Listen MPR's Steven John talks with Hussein Samatar, Executive Director of the African Development Center of Minnesota
Listen Mayor R.T. Rybak talks about helping immigrant businesses
The program allows Muslim Minnesotans, as well as others, to repay loans without traditional interest. Many Muslims avoid conventional loans because paying or receiving interest goes against their religious beliefs.
Instead of interest-based financing, the new alternative is profit-based.
Hussein Samatar, executive director of the African Development Center, says the new program benefits all Minnesotans.
"As Paul Wellstone used to say, we do better when we all do better; when we all have something, we're a better community," says Samatar. "When this community has access to capital, and they're running businesses, buying homes, they are not only creating business for themselves, they are creating business for the community at large."
Sabah Yusuf of the Aishah Center for Women works with small business owners to keep them informed about financing options.
"Mainly, the reason these women don't actually go to mainstream banks is because of the interest. It's really wonderful for the City of Minneapolis to say that we care enough -- that here is a way to give back to the community. Here is an opportunity for you that will not clash with your culture, not with your religion and your beliefs," says Yusuf.
Yusuf says for years, Muslim women in the area have been pooling money together to support each others' businesses. She says the venture will help expand women's businesses and create more wealth in the community.
The African Development Center conducted research with Muslim scholars, attorneys, and community members before approaching the city. Samatar hopes the initiative will allow more people to be part of the middle class in Minnesota.