By Craig Considine – It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Muslim Americans we visited on a Friday afternoon at the Al-Rahman masjid in California were charismatic, outgoing and lively. After all, we were in the land of ‘stars’, just miles from the Hollywood studios and the mansions of famous actors and actresses.
The Al-Rahman masjid, led by the Harvard educated Imam Siddiqui, is not just simply a place for prayer – Hailey noted that it reminded her of a Syrian bazaar she had visited with Dr. Ahmed a few years back as part of the ‘Journey into Islam’ project.
Before entering the masjid, one must walk through an alley of sorts filled with Islamic painting, pictures and other artistic materials for the visitors pleasure. The large bookstore across from these pieces of glorious Islamic art is filled with articles of clothing and other mementos for members looking to celebrate their Islamic heritage. One can find young children run around in between crowds of adults. For a moment, I too felt like I had momentarily stepped outside of the California.
The vibrant atmosphere of the Al-Rahman masjid was indeed impressive, but the character of the Muslim Americans we engaged with was something I greatly admire. After witnessing a shahada, Dr. Siddiqui’s khutba, and Dr. Ahmed’s message, the team walked outside of the masjid to a voyeur where hundreds of people socialized with one another.
Within literally minutes, we were all mobbed with enthusiastic Muslim Americans that were so delighted about our project. Strangers came up to me with words that were both flattering and encouraging. They would say things like ‘God Bless you, Craig’ or ‘We are so grateful for the teams effort build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims living in America’. Men and women even handed me their business cards saying ‘If you need anything, ANYTHING, just let me know, and I will be there for you’.
For the first time on our journey throughout America, we actually had to scramble for more copies of our questionnaire. Usually, we are working hard to find groups of people to fill them out. But at the Al-Rahman masjid, we had a line of people waiting for them.
Luckily, we found a young man that has been a huge fan of Dr. Ahmed ever since he could remember. He pulled me aside and told me ‘I will do anything to contribute to this project’. As an assistant to Dr. Ahmed, I can’t give the young man orders, but I immediatly told Dr. Ahmed about his motivation and desire. As I noted, we were in dire need of copies of our questionairre. Dr. Ahmed knew it would mean a lot to the young man if could help the team out even in the slightest sense.
Five minutes after he and Dr. Ahmed first spoke, the young man came back with about thirty copies of our questionnaire. I was most impressed, and so was Dr. Ahmed and the rest of the team. His contribution is much appreciated, for the team gathered almost eighty questionnaires.
Before leaving, I had the chance to play some soccer with a large group of elementary school students on a small pitch of grass adjacent to the masjid. For about thirty minutes, I worked about a pretty solid sweat with these youngsters. For me, I didn’t see these children as Muslims, I saw them as ordinary young Americans. They reminded me of my childhood days playing soccer at recess in suburban Boston.
In the land of Hollywood stars, the Muslim Americans really shined the brightest in our eyes on that sunny day in California. Americans of all backgrounds can be encouraged about their attitudes and their positive contributions to American society that will undoubtedly come in the future.