Two young men in New York City, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, are nearing the end of their journey to document visits to “30 mosques in 30 days” on their blog of the same name.
The personal project to visit and photograph the insides of mosques throughout the holy month of Ramadan (during which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset) has even attracted the attention of local New York television.
Their first blog entry on August 22 began:
Tonight my friend Bassam Tariq and I came up with an insanely random idea: What if we prayed at a different mosque every single day for the month of Ramadan? Hence, this Web site was born…
According to a study at Columbia University there are approximately 600,000 Muslims
NY1 local television, there are nearly 1 million Muslims in New York City of many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
It is not common for people to go to visit mosques belonging to other groups, but Aman and Bassam (both of South Asian origin) say they have been met with smiles and warm welcomes everywhere.
Day 9: Masjid Aqsa (West African mosque in Manhattan)
Today, I decided to stay in my neighborhood and visit Masjid Aqsa. The mosque is a couple of blocks south of my apartment on 116th and Frederick Douglas. The community is predominantly West African. It is said that this area also houses the majority of the Senegalese in New York.
Similar to other masajid in Manhattan, vendors surrounded the entrance selling everything from Madani Dates to Nike socks. One of the more interesting vendors sold dried fish.
Day 11: Masjid Al-Hikmah (Indonesian mosque in Queens)
I love Indonesian people and their food just as much. To break our fast we had dates and this person in the blue shirt was serving this really good Indonesian soup.
Transcending cultural divides is not always easy.
Bassam very candidly describes his thoughts on Day 12 when he was presented with two mosques only blocks away from each other in Brooklyn: a Bangladeshi mosque, and a West African one.
Being South Asian, the Bangladeshi mosque would have been the easier option, but with the added encouragement of a friend, he decided on the greater personal challenge.
Day 12: Masjid Tawhid Inc. (West African mosque in Brooklyn)
… Things didn’t seem that awkward in the beginning. In fact, it was only when I started to wonder how the rest of the congregation perceived me that I began to feel uneasy. I felt like a freeloader coming in — barely eating the food offered to me — and then leaving abruptly afterwards . A bad exhibitionist, if you will. Though no one in the masjid might have felt that way, I wonder if anyone asked themselves, “Why didn’t he just go to the Bangladeshi mosque?” Maybe it’s my own insecurities that raise the question.
Day 22: Albanian Islamic Cultural Center (Staten Island)
… The mosque has its own chef that prepared the food, may Allah reward him for his talent.
But the food didn’t compare to our true experience at the mosque. We sat among many of the younger kids in the community just picking their brains a bit about the community…
… One thing I really love is seeing younger kids come to mosques because they genuinely enjoy being there, not because they are dragged by their parents. Its kids like these that make me feel good about where the Muslim community as a whole is headed in this country.
Ramadan ends on September 19.