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US: Muslim Scouts Take Root

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    Muslims Find Cultural Bridge in Scouting By June Soh Washington, DC 25 July 2006 http://www.voanews.com/english/2006-07-25-voa48.cfm Muslim children are
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2006
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      Muslims Find Cultural Bridge in Scouting
      By June Soh
      Washington, DC
      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
      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
      and non-Muslims.

      Rizwan Jaka
      "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
      own way."

      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.


      Lisa Bolivar
      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 do."

      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,
      Thomason said.

      "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
      before this."



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