Sunday, September 12, 2010

Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims Coast to Coast Part III

Celebrating Eid in Detroit, Michigan

Especially in light of recent controversies in the news about Muslims in the USA, or better stated, about American Muslims, I felt that it was important to complete the series of excerpts,  from the blog 30 Mosques, which began with Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims Coast to Coast  Parts I, and II.

In the final days of their journey, Aman and Bassam both explore the local mosque communities and address the broader issues at play in the media and throughout the country. Some of the intra-Muslim issues are age old: the sighting of the moon, Sunni vs Shia, Arab vs South Asian, where should women pray, growth of and services to the community, and how to keep mosque life relevant for the future generation. Others are newer and more situational: local and national resistance to building mosques, FBI attention to refugee and immigrant communities, interfaith intolerance of newer expression. All of these are addressed in a light-handed but highly effective style that gives voice to the regular American Muslims--the ones not in the news, the vast majority.

Screen shot of The Route as scheduled, interactive original here.

Day 23: Minnesota, Dar Al-Hijrah in Minneapolis [Sep 4]


We arrive around 6 PM to Dar Al Hijrah, the local mosque in downtown Minneapolis, and are welcomed by the congregants of the community. A group of elders sit around reciting Qur’an together. They take turns reading the first part of a verse and then everyone recites the last part together. It sounds difficult, but the harmonies are incredible.

Before entering the mosque, I make a point to get permission to shoot photos and video of the community. I speak on the phone with Abdul Qadir, the executive director of the community, and get his permission for taking photos, but told me to be mindful of the congregants as a lot of them are a little weary of people taking photos. People being weary of having photos taken is not unique to the Somalian community, we’ve have been experiencing this since the beginning of the trip. But the level of unrest and uneasiness I felt from the congregation when I took out my camera was new.

Minneapolis is known for its large Somalian community. According to Abdul Qadir, the executive director of Dar ul Hijrah, There are close to 10,000 Somalians in the twin cities. They began to come when the Civil War broke out in Somalia in the 1990s. We’ve found small pockets of Somalians throughout the country, but the community in Minnesota/St. Paul is by far the largest and most well-established.

The Riverside Plaza, a large high-rise apartment complex, is where many of the newly refugees are placed. It is a government subsidized complex that is predominantly East African. Just walking around the street, you will be greeted by women in long flowing abayas and men with kufis. The Somolian community got together and rented a small room in 1998 in a building right next to the housing complex to conduct prayers. In 2006, the entire building came on sale so they decided to buy the entire building. They called this community center Dar Al-Hijrah, the home of Immigrants. Ironically, as the mosque expanded, it also got a next door neighbor, Palmer’s Bar.

I asked Abdul Qadir what the relationship was like with the pub and he said they’ve been very accommodating.

“Sometimes, the music gets a little loud, but we just tell them to kindly put the music down for us to pray. And they are very respectful.”

Regardless of the level of respect, Abdul Qadir acknowledges the awkwardness of the proximity.

[...]

After breaking their fast, many Somalians go back to the mosque for taraweeh, the night prayer, or, those that are not working, are out socializing. You will find a large number of Somalian brothers at the International Corner on 15th and Nicollette. You can google it, or just follow the loud clanking sounds of the dominoes. The sound of dominoes hitting the table, the constant yelling back and forth meshed with foozball slammery drowns the place — this coffee shop is bursting with energy.

I start taking photos at the pool table, and then head over to the internet hub. I finally make my way to the rowdiest part of the coffee shop, the guys playing dominoes.

As I take photos of the people playing dominoes, I hear a man screaming from two tables away in my direction. He gets up from his seat, points and yells at me. Suddenly, two men grab him and hold him back. The guys playing foozball at the adjacent table come around and start probing me. A group of men surround me.

“What did you do wrong?” says one of them.

Nothing.

I start handing out our yellow 30 mosques business cards hoping to calm people down by showing that I’m a Muslim and not the government. But no one is buying it.

“Are you the FBI? Did the government bring you here?” A brother says to me in my face.

I should note that most of these men tower over me. If I was in need to head butt any of them, I’d need to stand at least on one or two stools.

“Alright, thats enough.” says a Somalian brother, holding the brother back and saving the day.

[...]

“Look, don’t take offense.” Eid says to me as we’re driving. “Ever since people from our community left to fight in Somalia, the FBI and the media has been down our throats.”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but make a mental note to Google it later. (LINK)


Day 24: Wisconsin, Islamic Da’wa Center in Milwaukee [Sep 5]


Sheikh Kaleem grasps my hand and smiles when I ask him what impact his blindness has had on his faith.

“You ask some interesting questions,” he said amidst a crowded room of people at the Islamic Da’wa Center in Milwaukee. “I’ve memorized more verses of Quran while I was blind than I did when I wasn’t. If it meant I could memorize more Quran, I wish I could go through this blindness process at least 10 more times.”

He’s wearing a pearl white turban and hunches foward in the noisy room as I lean towards him to hear better. The sheikh is an active imam in several mosques in the Milwaukee area and has also taught kung fu for over 30 years. During that time, he said his students have never lost a tournament.

Both the sheikh and his wife are blind. The sheikh worked as a visual artist and lost his vision in the early 1990s from excessive exposure to art chemicals. His wife lost hers recently to a battle with sickle cell. But neither of them make much of their blindness.

“I see it as a temporary inconvenience,” he said. “Allah has the ability to give us sight and the ability to take it away. To say being blind is a problem would be denying the will of Allah.”

There are over 15,000 Muslims in Milwaukee today, but when Sheikh Kaleem was a child in the 1960s, there may have been only 3-4 Muslim families in the area and no mosque.

“I still remember being a child and we’d pray Friday prayer inside someone’s living room,” he said.

The Muslim community here is rapidly growing thanks to some of the work the Da’wa Center has been doing. One of the crown jewels of this center is its outreach to prison inmates and transitioning them to a better life once they get out.

“When you’re locked up, a lot of people turn to Islam because it’s a way to survive and avoid getting beaten up by other convicts,” said Ayyub Alamin, one of the center’s founders. “But that’s easy because you’re practicing Islam in isolation. It’s when you get out when the real struggle begins.”

[...]

The Da’wa Center’s roots go back to the 1980s when a few Muslims set up an Islamic hotline that anyone could call for answers about Islam. One guy running a grocery store set up a phone line at his job that people around the neighborhood could call with questions about Islam. After work, the calls would be forwarded to his home, sort of like a 24 hour Islamic hotline. In the mid 1990s, the actual Da’wa Center was established and has been growing ever since.

Sheikh Kaleem says he has to run to lead prayer at another mosque. Before he leaves, he puts his hand on my shoulder and asks me to look around the room as everyone was eating dinner.

“What a beautiful community,” he said. “You can just sense the beauty by just walking by these people.”

Sheikh Kaleem grabs his robe and walking stick and gives me his salams. I hand him a 30 Mosques business card and he rubs his fingers over it and smiles.

“I sense there’s something really special about you,” he said as he put the card in his shirt pocket.

I want to ask him what he meant by that, but at this point, he already walked away. I don’t know when will be the next time I’ll see him but that’s only a temporary inconvenience to me. I have a feeling we’ll cross paths sooner rather than later


Day 25: Iowa, The Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids [Sep 7]


Note: There are many families that have helped build the Cedar Rapids Muslim community. Unfortunately, I was only able to meet with a small portion of them. So please take these small accounts and stories as part of a larger history.

Many mistake the Mother Mosque as being the first mosque in North America, but as we blogged a couple of days ago, Ross, North Dakota was the site of the first mosque in 1929. What makes the Mother Mosque so important though is that it’s the longest standing mosque, established in 1934.

Throughout the 1800′s there were many Muslims that emigrated to the states to work at factories, railroads, etc., but very few of them were able to create sustainable communities. The Mother Mosque is a nationally recognized historic site and is preserved by Imam Taha. Since the Cedar Rapids Muslim community moved to a larger mosque, the Mother Mosque now serves more as a historical landmark and cultural information center.

The basement of the Mother Mosque is lined with photos and news pieces showcasing a rich history covered by the local papers and tv outlets. From the first news clipping and photo of the congregants outside of the mosque to pictures of the aftermath of the drastic Iowa floods that desecrated hundreds of important books, Imam Taha and the community have done a great job preserving the history of the mosque.

Unlike most of the Muslim communities in America, Cedar Rapids is home to a large community of third, fourth or even fifth generation American Muslims. Aman and I, both coming from largely first generation Muslim communities, wanted to learn more about these folks.

Today, on a cloudy Labor day, we sit with Fatima Igram, a third generation American Muslim, at her house as she shares some important photos with us from her community.

Her father, Abdullah Igram, was in the military and was stationed in New Guinea during World War II. When he was getting his dog tag made, he was asked to claim his religious affiliation with either a P for Protestant, J for Jewish, or C for Catholic. Abdullah said he was a Muslim and asked for an M to be engraved. The military couldn’t produce an M on the tag, so decided to leave it blank. For Abdullah, the idea of dying abroad and not receiving the right burial was terrifying.

Thankfully, Abdullah safely arrived back to Iowa after the war. A couple of years later he wrote a letter to President Eisenhower persuading him to add the M option on military dog tags. Soon enough, Abdullah received a letter from the President’s secretary thanking him for the suggestion and the M option was added.

Abdullah Igram, a Syrian American, was born in America and became somewhat of an ambassador for the Muslims to the larger community. He was one of the first kids in the community to complete the Quran in Arabic. Afterwards, he taught basic aAabic [sic] and Qur’an classes in the basement of the mother mosque.

[...]

In the 1960′s and early 1970′s, the small Iowan Muslim community found a large number immigrants coming from South Asia for work.

“Many of the Pakistanis would try to correct us, or tell us what to do.” says Naji. A classic example of the clash of Immigrant v. Indigenous.
“but they were kind of right. We didn’t know much and needed to learn more.”

“We had a big divide around then, those that liked the way things were before, and those that were willing to progress in their Islam and their practice.”

According to Naji, those that were okay with the earlier ways of the community left and those that were willing to progress stayed and built the mosque into what it is now.

The Cedar Rapids Muslim community is large and vibrant. Aman and I joined them last night for dinner and were amazed by the diverse congregation we saw. For dinner, we had rice pilaf, tandoori naan, butter chicken, goat with gravy and rice pudding for dessert. It was clearly a Pakistani/Indian menu and a meal the entire congregation seemed to enjoyed.


Day 26: Illinois, Hanging out with Shi’as in Chicago [Sep 7]


Note: This post is talking about Sunnis and Shi’as, so before you comment on this post, remember the wise teachings of Mary J. Blige: “We don’t need no haters, just try to love one another.”

When I was 10 years old, I asked my dad what was the difference between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims.

“Shi’as are much better looking than us,” he said.

Until college, I had little or no encounter with Shi’a Muslims growing up let alone did I know anything about what they believe in. So any opportunity I get to hang out with them, I jump on because they’re a vital community to talk about as we highlight Muslim communities across the country.

There are roughly ten thousand Shi’as that live in the Chicago area and 3-4 mosques. They have a few cool Islamic schools in Chicago too, and I can’t wait to perform standup for one of them on Oct. 10.

For our 30 Mosques trip, we checked out BaitUl Ilm, a funeral home converted into a Shi’a mosque in a quiet Chicago suburb. It’s a temporary place for the worshippers here – next door is their simple yet ravishingly designed mosque that they hope to finish construction on by next year.

What’s cool about BaitUl Ilm is how plugged in they are with the rest of the Chicago Muslim community. The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago is a huge local umbrella organization of different mosques and Muslim groups. BaitUl Ilm is the only Shi’a member of it. The mosque also regularly sends its imams to Sunni mosques for talks and leading prayers and Sunnis do the same.

“Not only should we be learning how to maintain our Shi’a identity, but we should be doing so while living in harmony with the other members of the Muslim community here,” said Imam Sulayman, one of the religious leaders here at the mosque.

The imam wore the black turban and robe designated for Shi’a clerics. He’s a youthful guy who greets me with a soothing tenor tone. I broke my fast with him among the other congregants in the mosque and took note of a cultural display on the wall that the mosque made to pay respect to some of the most revered leaders in Shi’a Islam.

Afterwards I chatted with the Imam and other congregants on a wide variety of subjects. I think even though Shi’as and Sunnis may have different approaches to practicing Islam, we sometimes fail to realize we face similar socio-political issues just living in this country. With all the talk about the opposition to mosques in New York City, Murfreesboro, Tennessee and even Sheboygan, Wisconsin taking up my attention, I knew little about a nearby Shi’a mosque here in Chicago that is having issues too.

The Imam is well versed in American history and said what worries him is the direction religious discourse is headed in this country. He compared presidential candidate speeches given by John F. Kennedy Jr., a Catholic, in the 1960s and Mitt Romney, a Mormon, during the past election cycle. Both candidates were scrutinized for their faith because the American electorate traditionally elected Christian Protestant leaders

Kennedy dealt with the issue by dismissing the concerns and saying his faith had nothing to do with how he’d govern (“I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic”). Romney, on the other hand, had to go on the defensive and basically explain his belief system to the public (“What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history.”)

That’s what’s happening to us Muslims, Sunni or not. Our mosque projects are getting protested and our leaders are under intense scrutiny and forced to explain random out-of-context statements made years, if not decades ago. So rather than trying to wedge ourselves on the differences between Sunnis and Shi’as, we Muslims need to be there for each other. Like I said before, there are only 6-7 million of us in this country and we don’t have the luxury of dividing ourselves.

The imam said what we Sunnis and Shi’as should be doing is promoting a more pluralistic Muslim community, instead of arguing and trying to convert each other. He compared the type of Muslim community he’d like to live in to all the awesome halal food restaurants we have in New York (he must know how to get my attention, hehehe).

“You not only have halal Arab or halal Indian food, but you also have halal Thai, Chinese and Mexican food,” he said. “And then when you travel somewhere else that doesn’t have it, you begin to crave the choice from all those types of food, even if you don’t like eating all of them. Similarly, I’d rather be living in a Muslim community where Sunnis, Shi’as, Sufis, Salafis and other groups are living among one another.”

All that talk with the Imam made me hungry… for hanging out with people like him more often.


Day 27: The Muslims in Memphis (Part 1) [Sep 8]


Chip Ordman is a reform Jew and his wife Eunice is a Christian. The couple attend mosques in Memphis 2-3 times a month for Friday prayers, potluck dinners and other events.

“The more people get to know each other, the more they’ll get along,” Eunice said.

I first met Chip in April this year for a standup show I did for the Memphis Islamic Center, a ridiculously awesome mosque being built here that we’ll talk about in a coming post. The Ordmans are a part of the Memphis InterReligious Group that encourage Muslims, Christians and Jews to hang out with each other and attend each other’s services. I’ve done a lot of traveling across the country and I’ve never seen an interfaith community like Memphis where a guy like Chip comes to mosques for Friday prayers and chat about the khutbah sermons afterwards with congregants.

“When it comes to visiting mosques, churches and synagogues, I often find that questions I have about one religion are answered by another,” he said.

Chip and Eunice met us to break our fast at the Muslim Society of Memphis, a simple mosque packed with congregants. He was wearing a north African Jewish yarmulke that I initially mistook for a kufi, a hat Muslim men often wear during prayer. Seeing him at the mosque with his hat and fluffy cotton beard made him blend in with just about everyone there.

[...]

Chip and I begin talking about religious attire and he’s quick to pull out several items that many orthodox Jews wear during their regular morning prayers.

[...]

What I admire about the Ordmans is their passion for building interfaith relations in the community. But all religions embracing each other here is a common trait here, according to one of my friends Danish who lives here.

“The Christians here are very welcoming of Muslims because they actually adhere to what they believe,” he said.

It’s hard to believe, only a few hours away in Murfreesboro, a small town outside of Nashville, a national spotlight has been placed on those Muslims’ struggle to build a mosque amidst community opposition. But Murfreesboro isn’t the only community dealing with mosque opposition in this country, so I asked Chip how Muslims can avoid it.

“Before you build a mosque, you need to start by listening,” he said. “Go out into the community and make clear to everyone that you just want to listen.”

I admire the Ordman’s wholehearted and sincere interest in hanging out with Muslims here in Memphis. I ask him if he thinks Muslims here reciprocate that interest and hang out in churches and temples.

“They do, but I’d like to see more,” he said. “But I understand, many Muslims might feel a little nervous coming to a church because they might not understand the theology. But what I’d like to see is a mosque calling up a church and saying ‘Hi, we’d like to send one of our youth groups to attend one of your church services.”

With all the time the Ordmans spend at mosques, I have to ask if any Muslims have tried to convert them. Chip lets out a chuckle and responds.

“I’m quite happy with my tribe,” he said. “There’s so much mutual understanding and interfaith work that needs to be done. I feel like converting would disqualify myself from doing that.”

[...]


Day 28: Kentucky, Mind The Space [Sep 9]


Note: Due to certain concerns, the subject of our post has been renamed and is not present in any of the photos. Instead, we present to you his workspace, blue prints and completed designs to help tell his compelling story.

Right now, in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky a white man with a thick southern accent is designing a mosque. He is designing the walls, the arched windows, the domes, and the inevitable trouble that local community members will have with the space.

“I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was a kid.”

This man is Brian and Brian is an architect. He runs his own small architecture firm in Lexington and works on whatever he pleases.

“When I stepped out on my own, my first building project was a mosque.” Brian says, “it’s also around that time that I accepted Islam.”

“It was quite a way to get acclimated into the community.” Laughs Brian.

Brian keeps thing light and easy. His sarcasm is dry and is realized only by his smirk. Today, he’s wearing a red polo and gray khakis, but admits that he likes to be more casual than this. On zonal hearings, where he’s been spending a lot of his time these days, he’ll wear a tie and suit.

The Hearings

“Zonal hearings suck the life out of you.”

As one may assume, Brian has sat in one-two many zonal hearings where the neighbors of said mosque site will come out in numbers to either respectfully or venomously oppose the mosque construction.

“A lot of people that come are concerned with very normal issues, like lighting, crowding. They don’t care about religion, but Muslims still take offense.”

Brian prides himself in having a thick skin and encourages the Muslim congregnats to not show up.

“But some people will rant about Shariah and terrorism. Stuff that has nothing to do with zonal hearings.”

This example of hatred spewing happened in West Virginia, where the public hearing became contentious very quick.

“If you took the temperature in the room,” Brian says, “you’d think it wouldn’t be approved. All the Muslims were getting so worked up and I just told them to not worry, it will pass.”

And soon enough, the West Virginia City Council approved the plans to build the mosque. Turns out the concerns of the public weren’t relevant, after all, it was about zonal hearing.

“It always happens. The loud ones drown out the rest, and make everyone who oppose the plan seem a little bigoted.”

Brian is thoughtful and considerate, he understands where a lot of the valid concerns come from. He grew up in Kentucky and has quite a few conservative folks in his family. Oddly, this gives him the edge he needs in these hearings to defend the community and the plans.

Building Fun

“Masjids take years. I sometimes outlive my clients!” Brian says laughing.

Brian has learned a lot from designing mosques. His first mosque project was in a rural town in Kentucky and he didn’t know what he was getting into. Not only did he just embrace Islam, but he also embraced a large community and its issues.

“At the time there were less than 12 people in the community and they were building a mosque for 120 people.” Brian remembers.

After the building was completed, he went back to the mosque and saw that the congregation had tripled.

[...]

Frustration

“Its frustrating when someone from the mosque will say, ‘I just want it to look like a mosque’.” Brian recollects, “which really means, make it look like the mosques from back home. They don’t realize that they aren’t building for themselves, but for their kids.”

[...]

Mosque development teams usually consist of those that are putting the majority of the money down – primarily rich doctors and uncles who understandably want a say in everything about the mosque. This sometimes makes the mosque development team an insular group of folks that are not representative of the congregants that attend the mosque. It’s also where you also get the unnecessary extravagances in the building.

[...]

Million Dollar Question

But challenging the extravagance or the mosque designs from the Muslim world isn’t the hardest part. The hardest part comes with the million dollar question that he now asks every building committee in their initial meetings.

“It’s my first question to the board,” he says, “where will the women go?”

It’s a tough one. Brian has been trying hard to figure out what the most ideal space for woman is and he can’t seem to find a single answer.

“I’ve seen that the loft solution has worked well. Have women on the top and they can still see the speaker.” Brian pauses to think for a second, “you know, I don’t think there is a single ideal solution for women. It’s always a tough question to answer.”

As we discuss this issue, a girl from the community shows up, Essma Amry, a Muslim interior designer. Brian stops her and asks her what she thinks.

Essma is quick to respond, “well, you know there isn’t a single space that will work for every community.”

Brian interrupts her, “But the question is, will whatever they set up now be sustainable for the future. Are these communities thinking about that?”

Brian poses smart questions. He is less concerned about this generation and is more concerned about his kids’.

“We need to start building with our kids in mind. They won’t be who their parents were.” he says with confidence, “As far as I know, I’m what the future of what Muslim America looks like.

[...]


Day 29: Ohio, Coming Back Home to Columbus [Sep 10]


Dr. Malika Haque is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met.

Her family is best friends with mine and she always believed in everything I’ve ever done growing up. When I was in high school and wanted to become a reporter, my parents were supportive but somewhat reserved about how stable the career could be. Growing up in Columbus, there really were no Muslims at the time that had gone into the field, so I was essentially taking a huge risk in their eyes.

My parents no longer live here, so breaking my last fast of this remarkable journey made sense to spend it with one of the aunties in this community that literally helped raise me. During dinner, Malika Aunty reminded me of the speech she gave during my high school graduation party in 2003 that I completely forgot about. It was the speech that helped comfort my parents who were worried about my career choice.

“Do you remember what I said during that speech?” she asked. “I said, ‘You’re going to grow up to be a great journalist and one day I’m going to see you on CNN.’”

She was right.

I’m not bringing this story up to pat myself on the back (yuck!). I am simply the reflection of people like her and her husband Azeez that pioneered the Muslim community here in Columbus. I grew up attending the Islamic Center in downtown Columbus and I laughed hysterically when Azeez Uncle told me the story that I didn’t know about how the mosque was established.

In the 1970s, there was no mosque in Columbus at the time and a group of Muslim families had their eye on a downtown property that cost $55,000. The Muslim families were able to raise about $30,000 and were worried they’d have to take out a loan for the remaining $25,000. Islam forbids Muslims from paying interest and everyone was afraid they’d have to if they took a loan out.

But then, a Kuwaiti student got word of the dilemma and came to a planning meeting for the mosque …. with a briefcase filled with $25,000 in cash.

“That’s one thing the Arab students were good for,” Azeez Uncle said with a chuckle.

That mosque is old but still active. These days though, the shining light of the Muslim community is now the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, the new colossal mosque that the Haque family also helped pioneer. It seems to be the only place in town that can contain the Muslim population that seems to be growing exponentially.

I haven’t seen Malika Aunty in quite some time and wanted to catch up with what she’s been up to. I was completely unaware of a remarkable new endeavor she help spearheaded called The Noor Community Clinic. The clinic is staffed entirely by Muslims and gears its services to anyone uninsured – regardless of religious affiliation. She doesn’t do any of this work for praise, but I’m glad someone like her is getting recognition for something like this.

I’m fascinated by this much needed endeavor she’s taken on but our conversation is pleasantly cut short by the arrival of her daughter Masu and her husband Badr. The couple live in Houston with their two children and Malika Aunty hurried to the door to greet her adorable grandkids. It’s the night before Eid and the family excitement is already reverberating around the house to celebrate the end of another amazing Ramadan. Malika Aunty’s face begins to glow as she sits her granddaughter Rayya down and decorates her hands with henna and outfits her in some fancy clothes.



Day 30: Stop Making Sense, Eid in Detroit
[Sep 11]


You have traveled 13,000 miles around America in 29 days all while fasting and blogging everyday. And today, the 30th day of your journey, the celebration, you are late to the mosque. In fact, you are so late that the traffic jam in the parking lot has already passed. You enter the mosque in hopes of catching the last sentiments of Ramadan and grand embraces that happen after prayer, but that too has passed. You are directed to go towards the gymnasium where a large number of the congregants are eating samosas and drinking chai. You run towards the gymnasium in hopes to maybe at least get some photos of happy people. You enter the large space and see everyone leaving and wonder, “how am I going to make this work?”

Go ahead, you know you want to say it, this sucks. Especially since you have come to Detroit on one of the most important holidays, away from your family and friends, to celebrate Eid with strangers.

But then there is that part of you that shrugs it off and starts snapping whatever you see. You take mindless photos, photos of people taking photos, photos of people praying Friday prayers, boys choking other boys, uncles playing ping pong and an Obama-themed gas station. Happy moments, non-sensical ones, but mostly things that don’t add up to a cohesive narrative and for the first time during this entire adventure you don’t care.

Today is Eid and we are celebrating it wherever and however we can. Let’s leave making sense for later.

Eid Mubarak everyone.


*Photos Aman Ali; Text Aman Ali; and, on Days 23, 25, 28, 30 Bassam Tariq

Your favourite entry?
Your favourite picture?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?



Related Posts:
Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims From Coast to Coast Part I
Aman's and Bassam's Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques, 30 States, 30 Days--American Muslims From Coast to Coast Part II

On the Background issues currently in the USA:
Lailat Al Qadr: Praying Taraweeh at "Ground Zero Mosque"/ Cordoba House/ Park51 NYC
Yet Another Ignominious Nobody Finds Fame Through Islamophobia: Burning A Holy Book in Commemoration of 9/11
Pastor Jones: A Propagandist's Dream Reverend
9/11-9 Years On
Eid Al-Fitr and 9/11: Ignorance Breeds Contempt

On Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr:
Ramadan 2010: A Special Month
Khadija bint Khuwaylid (c. 555-10 Ramadan, 619 CE)
Lailat Al Qadr, The Night of Power: Quranic Revelation, Prayer, Forgiveness, and the Final 10 Days of Ramadan
The Quran: Part I--The Revelation of the Recitation (Ramadan 610-632); A Book of Revelations
The Quran: Part II-- For New Readers and Readers Anew
Ramadan, Fasting, and Health in Muslim Majority and non-Muslim Majority Countries
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Life in the Time of the Cholera?
Ramadan and Remembering Pakistan: Parts II, III, and IV: The Floods and Sociobiology; The Response; Katrina 5 Years On
Ramadan And Remembering Pakistan: Part V--Not sure what to do with your zakat?
Ramadan and Umrah
Eid Al-Fitr 2010--Worldwide Celebrations

5 comments:

oby said...

Last night, my husband got a call from one of the Muslim physicians he is acquainted with at the hospital. They wanted to bring food over for Eid. At the time we were not at home and he told them but they insisted and left it on our doorstep. I wonder if the doc had some ties to the free clinic in Ohio in your post. I don't know.

Anyway, they brought a chicken and a desert dish and when we got home we very much enjoyed it...delicious!

Now I will fill those bowls with some sort of "thank you" like cashews or pistachios and return them.

I 2wished I had known about the clinic before as a friend of mine has had some very hard times...her husband has been unemployed for a couple of years despite looking and they were unable to find work and he needed care so badly. He has since found a job and things are looking up, but that could have been a god send for them.

mikapoka said...

Hi or assalam alaikoum, glad I've stumbled upon your interesting blog: this post is absolutely perfect yet fully comprehensive. Here in old Europe 'American Muslims' are hardly in the news and we know nothing about 'em so thanks for let us know so much about. Bes'lama Chiara.

Susanne said...

I enjoyed hearing about the final days of this journey. Lots of interesting stories and wonderful photos. I like the man playing ping pong there towards the end. It's nice seeing someone enjoy a game! Love so many others as well!

Chiara said...

Oby-thank you for your comment, and for sharing this wonderful interfaith story. I do wish your friend had known about this clinic too. I know a number of US doctors who work part-time in a free clinic, or do so after retirement from their more active professional life. This type of service is so necessary where healthcare is not provided for all. Usually it is the middle class temporarily out of work, or falling on hard times, or having hard times because of high health bills who are more vulnerable in that they don't qualify for medicaid. I do hope that changes in the US.

Mikapoka--B'slama. Welcome to my blog and thank you for your comment. I am glad you appreciated just what this post was intended to show--regular American Muslims. I think it would be wonderful if other Muslims in different countries were inspired to do the same sort of thing. I hope you enjoy the next fashion-related post. Your own fashion blog is beautiful! Thank you again for your comment, and I hope you will comment on older and newer posts of interest to you! :)

Chiara said...

Susanne--Thank you for your comment. There are many different photos and stories of interest, so it is hard to choose. I agree that one of the man playing ping pong is wonderful--for showing the joy he is experiencing, and for showing how normal a traditionally dressed Muslim can be! Thanks again for your comment! :)

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