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    ISLAM: A NEW WELCOMING SPIRIT IN THE MOSQUE Lorraine Ali, Newsweek, 8/29/05 http://www.rsicopyright.com/ics/prc_main/prs_request.html/ When the youth group at
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2005
      Lorraine Ali, Newsweek, 8/29/05

      When the youth group at southern California's Mission Viejo Masjid met
      recently, the scene looked like a public-service announcement for
      racial tolerance. The Sudanese imam sat next to a Palestinian-American
      student, who sat next to a female Anglo convert, who sat next to a son
      of Pakistani immigrants, who... well, you get the idea.

      But this isn't a clever ad; it's mosque life on any given weekend in
      Orange County and cities across America. "You are finding a new kind
      of climate in a lot of Muslim communities," says Naim Shah Jr., a Los
      Angeles Muslim raised in the Nation of Islam who's now an orthodox
      Sunni. He is assistant to the imam at the mostly African-American
      Masjid Ibaadillah in the city's Crenshaw district. "I just got a call
      from a largely immigrant [Muslim] group who wanted to organize a camp
      together on Labor Day weekend," Shah says. "We never got those calls
      five years ago. I attribute a lot of that to the young people; they
      are knocking down old and unnecessary boundaries."

      Children of immigrants are the fastest-growing group among the
      nation's estimated7 million Muslims, and they're changing the face of
      Islam in this country by combining their faith with the American
      tradition of diversity. In Orange County, youth-group members have
      similar stories: their strong ties with Islam really started in
      college, when they bonded with a mixed group of Muslims. This scenario
      was unthinkable even 15 years ago for immigrants who stuck with their
      own for support and for African-American Muslims who were still
      working through the racial exclusivity of the Nation of Islam. Those
      divisions mean little to the twentysomethings in Orange County. "It's
      all about Muslim identity now," says Haider Javed, 25, the center's
      youth coordinator. He wears jeans and a skullcap and seems to know
      everyone in the giant building. "You're searching for yourself," Javed
      says. "I'm not an American kid who goes out and drinks. I'm not
      entirely Pakistani either. But I am thoroughly Muslim. I feel
      comfortable at the Islamic center, like this is where I actually belong."

      During a discussion between prayers, Javed's peers agree that
      stripping away cultural baggage from their parents' home countries
      (such as customs limiting women's rights and racial dictates) is the
      only way to practice a purer Islam. Amber Atwat, 28, is one of many
      converts who showed up at the Islamic center that day with her husband
      and 15-month-old son. Raised Southern Baptist in Tennessee, she found
      peace in Islam three years ago after a hard life that included an
      abusive husband and the death of her infant daughter. "In our church,
      I saw all whites," she recalls. "Then there was the black Baptist
      church down the road. Even though they taught the same thing, we did
      not mix. But in the mosque, there is no one identity. I love that."

      These young Muslims are aware that divisions still exist: power
      struggles, arguments about who should represent Islam in the media and
      dueling politics (during the 2000 campaign, the immigrant Muslim
      community endorsed Bush while the African-American community did not).
      But this generation faces these challenges together. "I'm looking at
      one Pakistani, one white guy, one Palestinian, one African-American
      guy," says Javed, observing the people around him. "They're just
      standing around, talking. That alone makes me believe America is the
      perfect place for Islam." Then he hears the call of the muezzin and
      joins them for the last prayer of the day.



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