Tag Archives: journeyintoamerica.wordpress.com

A Double Standard

Frankie, Craig and I spoke to a religious leader of a small group of committed followers in Texas who really got me thinking. I won’t reveal his name or sect right now but wanted to share some of the things he said.

We met the bearded man in his traditional clothes inside his small and non-descript place of worship. Most people in the area would not even know it was there. The group, though a registered faith based group, refuses to take government money for their small school of 16 students. “God,” he said, “takes better care of us than Uncle Sam.” They don’t vote as policy and will not participate in any politics. He didn’t seem to be attached to America at all as a country or as an idea.

He was not happy with the relativism of American culture. “Everyone says this is your opinion, this is my opinion—each person chooses. But what about right and wrong?”

“Justice will come”, he said. “Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t survive and I don’t believe America will either”.

He said that they appreciate the freedom in this country—they obey our laws, pay taxes, pray for others. But if they were told to do something that violates the Holy Book, they would not do it. He said they were not anti-government but that, “we feel like we are an ambassador here, just temporary. Our citizenship is in heaven”.

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Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street

We took Ambassador Ahmed down to Bourbon Street for  a glance at the festivities during Mardi Gras. It was interesting to see his response. I had been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras before, as an observer/participant (more of an observer) so I knew what to expect but some of the others were kind of shocked. It is a lot to handle, seeing it for the first time.

We had fun just watching people and seeing the diversity on the street. Ambassador Ahmed didn’t know what the celebration was so we had to try to explain it to him, and it’s difficult. The flashing, beads, binge drinking until people pass out slumped against walls–how do you explain this to an outsider? We tried, as you’ll see in the video.

Later, we went to The Spotted Cat, a nice Jazz club a short ride away from Bourbon Street and met Kid Merve who was celebrating his birthday in style. We watched some Jazz and spent the rest of the evening with the local crowd, getting a different taste of New Orleans. See the video for some good Jazz and and a different take on Bourbon Street.  

Jonathan Hayden

West African Hospitality in Memphis

dscn1405This week Jonathan, Craig and I visited Masjid Attaqwa in Memphis and interviewed the Imam, Baba Deme after Friday prayers. The masjid is predominately attended by Muslims from West African countries like Senegal and Mauritania. During our conversation, the Imam, who is a Senegalese American, spoke of his appreciation of our project and the need for Muslims and non-Muslims to understand each other in the United States. He said relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were very good in Memphis.

Communal eating

Following our talk the imam and his associates treated us to a delicious West African meal. There were two entrees served with rice; an okra dish and a beef dish with a peanut sauce. The Imam and his associates including the elder Bou Bou Diallo sat around the table and ate with their hands, encouraging us to do so. I decided to put down my fork and fully engage, drawing heaps of laughter from the group as more and more rice and sauce was heaped on my plate.

dscn14141After lunch the general secretary of the mosque, Abou Falle, presented us with kola nuts, and announced that it was a tradition in West Africa to give them to honored guests. The Imam showed me how to crack it open and I bit into the bitter nut as the group watched intently. After a brief facial contortion I recovered, but not before some more laughs were had. We thanked the group for the nuts and departed.

I had come to Memphis with so many fond memories of Southern hospility encountered in previous stops through the south. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy West African hospitality as well.

Frankie Martin

A Hero of Mine

By Craig Considine – Since September 1st, 2008, when our travels first began, I have met people from all walks of life; distinguished professors like Chomsky at MIT, famous politicians like Jesse Jackson, popular religious leaders like Imam Qazwini, bright young American students in Chicago, and even intelligent homeless people like ‘Jesse’ in Detroit.  Interviewing Chomsky in his office, and sitting fireside with Hamza Yusuf at the Zaytuna Institute, literally blew my mind, not only for the sheer knowledge that both individuals shed on me, but in turn, for their ability to motivate me to ‘think outside the box’.  But in all actuality, while I will always cheirsh the words of wisdom of Chomsky, Yusuf and the like, no one individual on this journey impressed me, or has impacted my psyche and character more, than the courageous Dr. Judea Pearl.

Dr. Pearl, if you are unaware, is the father of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal jouranlist who was murdered in Pakistan simply because he was a Jew.  Any normal father would undoubtedly lash out verbally, or seek out some form of vengeance, against those who had committed that vicious act of immorality and hate against his son.  But Dr. Pearl was different.  Extremely different.  He searched for a Muslim companion that would visit universities and institutions across Americam with the purpose of igniting an interfaith dialogue movement to transcend the hate that sprung between Jews and Muslims in the aftermath of Daniel’s death.  Dr. Pearl chose Dr. Ahmed, the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam, and both have since been the quintessential example of what is needed if human beings wish to coexist with one another.  They have made a lasting impression on the world not only through their their dialogues, but also for the symbolism of their friendship: a Jew and a Muslim can be friends even amidst one of the most tragic moment of the 21st century. Continue reading

“Waziristan to Washington: A Muslim at the Crossroads”

For those of you in DC tomorrow night, come out to American University for Ambassador Ahmed’s one man memior monologue “Waziristan to Washington” at 7:00 pm in the Katzen Arts Center.

Admission is free and it promises to be an excellent show. If you’re interested in the complexities of Pakistan, tribal culture and global Islam, then this is for you. Its dramatic and funny and easy to follow. I promise you won’t leave dissapointed.  

See the full details below: Continue reading

The Rumi Award

Last week, Madeeha, Craig and I ventured out to the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill for the Rumi Forum‘s 2008 Rumi Peace and Dialogue Awards.

Ambassador Ahmed was given the Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi Award for 2008. He was introduced by his good friend and colleague Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation. My favorite part was when Lustig asked the audience to note the symbolism of a Rabbi, whose family lived through the Holocaust, presenting an award named after a Muslim to a Muslim professor and former Ambassador from Pakistan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. “Only in America”, he said. Here’s a video of some of the speech:

It was a grand event with 8 awardees in all including several Congressmen, the famous Sally Quinn, and an excellent speech by Commitment to Interfaith Service awardee Sulayman Nyang.

The list of recipients of all of the Award recipients is below. Continue reading

Listen to Hailey on Radio Islam

Here is the link to the interview