New York-based comedian Aman Ali and documentary filmmaker Bassam Tariq journeyed across America during Ramadan this past August, visiting an astounding 30 mosques in 30 days. Beginning their adventure in Anchorage, Alaska, and praying in the mosques and homes of Muslims from Laramie, Wyoming, to Omaha, Nebraska, to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Ali and Tariq got to explore firsthand what Akbar Ahmed and his research team documented in their book and film, Journey in America: The Challenge of Islam. We’ve written past posts about gender and sexuality in mosques, but Ali and Tariq crossed the US to connect with their own spirituality through the personal stories of individual Muslims and the communities where they live.
I recently spoke with Ali and learned of the positive impact that 30 Mosques in 30 Days has had on people of all faiths around the world.
Click below to hear my interview with Aman Ali: [audio:http://insideislam.wisc.edu/audio/dStory/Aman_Ali_Interview_30Mosques.mp3]
Ali and Tariq visited places that I’ve never even heard of. The 18th day of their trip took them to Holy Islamville, South Carolina, an isolated Muslim community of 23 predominately African-American families following the teachings of a Pakistani sheikh. Ross, North Dakota, Dorothy Duke’s Shangri-La house in Hawaii, and a woman who actively practices both Islam and Christianity, were some of the other places and personalities that Ali and Tariq encountered in their month-long project.
They raised funds to finance the trip and stuck to their promise of sharing their experiences. Producers from PBS joined them for the ride and they plan to release an hour-long documentary next spring. The best part about 30 Mosques in 30 Days isn’t the great photos or personal essays that Ali and Tariq shared on their blog, but the larger point that anyone can make a journey similar in concept and shorter in length, even within their own locale. It’s imperative that we all step out of our comfort zones and social bubbles and purposefully place ourselves and our families in sometimes awkward situations where we engage with those of other faiths, or even no faith at all. In the end, that’s what’s likely to strengthen our own connections and to build bonds with those we used to refer to as strangers.
What does Ali and Tariq’s project say about “Muslim Americans” as an identity? My own image of Islam in America changed after reading the blog. Did yours, and if so, in what way? Have you ever made a similar trip to another community of faith, pushing your own boundaries and expanding your comfort zone?