“Every time we make assumptions about what other people feel, do or think, we imprison them and us in a separate reality. When we believe in those assumptions and act accordingly, this separate reality becomes an existential torture chamber for them and ultimately for us. All the terror and pain that we experience or see in the world is the result of our assumptions. Assumptions are the greatest crime in human consciousness. Hence let’s start to create an assumption-free world.”
― Franco Santoro
Limiting Liberty: The Recurring Collision of Free Speech and Religion
The aim of this project is for Minnesota Muslims to engage the greater community and share with them ways to explore their thoughts and feelings about current events unfolding.
The essays will continue to help Minnesotan Muslims to find their voices and confidently say, “This is who we are, and this is what we believe,” leading to an engagement with the greater community. I hope, through this effort, Minnesotan Muslims will continue to explore and find local organizations and civic work to build a bridge of dialogue that will foster mutual understanding and cooperation.
I encourage them to write to local media outlets about the Muslim experience in Minnesota and interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims in Minnesota and beyond. I will continue to add events where people can connect and become involved in areas that our community needs to be challenged and grow.
To help you get started, I offer a few suggestions:
EngageMN Essay-Writing Tips
Tell a story: Be specific! We can’t stress enough how important this is. Think about starting with a specific moment or anecdote. For an example, you can look at Heba Abd-el Karim’s piece, “The True Act of a Muslim.”
Focus on your experience, and tell about how things affect you personally, both as a Muslim and as a Minnesotan. Your writing can be informative, gut-wrenching, heart-warming, or funny, but it must be specific. Use concrete images. Where appropriate, include dates and times and reasons.
Examples of the types of writing we run:
A personality profile giving readers a glimpse of an unusual or remarkable person in the community. Example: Abia Ali: Youth Hero
A preview of an event scheduled in the community to help readers know whether they’d be interested in attending it. Example: Prominent Muslim Scholar to Speak in MN: ‘Is Coexistence Feasible?’
A review describing a recent or ongoing work of art or entertainment. Example: Are Revolutions Won by Hands Clenched into Fists or Clasped in Prayer?)
A short personal essay (Political Notebook: A Dream Coming Back to Life)
A “think” piece that elaborates on concepts worth contemplating or debating. Example: The Crescent Shines for All
News analysis that provides context to help readers understand serious events of importance to the community. Example: What Are You Going to Do?
Use your voice: This is an essay to engage the public, so you can use everyday words and phrases. Your writing should sound not like a textbook, but like you.
If it’s longer, insert subheadings: Readers tend to prefer shorter pieces online (under 1,000 words). If your piece is longer, see how you might break it up. You might even have several essays in there!
Before you start, try to summarize the core of your essay: If you can’t say it in a sentence or two, you might be dealing with more than one topic. Try to narrow down your focus instead of saying everything you think all at once.
Keep your audience in mind, and stay engaged: Remember that this is not a Muslim-only audience, but an audience of all Minnesotans. You don’t need to be “positive” in the sense of upbeat or optimistic, but you do need to stay engaged. Consider how a respectful, broad-based Minnesota audience would react to your work. You might need to explain some terms, but you should assume the best of your readers, and speak to them as if they care about you and your opinions.