Since 2006, Minneapolis has loaned more than $1 million to Muslim business owners through a program that complies with sharia law, which prohibits Muslims from paying or earning interest in a financial transaction. The program, which is operated in partnership with the African Development Center, makes Minneapolis the only city in the country to offer Islamic financing at a time when states are trying to ban sharia from the courts. "Minneapolis is a very welcoming city," says Kristin Guild, the city's business development manager. "Because [Somali immigrants] wear headscarves, they are visible as entrepreneurs and people see that they are setting up businesses in our town and creating jobs.""Be creative"? All they're doing is being dhimmis. Sure, I'll bet they're opening prominent businesses alright...at the expense of everybody else in the city. I don't buy what the National Journal is saying at face value.
Minnesota is home to the country's largest Somali community, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim. An estimated 32,000 people of Somali ancestry live in the state, and about one-third of them live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, according to the latest census figures.
In the past 10 years, North African immigrants have opened teashops, pharmacies, and child-care centers in southwest Minneapolis storefronts that were once boarded up. But many of these entrepreneurs struggled to grow their businesses because Islamic law forbids Muslims from earning or paying interest, known as riba. So they couldn't take out loans or participate in the city's low-interest financing program for small businesses.
"We had to be creative to meet the demand," says Nasibu Sareva, executive director of the nonprofit African Development Center, which brought the idea of creating an Islamic financing program to the city in early 2006. City leaders were unaware of the sharia restriction, but agreed to the plan. Less than a year later, the city's community and economic development department launched the sharia-compliant Alternative Financing Program.
Minneapolis business development staffers point out that their program is open to anyone, even non-Muslims. Immigrants from Morocco, Ethiopia, and other North African countries have brought commerce back to long-neglected neighborhoods, like Lake Street in Lyndale. Once a commercial corridor in the early 1900s, shops on Lake Street began closing as consumers moved to the suburbs."Neglected"? Soon, those neighborhoods could become neglected in a different sense: they could become no-go zones for non-Muslims. There's plenty the magazine isn't saying, and that will do harm to Minnesota in the long run.