“Muslim Americans are on of this country’s biggest strengths. But they’re vulnerable as never before (Smith, ix).” Muslims are constantly discriminated against because of many misconceptions that surface in America. Establishing their own communities is something that gives them comfort because of its as if no one can take away from their religion. Another thing they take pride in is establishing their own Mosque’s within those communities and their own community centers where they can go to do many different activities and have many different resources right at hand.
The different resources that we have navigated through throughout this semester are interesting to me. Muslims provide themselves and many other Muslims within the community for a place that they can go to and feel no judgment. They have established Mosques and community centers. The way these centers are organized and built is of interest to me. Also, how welcoming the Mosque was of other Americans who did not practice the religion of Islam. Throughout this paper I will discuss the different resources Muslims have provided for themselves and their community and what its like to be a Catholic American entering a Mosque and observing Friday Prayer.
“Muslims have spoken endlessly about their faith, study groups have proliferated, and political action committees have been formed to ensure that Muslim American citizens will be protected should another such calamity occur (Smith, xii).” The Inner- City Muslim Action Network also known as the Iman is one main organization that was formed to promote health, social change and the arts within the community. As exemplified in the title the Iman chose to be located in inner city areas to help Muslims who aren’t as privileged as other Muslims. The Iman’s mission is “To serve as the model of the Muslim tradition of facilitating transformational change in urban communities, by inspiring others towards critical civic engagement exemplifying prophetic compassion in the work for social justice and human dignity beyond the barriers of religion, ethnicity, and nationality (Iman).”
Although the Iman is a non-profit organization, it has many funders that make it possible for the Iman to provide for many different Muslims. Well-educated people who specialize in certain areas run the Iman. They have directors of health, community relations, youth organization, finance managers and many others committed to making the community a better place. Collectively these people fund for their program, and go out and build houses, provided a health clinic for people who can’t afford it, provided marriage counseling for those who struggle. This is so important to people who live in these inner city communities because it provides them with an opportunity to better themselves. As Smith states in his opening remarks “Muslims are now being challenged to seriously analyze Islam and its role in the twenty-first century (Smith, xii).”
Following that quote by Smith, it speaks volumes about how Muslims are being forced to question the religion they practice. So, living in an inner city setting you are already faced with challenges financially and socially. Being a Muslim in an inner city setting means that they are trying to defy the odds. They are trying to survive with so many stereotypes already against them. Stereotypes that were forced by 9/11 are what they are trying to overcome. That is why it is important for the Iman to provided a safe and stable environment for the Muslims to think in a positive way and want to better themselves.
Another center I researched this semester was the Islamic Center in Washington D.C. I thought that this center had a rather interesting location because Washington D.C is Americas central location for politics to take place and is where our President of the United States is housed. It is an interesting time, in my opinion, to be an open Muslim in America due to the discrimination our President has shown against Muslims. I think this Mosque is more than just the walls it is built by. The history of the Mosque is rather interesting in comparison with today’s events involving our president. With the opening of this Islamic center in 1957, President Eisenhower at the time made a speech in the opening ceremony. Eisenhower concluded: “As I stand beneath these graceful arches, surrounded on every side by friends from far and near, I am convinced that our common goals are both right and promising (Washington D.C).” At that very moment, Eisenhower proved what America should be about. It should be about unity and he understood that that is what the new Islamic center was trying to do. It was trying to provide Muslims with a sense of position in this world.
However, according to Smith, Muslims still feel out of place at times. Which is why not only do they have community centers but they also have Mosque’s in communities as well. Mosques are a place for Muslims to go and worship their Allah. This is a place where their religion is the only religion practiced. Mosques are filled with rooms of worship, gathering halls, information desks and they even include schools for children. The Mosque is the space that makes it easy for Muslims to pray 5 times a day. When praying all Muslims pray towards Mecca in respect to their Allah.
Experiencing a Mosque as an American who practices Christianity created an interesting perspective. My thoughts before entering the Mosque were that it was going to be a quiet environment and you were not to talk until the prayer was over, that the doors shut when prayer started. Entering the mosque we were greeted with warm arms by the director of that certain mosque. We were then taken into the prayer hall, which was separated from men in women distinctly because of space. Over the years the Mosque we went to have expanded due to new members so they had to create a new space to worship during prayer time. While it is immodest to the religion for females to bend over during prayer in front of men, the mosque we went to thought it would make sense to just divide the rooms by women and men. Another thing that took me by surprise was when the prayer started there wasn’t total silence. The mosque we went to was so family friendly that it was normal for kids to run around and make noises during prayer or it was normal for people to still talk in the entrance hall when prayer was going on. I loved this about the mosque.
Even though Muslims in America are subjected to misconceptions due to people not being well educated, they find a way to push through and make what they have their own. I think Muslims are some of the most innovate people in America because they have a drive and motive to thrive because of odds they are faced with every day. The communities and networks that Muslims have created for other Muslims are astounding and should be recognized on a national basis. I think it is amazing to see how they have all come together to help each and every single person out and also help to educate people that may not know so much about their religion.