A Growing Demand for the Rare American Imam

Sheik Yassir Fazaga regularly uses a standard American calendar to provide inspiration for his weekly Friday sermon. Around Valentine’s Day this year, he talked about how the Koran endorses romantic love within certain ethical parameters. (As opposed to say, clerics in Saudi Arabia, who denounce the banned saint’s day as a Satanic ritual.) On World AIDS Day, he criticized Muslims for making moral judgments about the disease rather than helping the afflicted, and on International Women’s Day he focused on domestic abuse. (…) Prayer leaders, or imams, in the United States have long arrived from overseas, forced to negotiate a foreign culture along with their congregation. Older immigrants usually overlook the fact that it is an uneasy fit, particularly since imported sheiks rarely speak English. They welcome a flavor of home. But as the first generation of American-born Muslims begins graduating from college in significant numbers, with a swelling tide behind them, some congregations are beginning to seek native imams who can talk about religious and social issues that seem relevant to young people (…)