Imam Talib smiles with the welcolm back poster outside the entrance of Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood

It was nice to be welcomed back to the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood (MIB) with its trademark green cement. We visited this mosque last year during our NYC trek. It was one of the most hospitable and historical centers we visited, so it made sense to start our 30 States adventure from here.

For those who don’t know, the green sidewalk marks the territory of the mosque — a safe zone — and, back in the day, when this neighborhood wasn’t the safest (“when crack was king”), it was the sidewalk where folks knew not to mess around.  As the infamous tale goes, a drunkard was stumbling around the streets of Harlem. He was about to pass out when he saw himself on the green cement and dragged himself to the gray part – where he did pass out.

The divide between the green and gray concrete.

Today, Al-Jazeera was scheduled to meet up with us at the mosque. I reached MIB  around 7 p.m. and the camera crew was already waiting.

Khalid, the reporter from Al Jazeera, sat outside of the stairs with his camera man waiting for us to arrive. One of the additions of this trip, that I’m not sure how I really feel about, is the extra media attention this adventure is getting. Of course, the ground zero fiasco and the numerous conflicts on mosque constructions around the US has added another dimension to our project. And that’s exactly what the direction Khalid, bless his heart, was trying to go into. And how can you blame him?

Khalid, the Al Jazeera reporter, waits patiently for iftaar outside the steps of MIB.

Imam Talib wasn’t able to join us for long as he had to go to the downtown prison to lead Taraweeh prayers. But he did put up a nice poster outside welcoming us. (top picture)

Aman and I finally came together a little bit before prayer.  Less than six weeks ago, there was no real plan for traveling around the country. I was overseas, while Aman was holding down the fort ironing out the project’s logistics. I got back into the country last weekend and it was only two days ago that Aman and I reunited under the kind company of dosas and samosas.

After prayer, we broke our fast with dates. For dinner, there was fried fish, yellow rice, string beans and salad. Khalid, the Al Jazeera reporter, packed up at this point and began to head out.

Food porn, the first of many shots.

Khalid with congregants during dinner inside the prayer area.

Before heading out, I had to grab some CDs of Shaykh Alama Tawfeeq’s Quran recitation.  I shared this story last time we visited MIB, but I think it’s just as relevant now as it was then. What makes this recording of the Quran so important is that it’s said to be one of the first recordings of an American Muslim reciting the Quran.  Shaykh Alama Tawfeeq wasn’t known for his recitation nor was he a haafiz, one who has memorized the Quran. But instead, he did it because he wanted to show that it can be done.

I understand that it would be ridiculous to channel Shaykh Alama Tawfeeq for our 30 States trek, but maybe we are trying for something that is equally important and ridiculous. Why else do anything?