Laila Alawa: Do we really need mosques in America?

Laila Alawa, Associate Editor at Islamic Monthly, views the controversial documentary film Unmosqued and offers some observations on the mosque and its function and future in America. Situating her argument in a larger view of faith in America, Alawa writes, “There are buildings scattered across America, empty of purpose and congregations, simply because people left – and never turned back. For the future of mosques in America, Muslim Americans who have been unmosqued must make a decision. Alongside this sense of urgency, however, is a sense of freshness: the community, innovations and conversations taking place in third spaces is unlike any that happened within mosques – and for now, that’s okay. The future of faith in America might just not take place within a conventional center of worship. For many, that’s just how it’s going to be.”

"Mother Mosque of America," Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“Mother Mosque of America,” Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Why basketball is Muslims’ favorite sport

For many Muslim Americans, college and professional basketball provides heroes they can take pride in, symbols of affirmation at a time when they face hostility from some Americans. And it serves as a way to develop fellowship with their fellow believers while reaching out to non-Muslims.

“Every Muslim community I go to, there’s this obsession for basketball. Almost every mosque you go to, there’s a basketball court outside,” said Musab Abdali of Houston.

At the moment, there are at least eight Muslim players in the NBA (four Turks, two African Americans, one Iranian, and one Tanzanian), and one of them — center Nazr Mohammed of the Oklahoma City Thunder — is currently in the middle of a tense series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the special relationship between Muslims and basketball goes beyond any particular player or team and embraces the sport itself. It is not unlike the one described in “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story,” a 2010 documentary film written by Ira Berkow, a Pulitzer-prize winning sportswriter.

 

Omar Abdelkader, a student at Northeastern University in Boston, is an observant Muslim but admits that, at least as a kid, he was occasionally seduced by the swish of a perfect jump-shot over the Islamic call to prayer.

“Sometimes we’d sneak out of prayers to play ball,” recalled Abdelkader, who grew-up attending the Worcester Islamic Center in central Massachusetts. Like a growing number of American mosques, the Worcester Islamic Center has a basketball court — and hence a built-in temptation for younger members.

Documentary on Muslim school promotes understanding

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Fordson High School in Dearborn, Mich., is similar to many high schools in the state of Oklahoma. The students are energetic and boisterous on occasion, the faculty and staff are supportive of the students and the football team is a source of pride and enthusiasm for the entire school. The story of that school is told in the documentary film “Fordson” that was made by a talented Arab American filmmaker, Rashid Ghazi. Dearborn, Mich., was the site of a large Ford plant in the early decades of the last century and thousands of Arab immigrants, the majority of whom were Muslims, came to work there.

And that community, we are told, is now home to the largest concentration of Muslims in the U.S. Oklahomans should take note that no efforts have been made to introduce Sharia law into the Dearborn municipal code. The images of Dearborn include a variety of small businesses that cater to the Muslims and it explained that those businesses helped to reinvigorate that community after the Ford plant closed years ago.

The story contained in the movie is a familiar one, high school athletes who are supported by family and an inspirational coach, a school principal who can be stern, and a game against a rival team at the end of the season. But the majority of the football team at Fordson and the coach and principal are all Muslims, and while the players struggle during practice to not eat or drink during the daylight hours in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, that is the only discernible difference between this and any other story of a high school football team in the American Heartland.

Special Reservations – Integration Chief Blocks Islam Documentary

A documentary film by Swiss Television entitled “Behind the Veil – Muslim Report Switzerland” has caused controversy due to the interference of the Swiss government’s integration officer. The film shows disturbing scenes which had shocked the country, such as the secretary of the Muslim community justifying the beating of wives, and an imam who preached that unbelievers were “lower than animals.” The integration officer was to see to it, that an interview of the documentary team was derailed.