bridge between Muslim immigrants and refugees in Minnesota and long-established Christian faith groups. By establishing familiarity and trust between these groups in towns and cities across Minnesota, we are offering citizens stability in knowing that they are welcome. Through familiarity, we are offering the promise of a better life because through networking there will be job opportunities and support of small businesses that wouldn’t have existed previously.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Taking Heart 2.0 helps the people we serve by meeting their needs for connection, both physical and emotional. Not only does our idea include providing connection within social groups, but it is also helping to build new relationships that provide growth in life. Expanding Taking Heart to have more regular connections between groups allows individuals to maintain a sense of well-being that allows for self-care. Building familiarity between groups also allows for education about different religions, ethnicities and cultures to happen. This learning stimulates participants, creates the opportunity to learn and fail by challenging established. This process provides motivation to continually evolve as a person, providing a healthy sense of well-being.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

By implementing Taking Heart 2.0, we are helping Muslim immigrants and refugees to live a more confident and comfortable life in Minnesota. Although we would be foolish to think we can stop hate completely. By coordinating an effort that brings people from different backgrounds and faiths together, we are creating a force that knows the value of the people who are persecuted. A force that will stand up and speak out against attacks against a vulnerable population. A force that will strengthen as time goes on and the bond between churches and mosques become closer-knit groups within a community.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

The inspiration behind Taking Heart 2.0 is the success of the Taking Heart Iftar Dinners that have happened over the last 14 years. We are motivated by being continuously approached by both mosques and churches asking for something to be done about the growing hate in Minnesota and the United States. It is important that we start now. With the 2020 US elections approaching, we need a coordinated effort that will stand up against islamophobic rhetoric.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The state of Minnesota is a diverse community that offers many opportunities for Taking Heart 2.0 to succeed. While the largest portion of the population lives in the 7 county metro area surrounding Minneapolis/St. Paul, a growing number of families are moving to rural areas due to housing affordability. As a result, we are seeing an increase in mosques being established rurally. These mosques coming into communities that are traditionally white and Christian can produce fear because they are different from what has been there before. To address this fear which is a root cause of hate, we are offering up opportunities for increased knowledge and understanding to relieve any tensions that can build when groups are isolated from each other.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

By establishing Taking Heart 2.0, we can identify where the people power, shared goals and vision is to start this effort. By producing an inclusive and collaborative approach we can decide where our strongest positions are and progressively build out from there. In areas of the state where new mosques are being established, this means tapping into our relationships with Christian leaders, making introductions to new mosques and building positive relationships from the start. We know that we must create a movement to change a culture. This includes understanding what role the media plays in all of this, how they perpetuate the status quo and what narrative we can get them behind in order to combat hate. Our proposal includes building capacity and infrastructure. Putting “boots on the ground” to strengthen existing and build new relationships and creating a website that allows partners to communicate in a centralized location.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Alongside MAS MN, the Minnesota Council of Churches will partner with us to achieve our goals. Their vast relationship network will be invaluable to get buy-in from Christian groups across Minnesota.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

Muslim American Society of Minnesota (MAS MN)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

MAS MN was established in 2003 with a mission to Move People to Strive for God-Consciousness, Liberty and Justice, and to Convey Islam with Utmost Clarity. Early on in our formation, we recognized a need to be much more than just a religious organization to best serve our community. With this, we pledged to be a community organization committed to making Minnesota a better place for all Minnesotans. MAS MN operates three Masjids (Islamic Centers) in the metro areas of Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota. We serve the region with the following programs: a free health clinic, Muslim Day at the Capitol where we work to engage the Muslim community with their elected officials, Taking Heart dinners, Elder Care, Youth After School and Summer Care and a Food Shelf. MAS MN prides itself on the strong relationships and partnerships we have built throughout Minnesota. These include interfaith; local and state government; and social service-oriented partnerships.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States of America

Organization Headquarters: City / State

St. Paul, MN

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Bremley Lyngdoh

Hi Asad great to have your idea on the platform for the challenge. It's exciting and I really like your idea. As the ideas phase comes to an end today the 17th of August, we would encourage you to again have a look at the evaluation criteria here

Also, it will be exciting for your to check out other ideas on the platform, provide some feedback and explore potential areas of collaboration with them. Check out the Migration Lab Program