MCF Member Initiated Briefing: Conversations in Philanthropy - Supporting Muslim, Arab, and South Asian (MASA) Communities in Minnesota

Thursday, October 17, 2019 12:00pm - 5:00pm CDT
Bush Foundation, U.S. Bank Building, 24th Floor, 101 5th St E, St Paul, MN 55101

This MCF member-initiated briefing is a partnership between RISE Together Fund (a Proteus Fund initiative), the Bush Foundation, the Initiative Foundation, Headwaters Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Minnesota (CAIR-MN), and the Minnesota Council on Foundations.

Register here by October 10. 

Note: Please register at the hyperlink provided above; registration is not going through MCF's website.

Program Description:

From the recent murder of a Muslim man in Indiana motivated by anti-Muslim hate, to the vandalism of a Sikh gurdwara in California, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian (MASA) communities in the U.S. continue to bear much of the brunt of Islamophobic, xenophobic, anti-immigrant/refugee attacks. These communities also face particular forms of criminalization stemming from our country’s history of institutionalized racism and more recent developments such as War on Terror policies and the Muslim ban. This is particularly salient in areas of the country where MASA immigrant communities are growing the fastest, but are still relatively isolated in terms of social services and civic engagement. Motivated by the lack of concrete data on these communities, in 2018 the RISE Together Fund (RTF) commissioned a quantitative and qualitative study to understand the areas of the country where MASA communities are growing the fastest but are under-resourced. RTF is the first and only national donor collaborative dedicated to funding and serving MASA communities in the U.S., with a focus on policy advocacy, grassroots organizing, civic engagement, and communications.

Reshaping the Country: The Growth of Muslim, Arab and South Asian (MASA) Communities in the United States focuses on the 12 metro areas in the U.S. where MASA populations have seen the largest percentage growth from 2000 to 2016. These areas include the Minneapolis-St.Paul-Bloomington, MN greater metro area, for which the MASA community grew 171.6% between 2000 and 2016.

The MASA population represents one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the country, but based on this study, these new growth regions lack the infrastructure to deepen MASA community civic engagement and are also home to active hate groups. In this session, we will explore how local foundations and philanthropy writ large can better support MASA organizations and populations in their own communities. In addition to introducing RTF’s research study, we will hear from MASA-focused organizations working in greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities on direct services, policy advocacy, and civic engagement on their successes and challenges; this will be followed by a “funder only” closed door session to discuss lessons learned for those already funding or interested in funding MASA communities in Minnesota.

Tentative schedule:

12-12:30 pm: Lunch and Networking

12:30-12:45 pm: Welcoming Remarks (Ramla Bile, Bush Foundation; Shireen Zaman, RISE Together Fund)

12:45-2:00 pm: Panel 1: Exploring the Needs, Filling the Gaps: How MASA-Focused Organizations are Providing Direct Services Support in MN (Moderator: Jeff Wig, Initiative Foundation)


  • Jama Alimad, Enterprise Academy at the Initiative Foundation (confirmed)
  • Imam Makram El-Amin, Masjid An-Nur (confirmed)
  • Afzal Syed Mohamed, the Building Blocks of Islam (confirmed)
  • Yussuf Shafie, Alliance Wellness Center (confirmed)
  • Samira Ali, Defend Glendale & Public Housing Coalition (confirmed)

2-2:15 pm: Break

2:-3:15 pm: Panel 2: Policy-Advocacy and Civic Engagement Organizations are Building a More Vibrant and Inclusive Democracy [Moderator: Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations - Minnesota (CAIR-MN)]


  • Nausheena Hussain, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (confirmed)
  • Habon Abdulle, Women Organizing Women (confirmed)
  • Imam Asad Zaman, Muslim American Society (MAS) (confirmed)
  • Nekessa Opoti, Black Immigrant Collective (confirmed)
  • Hamilton Parker Cook, Awood (invited)

3:30-3:45 pm: Break

3:45-4:45 pm: Panel 3: Funder Discussion: Lessons Learned and Ways Forward (Funders Only)