She had just gotten back from a long month in the United Arab Emirates and then had driven from Tampa to Miami to come and meet us. Although she must have been jetlagged and preoccupied with her other responsibilities, she was bursting with energy.
For our trip to Miami I had especially wanted to meet with Latino Muslims and all roads pointed to Khadija Rivera. From her friends in Los Angeles to organizations like LADO and ALAM, Khadija was well-connected in the Latino Muslim networks and was a leader in the growing segment of Muslims in America. She represents the newest segment of Muslims in America and her forceful personality will surely add some spice to the American melting pot.
We had met with some Latino Muslims in Los Angeles with Khadija Galedary, another leader in the community and the next day with Cuban, Columbian, and Mexican Muslims. This group is unique and growing, with literature and organizations for their own group. Much like the African-American Muslims, Latino Muslims have a unique historical and theological approach to Islam. Their culture, language, and warm personalities will surely add to the world’s largest and most diverse religion.
While the whole world watched the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama in Washington DC our team was far away on the island of Sapelo in Georgia. We were there to investigate links between the US and Islam going back centuries to the Africans brought to this country as slaves. After almost being refused seats on our American Airlines propeller flight from Miami to Jacksonville due to an “excess in weight” and taking a rickety boat from the Georgia mainland, we were met by our host, Cornelia Walker Bailey.
Ms. Bailey is a direct descendent of Bilali Muhammed, a West African slave brought to Sapelo in the early 19th century. She is a writer and preservationist of the island’s unique culture and is proud of her Muslim heritage. Attempting to ignore it, she said, would be like “chopping off an arm.” Although Bilali’s descendents converted to Christianity, the isolation of the island meant that certain Islamic practices remained. We were surprised to discover that men and women commonly sit on opposite sides of the church during services as in a mosque, and all shoes had to be removed in services until recently. The churches face Mecca and people are buried facing Mecca. The island only has around 50 slave descendents living there today, and history is all around, from the old plantation house bought by tobacco titan R. J. Reynolds to a slave cemetery we visited with graves dating back well into the 19th century.
We’ve been traveling through Florida for the past week–from Sanibel Island where Ambassador Ahmed spoke to a crowd of 400 people, to Fort Myers to Palm Beach where Ambassador ahmed spoke again to The World Affairs Council, finally all the way down to Miami. We leave tomorrow early for Georgia.
In Ft. Myers we met Iman al Darsani who you will see in the video below and in Palm Beach we spent some time with Reverend Bob Norris, also in the video, from the Royal Poincianna Chapel.
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Tagged abrahamic, Akbar Ahmed, al darsani, chritianity, Ft. Myers, Islam, jonathan hayden, Judaism, miami, Muslim, palm beach, prayer, Religion, sanibel island