Day 9 – Alabama, Epic Fail.

21
Aug
By Bassam Tariq | 113 Comments »

Last night in the Jacksonville mosque, Aman and I decided to change today’s route from Birmingham, Alabama to Mobile, Alabama. The cause for the change of heart – word of mouth said that Muslims own about 95% of the car dealerships in Mobile, and at that time,  it sounded like a nice phenomena to cover.

We enter Mobile, Alabama around 6:30 p.m. and see a wide array of car dealerships surrounding the interstate. There were used cars and new cars. Rows of shiny Sedans, SUVs and Hybrids. The dealerships looked like, well, dealerships. And suddenly, the idea of visiting a car lot seemed incredibly underwhelming.  We decide to can the car dealership idea and head over to the mosque earlier than planned in hopes of finding a good lead to a great story.

The mosque is a small house with a lot of land. There is an adjacent playground with a shed attached to it. There are only two cars parked in the lot. Slowly, we all begin to exit the car. The CNN guys, Wayne and Robert, stretch their legs since they’ve been cramped in the back of our modest Cobalt for the last seven hours.

“So can we take pictures of you praying, right?” Robert, the photographer, asks.

“Umm…” I say with hesitation.

A sign outside of the mosque gives strict guidelines on what to wear and how to wear it for both men and women.

“Yeah, lets just be quick with the photos.” I decide.

All four of us enter the mosque and prepare for our shoot. A stoic man with a stunning white beard appears and introduces himself as the Imam of the mosque.

“What are you guys doing?” He asks.

I introduce myself and Aman and then point back at our CNN friends.

“These guys, they are from CNN,” I said.

Robert smiles at the Imam hoping to soften him up.

The Imam looks right at the CNN guys and points to the door.

“Please leave.”

Within seconds, our CNN friends were out the door. Which left just Aman and I with the Imam. An awkward silence takes over the room  and then he continues.

“Why didn’t you guys contact us before coming?” he said.

We apologize for the last minute visit we planned but tell him we tried to get in touch with the mosque but no one picked up.

The Imam stayed quiet.

“Is it okay if we pray here?” I ask.

“Ha, of course,” he says. “This is the house of Allah. I can’t stop you from praying.”

I quickly wash up and pray. We meet up with the CNN guys, Wayne and Robert, standing around in the parking lot. I apologize to them about getting kicked out and we head out of the mosque.

“Damn.”  I say as we pull out of the parking lot.

“What happened?” Aman asks.

“How are we going to show that we were here if we can’t take pictures of the mosque?”

It took less than 30 seconds to come up with an idea on how to depict the mosque. I’ve been itching to do this for a while, so without further ado, here are some drawings that will help tell the story.

Our night ends with us dropping off the CNN guys at a rental car joint. We embrace each other and take photos before we part ways. Who would’ve thought that within two days of traveling Aman and I would feel such a deep connection with CNN reporters?

Aman looks at his watch and realizes that it’s time for us to hit the road towards New Orleans, our next stop on the trip.

Tonight marks the first time we are traveling during the night from state to state. We have avoided doing it for many reasons: drunk drivers, huge trucks, and cops. We decide to drive tonight because we have a lot to do in New Orleans and wanted to get there as early as possible.

Aman drives and sings along to Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart,” while I type up today’s blog entry.

“CRAP!” Aman says hitting the brakes of the car.  “I just sped passed a cop.”

I keep an eye in the rearview mirror on the cop’s headlights. As we move forward in the distance his lights aren’t fading, they are getting closer. Soon enough, the police SUV is tailing us.

Fitteen minutes pass and the SUV is still behind us. Not sure what to do, Aman merges into the next lane to see what move the cop will make.

Right after pulling into the right lane, the cop’s lights turn on. We pull over to the side and hear the footsteps of the cop approaching our car.

“Hello sir.” He says, shining the flashlight in my eyes and looking around our small Cobalt. We wait to hear at what speed he clocked us.

“Well, I pulled you over because you swerved carelessly into the right lane.”

Huh? Aman and I look at each other not sure what he means.

“Officer, I thought I made a legal merge.” Aman nicely refutes.

The officer stays quiet and looks at Aman’s license.

“Sir, this is a State ID. Do you have a license?”

“That is my driver’s license.”

On Aman’s card, I can read ‘Driver’s License’ in big letters.

“Aman sir, can you please step out of the car?” the officer asks.

This is not normal.

I stay put in the passenger seat watching Aman get questioned in the rear view mirror. Not sure what the cop’s asking, I decide to keep the laptop on and have our recent CNN interview ready for play.

The cop walks towards me and asks, “So where are you guys going today?”

“We’re on our way to New Orleans…” I reply.

“So what are you guys doing in New Orleans?”

Clearly, these string of questions have already been asked to Aman and now it’s my turn to see if they add up.

“Visiting Aman’s brother. And, well…” I said.

I wasn’t sure if Aman told him about our 30 mosques project.

“…And?” the officer asks.

“So we’re visiting 30 mosques in 30 days in 30 states. So we’ll be visiting a mosque in New Orleans.”

“Oh, so there’s a mosque in New Orleans!?”

“Uh yeah.” I’m not sure if this a rhetorical question.

The man looks straight into my eyes. I notice his thick southern accent, blue eyes and crew cut blonde hair. I realize that he was serious about his question about mosques in New Orleans, so I turn my laptop towards him and show him our CNN interview.

“See, we were just on CNN.”

I point at Aman and myself sitting with the CNN anchor Kyra Phillips.

The cop pulls his flash light at my laptop screen and watches intently.

“Cool.” he says, “So tell me.”

“Yes?”

“What do you think about that Ground Zero Mosque?”

What the heck? At this point, it is clear that our southern Biloxi, Mississippi cop is fishing for some dirt.

“Well…” I finally reply thinking of the conservative talking points I’ve been reading, “For them to build it by Ground Zero is very insensitive.”

He nods his head, so I continue.

“I mean come on, it’s been less than 10 years and we’re still healing from the attack. Isn’t it just a slap in the face?”

“Yeah!” the cop exclaims, “I mean, I’m not pro-religion or anything. But that’s just wrong for them to build it there.”

The cop takes another look inside the car with his flashlight and smiles.

“Thanks for your cooperation.”

Lights from the police offer. Photo taken with the iPhone.

Minutes later, Aman jumps back in the car without a ticket in his hand and gives a sigh of relief. He turns the car on and we move forward. One step away from Alabama and another closer to New Orleans, thank heavens.

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Comments

113
  1. August 21st, 2010 | lame says:

    is that how you really feel or were you just trying to get out of trouble with the redneck cop?

  2. August 21st, 2010 | Muslimah says:

    Wow! Why’d you guys bail on B’ham?? I can assure that what you encountered in Mobile would not have happened in B’ham iA. Khair insha’Allah. Maybe next time. Safe travels.

  3. August 21st, 2010 | pf says:

    @Aman & Bassam
    I am enjoying this blog a lot. Tonight i read all of the stops on your Ramadan journey so far. It’s on my bookmark toolbar now so i can check it every day. For those of us who will never have the chance to make a similar journey, could you please not forget pictures of (1) the actual mosques, and (2) the food being served. Yes, i do understand why you did neither in Mobile. And one day i’ll tell you about a similarly uncomfortable trip i made from Mississippi to New Orleans in 1954.

  4. August 21st, 2010 | Dilawar Ali Khan says:

    Sorry for the flop day,hay every day is not Sunday so take bad with the good,stick with the your original program things will go smoothly,wish you all the best for your next stop in New Orleans and take lots of pictures and send us a good story.Please stick with the community and Mosque and away from individual losers.
    Stay safe and God Bless you guys.

  5. August 21st, 2010 | Hina S says:

    Sitting in the comfort of my suburban home, I feel it will be disingenuous of me to criticize you for repeating ‘conservative talking points’ to a cop who stops you in a dark road in deep South.
    Nevertheless, I wish you would have have said what you really think – with a camera running to record how it was received and responded to.

    This is not the first time someone in a mosque told you not to talk pictures. Next time, if you could, please ask them specifically why they prohibit it. I am curious to know their reasoning.

    I am eagerly awaiting your next installment featuring the lovely city of NOLA. I made my first visit there this March and the 1 1/2 day I spent there only let me enjoy the French Quarter, Garden District and a stroll through Bourbon street. I would love to see New Orleans in the context of a local mosque and the fellow Muslims who worship there.

  6. August 21st, 2010 | Michael Gatto says:

    @lame: The plain English he was writing in made it pretty clear he was just appeasing The Man. “conservative talking points” should be a big clue. Anyway, since when was GZM a test for how Muslim someone is?? Let it be, man, let it be.

  7. August 21st, 2010 | Michael Gatto says:

    @Hina: hey, how about *you* try that with a Mississippi cop, in the middle of the night, on a deserted highway…all by themselves. Not fun, so take it easy; its Ramadan. Not every minute can be spent flipping off The Man, so why?

  8. August 21st, 2010 | Marium says:

    I like that drawing! It seems like both Muslims and non-Muslims are super conservative with their views in Jacksonville.

  9. August 21st, 2010 | Nabeela says:

    I will miss the cnn reporters :(

  10. August 21st, 2010 | Marcia Morrison says:

    I am continuing to enjoy your series.

    However, it does seem rather rude to me to just set up to film and/or take pictures without looking around for someone in charge, introducing yourselves, and asking permission. Unless you are seeing this as “gonzo journalism”. Not that I’m against gonzo journalism, mind you, but is a photo journal of mosques in America by a pair of Muslim guys the place for it? Just a thought.

  11. August 21st, 2010 | Fazal says:

    hahaha thats a a crazy situation u guys thought you were going to get a ticket or be screwed …well alhamdullah you guys were off the hook
    see when u make a plan you have to stick to it capeesh!!
    hope the CNN reporters have any crazy stories to report
    after this incident you know turn how they flip the script… :)

  12. August 21st, 2010 | Marium says:

    Oops I meant Mobile, Alabama!

  13. August 21st, 2010 | Javaid says:

    I just got racially profiled while returning from taraweeh a few days ago so i feel you. Glad you guys are safe!

  14. August 21st, 2010 | Aman and Bassam says:

    Hi Marcia, thanks for following our blog. We know we aren’t in the right sometimes when we sometimes take photos. When we can’t get in touch with a certain community our rule of thumb is “shoot first ask later” If they do not want their photos taken or not present on the blog we delete them immediately.

  15. August 21st, 2010 | Aman and Bassam says:

    Nabeela, Aman and I are already missing them.

  16. August 21st, 2010 | Aman and Bassam says:

    thanks for the good advice Dilawar Mamoo. We are now in New Orleans for the day.

  17. August 21st, 2010 | Janan says:

    I read about the cops yesterday on fb and sent a little duah your way! Im glad it was alright in the end. Fi aman Allah!

  18. August 21st, 2010 | m says:

    to me, this doesnt sound like an alabama fail. it sounds more like a case of poor planning. i think this project is great and inshallah i hope you guys can continue to present your perspective on the communities you visit.

    but this blog post only comments about your experience in one mosque in one community in one part of the state. your decision to visit this community is doen and in the past, but it leaves the reader with the impression that alabama lacks functional, welcoming mosqes and muslim communities with interesting stories to tell. people already have preconceived notions about this part of the country which are certainly not all true. this post doesnt do much to present a different perspective.

    i realize this project may be the first of its kind and its going to be hit or miss, and i know its a very rushed schedule that you’re on. but it would be a service to the readers to present a more accurate view of the experience, or at least be more forthcoming about how things ended up the way they did.

  19. August 21st, 2010 | Amena Khan says:

    I think in the heat of the situation, it was very well handled. Good Job. I can’t get over the ‘please leave’ drawing, hahahahahahahah. Fantastic. That’s the spirit, if you can’t click, you can draw. Look at your commitment guys, mashAllah. Sweet!

  20. August 21st, 2010 | L says:

    Did you see the Mobile Leprechaun?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nda_OSWeyn8

  21. August 21st, 2010 | Ameena says:

    SubhanAllah! You guys are doing a great job. The purpose of your trip may not even be what you think. Allah Subhana Wa Tala knows all and knows best, so khair inshallah. Please be safe

  22. August 21st, 2010 | Del says:

    With cops like that around, can you be surprised that the imam didnt want random cnn cameras showing up unannounced?

  23. August 21st, 2010 | sufilala says:

    yeah right, just like having eid on 11th september is ‘insensitive’ – o please!
    keep up the good vibes, every journey has to have some moments like these
    ma’ elf salaam
    soof x

  24. August 21st, 2010 | HijabMan says:

    Hey guys, forgot whats on your itin, but you must check out New Medinah, Mississippi. Pretty much a Muslim town, in the middle of the South. They even have street names after the 99 names of God. Please detour if it isn’t on your stops.

    see: http://www.newmedinah.com/

  25. August 21st, 2010 | Abdul Aziz says:

    Salaams,

    Good meeting you tonight. I have tons of Mobile Stories like this… practically anytime i go visit my parents there (They moved there when i was in high school.) Insha’Allah your experience at Masjid Rahma was better tonight. I’ll be sure to keep following and Insha’Allah your experiences are better than Alabama…. I’ve been to that Masjid in Mobile many times. Luckily there is an African American Mosque that is much more friendly I just hate you guys didnt get the chance to visit it.

  26. August 21st, 2010 | freshouttatime says:

    hahahahahaha i just died reading this. keep it up fellas

  27. August 21st, 2010 | Sherifah says:

    Love the drawings! Hey at least you guys will get to pray every place you go. I’ve had a few outright rejections because it was a male only masjid. So hey, if you get 1 or 2 weird moments out of 30 than that’s a pretty good ratio.

    Do what you have to do when in comes to dealing with cops in the middle of the night down south. Heck, anywhere for that matter.

    Keep up the good work and due try to get some more females willing to take pictures. American’s notice when they are largely absent from the scene.

  28. August 22nd, 2010 | Hena says:

    Damn, you guys totally got racially profiled. On top of that, you were religiously profiled with the questions the copper asked.

  29. August 22nd, 2010 | Abed says:

    hilarious post. well done.

  30. August 22nd, 2010 | mobile- says:

    the reason they were particular about this is because this guy used to frequent the mosque, so they have dealt with a LOT of problems. cut them some slack-

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/magazine/31Jihadist-t.html?pagewanted=all

  31. August 22nd, 2010 | Bamagirl says:

    Salam,

    I am sorry but it was poor planning on yall’s part. I mean it seems yall went to Mobile simply bc it was in route to New Orleans and avoided Bham for OTHER reasons. Bad job sorry. I mean the Birmingham community was getting ready for yall and they were anticipating yall’s arrival…major let down.

    Yall should have given the Mobile community’s Imam a heads up, I mean he was right.

    This is an unfair depiction of Bama’s hospitable nature. The masjids in Bham, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Anniston have amazing reputations and have produced many active youth Nation wide who are amongst the best.

    Why would you say that to the cop? You would be surprised at how responsive Southerners are to dawah and how much they love to talk. It seems to me the cop was being friendly and yall just wanted to paint him in a negative light. This could have been yall’s chance…but whatever.

    Yall come back now ya here! Roll Tide!

  32. August 22nd, 2010 | Marcia Morrison says:

    P.S. The drawings were great! I’d love to see more of your, um, “fine art”. And, as someone else commented, I’d love to hear more about the food.

  33. August 23rd, 2010 | T. Aalia says:

    Next time, try Huntsville Alabama instead…There’s a great little Muslim community and a nice Islamic center with wonderful Taraweeh prayer!

  34. August 23rd, 2010 | saadat says:

    Wow! Should i call this an adventure ? Lol
    I don’t know what to depict of the Cop but i am sure he was just doing his duty. well, Drive safe next time.

  35. August 23rd, 2010 | Muhammad says:

    What happened to you with the cop was racial profiling. They find any stupid reason to pull you over. And as far as the Imam throwing out the CNN reporters..that was so ignorant. How will we ever bridge the gap with these types of treatment to non-Muslims?

  36. August 23rd, 2010 | Habeeb says:

    So your views similar to the right wing bigots on the Cordoba Mosque being too close to the hallowed ground.

    May Allah guide us ALL in the right path.

    Ameen

  37. August 23rd, 2010 | m says:

    bamagirl, thanks for echoing my thoughts.

    i understand that as journalists, you chased the lead that seemed promising at the moment, and what happened, happened. but at least be more honest about the fact that it was a result of poor planning, not because Alabama is inherently some backwards, unwelcoming place.

    i know you were technically just talking about that one masjid, but by abruptly ending your narrative with “One step away from Alabama and another closer to New Orleans, thank heavens.” just leaves people with the impression that it was Alabama’s fault and not yours.

    if the purpose of this project was to shed light and dispel misconceptions, this one post missed the mark.

  38. August 25th, 2010 | Dana Humphrey says:

    Hi guys, I disagree with the statement that this was racial profiling…several reasons. First, you admitted you were speeding and passed the cop. Second, it was night and therefore dark, so how could he have know who was driving that car?

    He simply followed you, ran the plates-I am sure, he may have found out it was a rental car…dont know if they have access to that info or not. Basically, when you changed lanes…he decided that there might be a reason to pull you over since you seemed to be avoiding him, which is his right…you were speeding, remember.

    If he really wanted to give you a hard time, he could have had you both out of the car, asked further questions of personal nature and searched the trunk and car…he did not do this, so give the police officer some credit. Many minorities and young people are often given a very hard time by police since they dont always know their rights. But in this case, based on my personal experiences…this was a basic traffic stop, he was not out of line at all and he did not even give you a ticket. You are lucky for that!!

    Im not defending Alabama or police in general because they do racial profiling in many places in the US. But I just dont think this was the case.

    There are many racist people in the whole US and I do agree with many other comments above…please do not stereotype people from Alabama or the south in general…No more than you would want Muslims stereotyped. I am originally from Louisiana. I am in no way racist and I was not raised that way.

    Thanks! Have fun…enjoy your trip. Look forward to reading more of your stories. Peace!

  39. August 26th, 2010 | Mahin says:

    Aman,

    My man..just got hip to this site, it’s off the hook; you should def. hit up New medina, MS like the bro said. Yo i think that Imam in Mobile is Shaykh Ghassan Barqawi who is a direct student of Shaykh Muqbil ibn Haadee al-Waadee of Yemen, who was a student of Shaykh Al-Albaanee…basically dawah Salafiyyah straight up. Probably why he wasn’t down w/ pictures. Sh. Muqbil was hardcore.

  40. August 26th, 2010 | hafiz yusof says:

    Bothers, how did the CNN guys reacted after being told to leave? I dont think I agree with them imam

    When I was in Troy NY. the imam at a local masjid there even encouraged non Muslims to come and observer how we pray. They stood from behind and watch us. And the imam will tell some basic stuff like how we worship in congregation etc

    Nevertheless I believe many are still like the imam, not being accommodating to non Muslims at times

  41. August 29th, 2010 | Adam A. says:

    Please tell me those aren’t your thoughts on the Park Place Islamic Center. If it is, you should re-evaluate your thoughts and all the information you know about the location of that place…and maybe even pray for guidance. I’m sorry if that sounds insensitive but that really pissed me off. If it was said just to get good points with the cop, then I can understand that, and I apologize.

  42. August 30th, 2010 | Anonymous says:

    test

  43. August 30th, 2010 | Anonymous says:

    ok, I’m the anonymous “tester”, just don’t see where to add my name. I’m Mindi. I live in Mobile but wasn’t born here. There is alot of racism and hatred in too many people here, but I really hate to hear how you were treated at a place of worship. Yikes! There has been alot of local media covering the arrest of that guy that lived in Daphne so maybe that had something to do with it? I’m not Muslim but I have several Muslim friends and they are extremely friendly and loving. I know they would not of treated you so ugly! As a Mobilian, sorry for your bad experience.

  44. August 30th, 2010 | Denise says:

    My 49 years on Earth have taught me that there is one set of rules for “us” and another set of rules for “them”. The faces and the skin color of “them” change from time to time, but it’s still racism. Having grown up in a segregated town in the South, I have seen racism firsthand. Since I’m white, I cannot begin to understand what it must feel like when being pulled over on a dark road. Aman and Bassam, you did what anyone would’ve done in the circumstances. The police officer put you in a scary position and he was wrong. Thank you for your forgiving spirit. I just read the CNN article today and plan to read all your entries. As a white Southern, Christian, I would love to learn more about my fellow human beings.

    As for the New York mosque, maybe it should be built there. I don’t see Christian churches rushing to be a part of that neighborhood. Just something to think about.

  45. August 30th, 2010 | Nate says:

    I’m sorry you had to deal with this ignorant officer, it’s a shame parts of our country are still in the dark.

    I was born in the Northern part of the US and moved to Tennessee for a bit. I encountered lots of “discrimination” because I was a “yankee” to most folks. I just shrugged it off to ignorance though, what can you do right?

    I enjoy your blog and am thankful for CNN running the piece on you, I would not have found out about this great project. My best wishes are with you and I hope the rest of the journey is safe!

    Best,
    Nate

  46. August 30th, 2010 | Lance says:

    They… were… speeding. The officer was not wrong. Put yourself in the officer’s position: speeding, out-of-state plates AND a rental to boot, and at night where he had no way of identifying the occupants visually at that speed. What did he do wrong? The moral of the story: don’t violate traffic laws if you fear being stopped by the police at night.

    That aside, awesome blog. Very enlightening, and I look forward to more, guys!

  47. August 30th, 2010 | RS says:

    I am a Caucasian-American Muslim born and raised in Mobile, AL. I won’t apologize to you for behavior you experienced here, because you or anyone else reading should be able to conjour up an adequate amount of understanding. Take a moment to consider your own reaction, if you, as the father of a terrorist SUSPECT, innocent or not, suddenly find yourself apparently faced with yet another journalist and more scrutiny, unannounced in your own place of worship, your haven, armed with cameras. How would you react?

    As for the cop in Mississippi, you honestly don’t know how to take it. The suspicious treatment you received is doled out down here to anyone acting a little nervous. I was questioned that way myself as a teenager, anytime I got pulled over and have seen friends questioned that way as well. The cop was fishing to see if he actually had reason to be suspicious. Your nervousness didn’t make it easier for you. As for giving him the answers you thought he wanted…you’ll never know the truth about this cop…you didn’t try. Just like any other place in the world, in the south you will find animosity, varying opinions, ignorance, and more, but overwhelmingly, you will find the hospitality you experienced at the Dixie gift shop. Next time you’re down here, relax and stay a while. You’ll find people here as friendly as they come.

  48. August 30th, 2010 | Mindi says:

    @RS, my experience as a Mobile trans-plant is that when I moved here I experienced extreme culture shock and some of the rudest people I had ever encountered. You may be use to it because you were born here. Trust me I’ve talked with others who have come from Texas, California, Tennessee, New York and other states and they felt it too. I’ve learned to love my friends and my enemies today. Aman and Bassam I wish you all the best.

  49. August 30th, 2010 | Jeanine says:

    I would like to think it was to get out of trouble. I mean the dude has the night, isolation, a gun and a bad attitude, you say what you gotta say to stay alive and ask God’s forgiveness for the fib later.

  50. August 30th, 2010 | Jeanine says:

    I was just at the CNN site and I laughed at the traveler’s amazement by all the porn and churches. My sister and I traveled from Ohio to Tampa and we were laughing our butts off by all the porn shops, massage parlors and churches….mostly the porn and massage. We commented that it must take truck drivers 4 times longer then it took us to make any journey for all the stops that must, and I mean MUST, be made in order to visit them all!

    My sister noted that this is why there had to be so many churches too…because you just couldn’t step into a shop selling pecan logs until you have prayed all the porn off you first.

  51. August 30th, 2010 | Jeanine says:

    Well Lance, they weren’t pulled over for speeding.

    They were supposedly pulled over for dodgy merging.

    And yes…I do see out of staters, sight unseen, in a rental being pulled over (that is a heavy drug trafficking corridor). But once pulled over,the officer tried to make an issue of a valid driver’s license. And asked a question that wasn’t pertinant to a traffic stop.

    If these 2 hadn’t had the CNN footage (in other words might be missed or might bring unwanted media into the police station) and if they hadn’t had the sense to give the guy the response he wanted to hear, they might have had more then an iffy moment on the road.

  52. August 31st, 2010 | James Bong says:

    Haha! Stay Classy Louisiana!

    Yeah, you probably should have avoided the deep south entirely.

  53. August 31st, 2010 | Aminah says:

    ASA
    I wish you all would have come to the Mobile Masjid of Al Islam on Duval street in Mobile. I’m sure our Imam would have welcomed you all with open arms.
    Maybe next time…

    Ramadan Mubarak!

  54. August 31st, 2010 | Na'il says:

    ” Luckily there is an African American Mosque that is much more friendly I just hate you guys didnt get the chance to visit it.”

    That would be the Mobile Masjid of Al Islam on Duval Street, like Aminah said. Been following you guys since you began your journey and I know that you got some flack for what some peolple perceived as your ‘penchant to visit African American’ communities as to others. Or at least it seems that is what they were trying to say. Being from Mobile myself and also Arican American I can say that the response you got from the imam at East Drive wasn’t typical and may have had something to do with all the media attention surrounding his son being accused of being a ‘terroist’. But on the other hand the Mobile Masjid is a warm and friendly place ~ it’s just how we do it. Too bad you missed it! Stay safe, guys! Ramadhan Mubarak

  55. September 1st, 2010 | Amina says:

    Just for the record, I think it’s illegal to record a conversation with an on-duty police officer, at least in states with 2-party consent laws for recording….

  56. September 7th, 2010 | Ali Sina says:

    The police officer was polite; he said “sir” when asking the man to step out of the vehicle. He was pleasant when he said “cool” in response to your video. So for doing his job of protecting his town, he gets rewarded with lies. So Shameful.

    Everyone is subject to quick traffic stop from time to time in new areas, deal with it. Don’t blow it all out of proportion with hysterics.

    The more important issue of this day is the Imam who cast away the journalists and the reasons why. I didn’t see it mentioned here, but this ninth mosque in Mobile was found to have ties to terrorists by the journalists. The son the man running it as matter of fact.

    It only took nine mosques (and only one random stop) to find one with overt ties to terrorist activities.

    This trip shows the beauty and magnificence of an open and secular society that America is. When given the chance to follow it s natural tendency, Islam closes and oppresses societies it dominates. In fact, demanding “Submission” from the citizenry by its very definition and mission.

    Enjoy the trip visiting Muslims, nearly all wonderful people, but be wary of the oppressive nature of Islam when left to follow its natural path.

    This may seem trivial but it is not. Muslims are people and people are what matter. Islam is merely an ideology and set of beliefs. Ideas don’t need rights, PEOPLE DO.

  57. September 8th, 2010 | S says:

    yeah, you guys should have totally gone to Birmingham or Huntsville.

  58. September 10th, 2010 | Stephanie says:

    I feel that the majority of the commenters are being quite negative and jump to the conclusion of “racial profiling” very quickly. My boyfriend and I travel quite frequently from Dallas to Houston and we have been pulled over just like the bloggers. We are both white and received the same treatment. I was asked to step out of the car and questioned, then he questioned my boyfriend separately to see if our stories matched. It happens and it happens for all the reasons that were mentioned by the commenters above who understand what the role of a cop is and what the role of drivers are. Understand that the speeding could have initially caught his attention and then the other violation gave him further reason to pull them over.

    As far as his questions about the blogger’s feelings regarding the mosque at ground zero, I could totally see myself asking someone who is Muslim the same question. I am curious by nature. I don’t know very much about the Muslim culture and what I do know has been shed mostly in a negative light by the media. That is why I would rather ask someone versus reading a news story. I don’t think the outcome would have been any different if you told the officer that you were for a mosque at that location.

    Stereotyping is a two way street.

  59. September 10th, 2010 | firefighter says:

    You guys seem quick to criticize the Alabama cop. Look at it from his point of view, He saw two young males who had been speeding (and possibly a little sloppy on the lane changing) in a known drug drug trafficking corridor. He was polite and courteous. He was even responsive to your story in a conversant manner.

    To me it looks like he was also smart enough to ask an intelligent question regarding a story that has received national coverage of someone who would have a different perspective on the subject than his own.

  60. September 10th, 2010 | Steve says:

    You certainly have an interesting take on Islam, Ali.
    One that does NOT match MY travels in the Persian Gulf.
    You see, I was deployed for nearly 5 years to the Persian Gulf region. I lived off base and dealt with Arabs on a daily basis. My fish was procured from a fish market less than 100 yards from my house, owned and operated by an Iranian.
    My wife’s best friend was married to an Iranian and we ate a few meals over their house, including when his parents visited them.
    My best friend is a Saudi, he worked on our base with me and be became as family to one another. When HIS parents came to visit him in Qatar, we were invited over for dinner, as we usually did, nightly.
    We got along famously with his parents, as we did with my wife’s friend’s in-laws.
    While we were in Qatar, the State of Qatar sponsored and built a number of Christian churches, to include a Roman Catholic church.
    On our travels, we were to Kuwait, Bahrain and Dubai. We walked the streets with no problems.
    My wife was out shopping in Kuwait and Qatar on a regular basis and was not required to wear hijab or anything further than standard western attire.
    So frankly, after nearly 5 years in those states, I most certainly object to your characterization about Muslim nations. Two are a bit off the charts, Iran and Saudi. The rest are quite pleasant to deal with, once one gets past the insh’allah for delivery of services…
    If you have traveled and experienced such, perhaps it was your attitude. Ours was open, friendly and cordial, respecting the local customs and accepting of differences. When asked where we were from, we answered truthfully. And always we were asked, how do you like it here?
    We answered truthfully, it’s VERY nice, but dusty.
    And always, a laugh of agreement.

  61. September 10th, 2010 | Steve says:

    OK, a small list of errors in this stage of your journey.
    One, I would NEVER enter a Mosque with a camera crew until I’ve contacted the Imam. If nothing else, it is discourteous. The results of doing so spoke for themselves.
    Regarding the incident with the cop, let’s review.
    Your vehicle was speeding. Upon passing the cop, the brakes are applied announcing to the officer you noticed you were speeding and noticed him and wished to NOT be the subject of his attentions.
    The officer follows, most likely to see if your vehicle keeps a reasonably stable speed and remains in the lane, when your vehicle suddenly changes lanes.
    To the officer, it looks like avoidance behavior. His thoughts? Drunk? Drugs? Armed men to or from some mischief?
    So, he pulls you over to investigate.
    I suspect the Manhattan center question was out of curiosity and the “party line” (aka talking points) answer was unsatisfying, but understandable.
    Just some thoughts from someone who is beginning to have more gray hairs than dark hairs…

  62. September 10th, 2010 | Mary says:

    They should have had the leprechaun sketch artist sketch up the mosque for them, which was my IMMEDIATE thought upon seeing the drawing.

  63. September 10th, 2010 | Mary says:

    What road is that one on? I only know where one mosque is in Mobile, but it didn’t really look like the one in the drawing.

  64. September 11th, 2010 | Mobilian says:

    Thanks for visiting Mobile mosque. I am living in Mobile and visit this mosque.I just wanted to clear, that everyone is welcome in this mosque without any question. Yes there is a dress code for visiting it. You were there unannounced and with your CNN staff with camera and equipments on stated to take pictures. You do not know the whole story behind Imam’s resistance for picture. Last year one university student (converted to Islam) was charged in secret indictment with providing material support to terrorists. This mosque has nothing to do with this student,even though al.com news paper and fox media, posted/printed , pictures of this mosque, kid’s school, pictures and address of home of the leader imam.Realistically this mosque has nothing to do with that student , even though media attached this mosque to this culprit student !!!. which was a sad part for the visitors of this mosque. I understand, why Imam and others at mosque try to keep away from media.

    visit…. http://blog.al.com/pr/2009/09/report_former_usa_daphne_stude.html.

    It is one year past-old this event and still al.com-press register news paper still publish this news as a “Special report” !!on their website !!!!!

  65. September 11th, 2010 | Mobilian says:

    Thanks for visiting Mobile mosque. I am living in Mobile and visit this Mobile mosque.I just wanted to clear, that everyone is welcome in this mosque without any question. We have a diverse group of people visiting/using this mosque. Yes there is a dress code for visiting this mosque. You were there unannounced and with your CNN staff with camera and media equipments on and started to take pictures. You are not aware about the whole story behind Imam’s resistance for media pictures. Last year one university student (converted to Islam) was charged in secret indictment with providing material support to terrorists. This mosque has nothing to do with this student,even though al.com -press register , news paper and fox media, posted/printed , pictures of this mosque, kid’s school, pictures and address of home of the leader imam !!.Realistically this mosque has nothing to do with that student , even though media attached this mosque to this culprit student !!!. which was a sad part for the visitors of this mosque. I understand, why Imam at this mosque try to keep themselves away from media. Bad taste/past experience from press register last year, who painted wrong pictures for this mosque last year. Please see

    visit…. http://blog.al.com/pr/2009/09/report_former_usa_daphne_stude.html.

    It is one year past-old this event and still al.com-press register news paper publishes this news as their top “Special report” !!on their website !!!!! media attraction !!!

    There are four other mosques in Mobile, hope you have visited them too.

    If you like, and explain well your project, sure this mosque will send you there pictures and you can use it..

  66. September 11th, 2010 | AvidReader says:

    Bassam and Aman, please answer this question for me: Why did you see it as offensive that someone asked your camera men to “please” leave? I think that some people are now under the impression that you were treated disrespectfully. The media can be used for wonderful causes, but it must be utilized responsibly. Can’t you see how it might be disconcerting to see cameras coming through the door without any warning, and without having had the chance to prepare for their arrival? It would have made things a lot clearer to all of us if you had asked more questions while you were there. Neither you nor any of us would have to make assumptions about their intentions.

  67. September 12th, 2010 | Blogger says:

    Who was treated ugly? Do you consider “please” to be an ugly word?

  68. September 12th, 2010 | ??? says:

    I know for a fact that the particular mosque Bassam and Aman visited is extremely welcoming towards non-Muslims. Isn’t it obvious that it was the cameras, and not the people, that sparked the request to leave? Even if they couldn’t get in touch with the mosque, they could have walked in without the cameras and explained their intentions.

  69. September 12th, 2010 | Peace says:

    You ought to contact Shaykh Ghassan Barqawi about his position before making such assumptions. Muslims don’t speak that way about one another.

  70. September 12th, 2010 | American Writer says:

    Who was thrown out? READ for yourself…the reporters were kindly asked to leave–not because of their religion, but because of their cameras. Nobody has the right to walk into a house of worship and record anything they wish without permission. These guys could have at least left their cameras in the car and asked before bringing them in!

  71. September 12th, 2010 | Hey says:

    It is against Islam’s most fundemental teachings to label a mosque “African American”. Mosques belong to Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa)and are for all people who want to worship Him according to His teachings.

    Seems like you are the only one who has had a bad experience in Mobile, so it may be something you are doing. Bassam and Aman didn’t have a bad experience…they only interpreted it that way. Try to asess what occurred from an unbiased perspective.

  72. September 12th, 2010 | My Outlook says:

    If you couldn’t get in touch with the mosque, why didn’t you guys at least enter without the cameras? Leave them in the car or something. I can think of many reasons why people wouldn’t want a camera in a mosque. One big issue is safety…not everyone will view your photos with good intentions. The mosque also didn’t anticipate your arrival, and everyone knows that a thoughtful report needs preparation.

  73. September 13th, 2010 | RAJ says:

    While they could have been correct about the racial profiling – I think that maybe he was truly interested in your perspective of the situation in NY. I don’t see a cop, even a true southern good ol’ boy, harassing a couple of reporters who have been featured on CNN for the very trip where he pulled you over. The potential for some VERY bad press would deter him. Remember the comments about who was being racist in GA.

  74. September 13th, 2010 | ahoyroy says:

    Wow, the same thing happened to me a few weeks ago. The cop lied and said i was driving in the left lane, which is illegal unless you are passing on an interstate in Alabama. I was in the right lane the whole time! He drilled me on all kinds of questions but didn’t give me a ticket. Oh, wait. I’m a white guy so what would you call that? You are suffering from a syndrome known as “youth”. We all go through it until hopefully we grow up and gain a larger perspective.

  75. September 29th, 2010 | Susan says:

    Hello. You should have visited the masjid in Huntsville, AL. It is very hospitable. We would have made you feel welcome.

  76. September 29th, 2010 | Aymen.L says:

    I am sorry you had to skip Birmingham AL.
    I lived there for about 2 years and I can assure you
    it was a pleasant surprise.
    The people and the community there are very tight and
    Mashallah despite the difficulties its a very vibrant
    and active community.

    The mobile episode was a little weird however…
    I am glad you’re safe.
    Great job

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  78. August 20th, 2012 | Joe says:

    Your religion permits lies to infidels, so it is completely understandable for you to tell the cop what you knew he wanted to hear. cheers.

  79. July 3rd, 2013 | Amanda says:

    The reason that Mosque was so squeamish about reporters from CNN (which the reporters should have realized later with a little looking into) is that is the former Mosque of Omar Hammami (the younger) and Randy “Rasheed” Wilson. The first wanted for treason against the United States (his father still attends the the Mosque which is why they were probably so sensitive) and Wilson is in custody and charged. The former attended jihad camps in Africa and the later tried to join him.

    As I said, photographers probably made them twitchy.

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