BY ELAINE KLAASSEN
The Tawfiq Islamic Center on Minnehaha Avenue at 24th Street, now under construction, will open in July, after Ramadan. There will be a grand opening for the wider community. Executive Director Oumer M. Wako says they would like to share their culture with the neighborhood. And their food shelf, which they will reinstate once construction is over, is for everyone.
The Oromo Muslims (from Ethiopia) started to arrive in Minnesota in the early 1990s. As their population grew, they established Islamic centers in different parts of the Twin Cities, such as Fridley, North Minneapolis and St. Paul, to help sustain their cultural and religious identity and to preserve their heritage. All the centers work together. According to the Tawfiq Islamic Center on Minnehaha’s website, their mission is to “promote Muslim individual and community development through social and educational programs in light of the Quran and Sunnah.” Although they are primarily an Oromo group, the center is a place of nurture for all Muslims of any nationality, according to the director.
There are also Oromo Christians in the Twin Cities. The Tawfiq Islamic Center, says Mr. Wako, works together with them when there are human rights abuses against the Oromo people in Ethiopia, as is happening now, with the takeover of their lands by the government in the name of development, and the killing and brutal imprisonment of protesters.
The Tawfiq Islamic Center on Minnehaha Avenue, which shares the name of the Islamic center in North Minneapolis, was acquired in 2014. The architectural drawings of the finished exterior are very beautiful and captivating. The inside is massive, with various lovely greens and textured metal inside front doors. It contains seven classrooms (one of the educational programs holds a contest for which children memorize the Koran), many offices, a library, a bookstore, a gym, a community room for weddings and other celebrations, a prayer room that holds about 450 people, special rooms for women to visit together (Wako says that, in Islam, men and women are separate), restrooms designed with areas for the customary Islamic footwashing, and special rooms for preparing and storing the dead before funerals and burial.
When the date is set for the grand opening, everyone will be invited to meet their Muslim neighbors and to become acquainted with the customs and values of Islam.