US: Muslim Scouts Take Root
- Muslims Find Cultural Bridge in Scouting
By June Soh
25 July 2006
Muslim children are finding a cultural bridge with American kids by
becoming Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Many Muslims find scouting has
similar values to their faith. Amy Katz narrates this report.
Muslim Girl Scouts
The girls recite the Scout Oath: "I will try to serve God and my
country, to help people all the time, and to live by the Girl Scout law."
Every Friday evening, Amina, her friend Thuraya, and several other
girls gather in this classroom at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society
or ADAMS in Sterling, Virginia. They belong to a Brownie troop, a
Girl Scout group for six to eight year olds.
Amina says she likes being a Girl Scout. Another scout, Thuraya, says
she knows why. "Because you help your community and you earn things.
You have a fun time. You help your nation."
Sarah Hasan, an Indian descendant raised in Kuwait, is the leader of
the Brownie troop. "We want to teach the basic values of the Girl
Scout promise: kindness, helpfulness, being honest, integrity, and
working together as a group."
Thuraya's father, Arash Hazer, from Iran, finds those characteristics
are compatible with Islamic values. So he sends his two home-schooled
daughters to the Girl Scout program. "They need to be involved in life
here. So Girl Scout service to the country, service to the community
certainly is a big value in our (Islamic) belief system."
Muslim Boy Scouts
The Boy Scouts of America says U.S. Muslim scout troops have been
increasing in the past two decades. It reports 112 troops with almost
2,000 members chartered through Islamic schools or mosques.
Rizwan Jaka is the president of ADAMS and a Boy Scout leader. He says
scout activities are also helpful to building bridges between Muslims
"After the tragedy of 9/11 it is important for Muslims to get to know
other people and other people get to know Muslims. So we actually
encourage our children and our scouts to get to know their fellow scouts."
For many Muslim children, living in the U.S. means constantly
balancing between being an observant Muslim and an American kid.
Thuraya says she feels a little bit different from other American
girls. "Because I don't do the things like they do. I don't wear
things like they wear, like belly shirts. I cover myself completely.
But I don't feel angry that I can't be like them. Everybody has their
At the year-end graduation ceremony, Thuraya says she is proud of
herself for earning more patches for what she has done. And she will
remain in the Girl Scout program as long as she can ... having fun
with friends, learning cultures, and helping communities.
MUSLIM SCOUTS; GULF STREAM COUNCIL LAUNCHES ITS FIRST ISLAMIC TROOP
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Hassene Chaabane has been a Boy Scout all his life, so he jumped at
the recent opportunity to introduce scouting to a new group of youths.
Chaabane, 31, who attends religious services at the Islamic Center of
Boca Raton, is spearheading the formation of Cub Scout and Boy Scout
Troop 394, the first Muslim troop in the Gulf Stream Council, which
covers Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Hendry counties.
"I can't imagine the life of a boy without Boy Scouts," Chaabane said.
Chaabane, a native of Tunisia, drives from his home in Hallandale
Beach to attend the Boca Raton mosque and help form the troop.
Participating in scouting in his homeland helped him grow into the man
he is today, he said.
"It taught me self-confidence, values, you name it," he said. "At an
early age boys have a lot of energy, and if you don't direct the
energy in the right direction, they will go and do bad stuff. ...
That's why you see kids on the street doing bad things. Some do drugs,
some go toward sex, so this is an opportunity for kids to learn about
Members of the mosque approached Jennifer Thomason, district executive
of the Gulf Stream Council, about starting a new troop.
"We are very excited about it, because Boy Scouts are for no specific
faith, and we look to any community organization of faith or not of
faith to take our standards," Thomason said, adding that there are
several new troops forming in Boca Raton, two at synagogues.
She is helping the elders at the mosque train to become troop leaders
for the more than 40 children already signed up, while learning about
the differences between the Islamic way of raising children and
traditional American ways.
"I am definitely learning things about the culture, especially the
difference between men and women," she said. "In the Islamic center,
they keep the boys and girls completely together until they are
teenagers, then they separate them, which is opposite from what we
Normally, little girls join Girl Scouts, Thomason said, and later in
high school, boys and girls come together for Venturing, a form of
scouting that is coed.
Muslims, on the other hand, separate the sexes once they become aware
of each other's differences to guard chastity and moral behavior, said
Mohammed Sanhaji, who represents the Islamic Center of Boca Raton at
the Boy Scouts.
"I am excited about the fact that we can get our kids to be a part of
activities that are not just Islamic. We want activities that are
meant for community leadership," Sanhaji said. "Boy Scouts is mixing
the religious background and civic duties and other standard morals,
and they will become good leaders and model citizens."
Troop 394 will approach scouting from a family perspective, Thomason
said, involving girls and parents in activities.
Annie Lin of Delray Beach was quick to volunteer as a den mother. Her
son, Yusuf Lin, 6, is eager to begin his scouting experience, she said.
"I'm very excited about it, and I am very supportive of anything that
complements Islamic values, traditions and morals," said Lin, an
accountant for a family-run Chinese vegetable farm. "Cub Scouts is an
American thing, and it's an organized group, and they promote
self-confidence and teaching survival skills and boys getting together
and doing outdoor things."
Lin looks forward to watching her son grow with scouting, both in his
faith and as an American.
"We can be Muslims and can be a Boy Scout also, and I want to make
sure that the children understand that just because we are Muslims, we
can involve them in other things that are along the same things that
Islam teaches us. We are American, we were born here," Lin said. "I
don't want them to feel like they are different."
Mazin Musallam, 12, of Lake Worth is looking forward to the physical
activity of Boy Scouts.
"It's pretty good. We get to play outside a lot," he said. "We have
snack time, and we get to learn stuff from the Red Cross like if
firemen come, don't be afraid."
It is about time that scouting evolved to reflect the community,
"We do tend to be seen as predominantly white and Christian, and that
is not what we are," she said. "We're having to change and
accommodate, like with the Jewish units we have to change a lot of our
events to Sundays [to accommodate the Jewish Sabbath on Saturdays
until sundown]. We should have been changing and accommodating long
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