Chapter 2

The second year of 30 Mosques has Aman and Bassam traveling across the country. They hit 30 states in 30 days starting from New York City and end their journey in Dearborn, Michigan.

Day 8: Nor’s Letters

DAVID Before prison, David only knew one world. He was part of a biker gang and got himself into trouble. Once a man pulled a loaded gun near his face and nearly killed him. Another time, two men opened beer bottles on his scalp and left him to die. Before Islam, his enemies were the people around him, after he became a Muslim his biggest enemy became himself – his

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Day 29: Ohio, Coming Back Home to Columbus

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

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Day 28: Kentucky, Mind The Space

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,

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Outtakes: The Memphis Islamic Center and their neighbors

Dear dedicated readers, we are recuperating these last three days. Bear with us as we are in the process of making our last posts. There are a wealth of stories we couldn’t fit in the blog. Today, we talk about a small and hopeful story about an Islamic center and their generous neighbors. They knew that there was a church close to them when they were began building the Memphis

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Day 27: The Muslims in Memphis (Part 1)

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

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Day 26: Illinois, Hanging out with Shi’as in Chicago

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

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Day 25: Iowa, The Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids

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

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Day 24: Wisconsin, Islamic Da’wa Center in Milwaukee

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

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Day 23: Minnesota, Dar Al-Hijrah in Minneapolis

Before Break Fast, Reflection 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

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Day 22: Ross, North Dakota – A Leap in Time

Bassam and I stress over our planned visit to Fargo, North Dakota. We didn’t expect our rental car to break down in Montana and the time it took to fix the car (thank you all for the prayers!) is making us late. It takes 11 hours to get to Fargo and getting there at a reasonable time is simply not going to happen now. Instead we program our GPS to

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Day 21: Breakdown in Montana

BAM / Thud / CLUNK. However you describe the sound, Aman and I hear it before we see smoke build up in front of our Chevy Cobalt. Aman panics and pulls to the side. “I think I hit a large rock.” A rock, really? We get out and inspect the car. Things look fine, we wait for the smoke to settle and get back in the car and drive forward.

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Day 20 – Idaho, The Islamic Community of Bosniaks in Boise

Note: Due to car troubles and long drive time, this post has been made a day late. Please accept our apologies as we are trying to stay on schedule with our route. During the Ethnic Cleansings in the 1990’s, the US government helped bring thousands of Bosnian families to America. Like most refugees, they were settled in quieter parts of America, areas that are less crowded and more affordable. And

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Day 19 – Utah,The Utah Islamic Center in Salt Lake City

Note: We apologize in the delay in getting up this post. If you look at our map, you can see this leg of our trip is making us do 8+ hours of driving a day. But we’ll try our hardest to get these stories to you guys in a timely fashion. Faraz has been married to a Mormon woman for a little over a month. But he has known his

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Day 18 – Nevada, the Jamia Masjid in Las Vegas

Amanullah has been working in casinos for over 29 years. “Nobody enjoys this work,” he tells me as he sips on a cup of chai. “But we do it because we want a better life for our kids.” Amanullah oversees slot machines at the MGM Grand Casino and is a board member of the Jamia Masjid, a mosque in downtown Las Vegas just minutes away from The Strip, the city’s

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Day 16 – Arizona, the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix

We left New Mexico much later than expected so our 8-plus hour drive to Phoenix meant we had to break our fast on the road. But with awesome scenery to look at on the way, we weren’t complaining whatsoever. We broke our fast with a bag of nectarines that Benyamin, the woodworker we met earlier that day, grew at his home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. His wife made us some

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Day 15 – New Mexico, Dar al Islam in Abiquiu (Pt. 2)

Note: We seem to have misplaced a substantial number of amazing pictures we took during this visit, so our sincerest apologies. We will try to find them as soon as possible and post them. Bassam and I were getting ready to leave New Mexico for an eight hour drive to Arizona, but we took an incredibly worthwhile one hour detour to Abiquiu, New Mexico. The small town is home to

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Day 15 – New Mexico, the Taha Mosque in Santa Fe (Pt. 1)

Hakim Archuletta tells me it’s time to break our fast and I pull my smartphone out of my pocket to ascertain if it’s time to do so. He grins and puts his hand on my shoulder and asks me to look at the colossal mountain landscape just a few miles from the house we’re standing outside of. “You won’t need that phone,” he says to me. “See that mountain? When

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Day 14 – The Colorado Muslim Society in Denver

Sheikh Abu Omar counted on both of his hands how many times he came close to dying. The 80-year-old man has escaped drowning, political assassinations and even a fatal health diagnosis in the 1970s that remind him how blessed he feels when he wakes up every day. “Allah has protected me,” he says as he puts his left arm around me and points his right index finger into the air.

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Day 13: Islamic Society of Wichita

Taking pictures outside of the Islamic Society of Wichita, I strike up a small conversation with Ammarah, a journalism student from the local university, Wichita State, who is following us today.

Day 12, Oklahoma, Teaching at the Mercy School (Pt. 2)

Before we left Oklahoma City, I told my homegirl Sarah that I’d check out the Islamic School she teaches at, the Mercy School in Edmond, OK. It’s affiliated with the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City mosque that we visited in this community. Pretty awesome place, the new $9 million building opened up at the beginning of Ramadan and is for students grades Kindergarten all the way through High School.

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The Lady Caliphs in Atlanta – A Short Video

In Atlanta, we visited the Mohammed Schools where we talked about the Lady Caliphs, the high school girls basketball team that made it to the state championships a few years ago.

Day 11 – Texas, Synott Mosque in Houston

Synott isn’t the name of the mosque we visited tonight, but that doesn’t matter because in the past ten years I’ve been frequenting it I’ve called the mosque nothing else. This is your hometown mosque, that mosque where you learned about Islam, ran into your first Muslim crush, where you volunteered at the Sunday school and picked a fight or two when you didn’t have to.  It’s that mosque where

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Day 10 – Louisiana, Zeitoun After Zeitoun, A Photo Essay (Pt. 2)

AbdulRahman Zeitoun is an iconic American Muslim. But if you tell him this, he will shrug and change the subject. He doesn’t talk much about the book written about him or the animated movie that is in the works (directed by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme). He’d rather talk about his painting company or the masjid that he helps run. For those who are not familiar with Zeitoun, I strongly recommend

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Day 10 – Louisiana, Spending time with family in New Orleans (Pt. 1)

There are millions of people in New Orleans that can tell you stories about how they’re struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

But a different kind of story here hits close to home for me because it’s about my brother Salman.

Day 8 – Florida, Islamic Center of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville

This morning Bassam and I linked up with Wayne and Robert of CNN.com, who are tagging along with us for the next few days to document our adventure through the southeast region of the country. We hit the road in Atlanta to start our six-hour drive down to Florida and I turn on the radio. The song from the Rocky movies “Eye of the Tiger” comes on and immediately I

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Day 6 – North Carolina, Masjid Ash-Shaheed in Charlotte

I looked at Feroz Mahal, a tall and burly Punjabi man with an “I Love Canada” lanyard around his neck, from across the room and slowly gravitated towards him. He drove a tractor trailer thousands of miles from Vancouver, Canada and somehow wound up here in the mosque to be among the congregants of Masjid Ash-Shaheed, a predominantly African American mosque that is so inviting to anyone that comes inside

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Day 4 – Pennsylvania, Bawa’s Fellowship, A Photo Essay (Pt. 2)

We arrive in Coatesville, PA around 5:30 PM at the East Fallowfield farm.  It is cold and cloudy. I get out of our Chevy Cobalt and walk towards something called the “Bawa Garden.” The stop here is supposed to be a short one. We are scheduled to be at United Muslim Mosque in Philadelphia for break fast.  We are greeted by a man named Chuck who meets us with three

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Day 4 – Pennsylvania, United Muslim Masjid in Philadelphia (Pt. 1)

Apparently it’s not an uncommon sight in Philadelphia to see female parking meter attendants that cover up their faces in full niqab. It’s that kind of “I’m Muslim, so you’re just going to have to deal with it” attitude that’s so refreshing to me. Before coming to Philly, I asked many of my friends there which place I should check out when I come. Every single one of them pointed

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Day 2 – Maine, Islamic Society of Augusta (Pt. 1)

Sitting among the 12 families that make up Augusta’s Muslim community, where the nearest halal restaurant is 45 minutes away, made me forget all about New York. [CLICK PHOTO TO READ MORE]

Day 1 – New York, Ground Zero Mosque (Pt. 2)

Bassam and I walked into the “Ground Zero Mosque” expecting to feel transformed, knowing the fact that I was praying inside the place that’s practically been mentioned in the news every 20 minutes. [CLICK THE PHOTO TO READ MORE]

Day 1 – New York, Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood (Pt. 1)

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 [click photo to read more]