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Mumin Omar

Mumin Omar and a host of other young Rochester residents are looking for ways to make the local mosques more inviting to a wider range of people. They want younger people involved, more women – basically, they want a truer representation of their community.

To kickstart the conversation, Omar is helping to host a viewing of the documentary film, “UnMosqued,” on Sunday, from 2 - 4:30 p.m.

The film explores how mosques need to reform around the country, and how some have done so successfully.

A discussion afterward will seek ideas on how to follow through on reform in Rochester.

There will be no finger-pointing, Omar assures participants, but the discussion will look into concrete ways to create change.

“It’s going to be an idea-sharing session where people present solutions to this existing problem,” Omar said. “Challenging to change. It’s a cultural shift. It’s going to take time to implement this. The film is going to be used. There’s a certain amount of joylessness, (the thought that) this is done, it’s hopeless. This film shows you that (reform)’s been done before and can be done again and again.”

As a 20-year-old, Omar is one of the younger people in the Muslim/Islamic community who attend mosques in Rochester. Many of his peers want more youth representation. He explained that many mosques all over the world are led by a board of directors that are typically all-male, and all over 40 years of age.

“Our society wasn’t egalitarian,” Omar said. “Women not present. Youth unrepresented. No person was represented except the men above 40 in the leadership. What can we do about this?”

“The impetus is why we want to show the documentary is to start a culture of discourse within the community,” Essa Mohamed, a Mayo Clinic postdoctoral fellow and fellow Rochester mosque attendee, added.

He said there is a generational split that’s obvious.

“To say that a group of individuals who all come from the same socioeconomic background and same type of ideological perspective are going to be the representatives for a community that is quite diverse in thought process, quite diverse in gender identity, quite diverse in terms of their viewpoints in how we should conduct organizations… I don’t think that’s at least what we envision on how that should be done,” he said.

Mosque leadership has a say in who can attend prayer, manage land sales, and have quite a bit of power in their community, he added.

There are four mosques in Rochester, and Omar said that the communities viewers will see explored in the film – mosques from Houston, Berkeley, and more – are very similar to what’s here.

As for Rochester’s Muslim youth, Omar said they have been very active over the past year and a half. They go to city council meetings and hold events as a way to integrate themselves more into Rochester, and let their ideas and voices be heard.

“The energy that’s coming, this has been run by kids from high school, RCTC, UMR, Winona State,” Omar said. “We aren’t against the experienced. All we’re saying is have our demographic too. Have every person represented. When you have every person at the table, you have a diverse amount of ideas. That’s how we’re going to become a model society.”

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