When we look at the Muslim American community today we find that, similar to other communities, ours is also one that is both racially and culturally rich just like the American society is as a whole. And there are multiple narratives, each one unique from the other, that have developed over the course of history. But how many of those narratives is the average American, or for that matter, even the average Muslim American aware of? What kinds of stories are currently being hailed in the media and specifically, who is the one speaking on behalf of the Muslim population? How much of the story telling are we engaging in ourselves?
These were some of the extremely pertinent questions addressed by this Thursday’s speaker, Aman Ali. He is an award winning performer and journalist from Ohio. He is also the co-creator of a social media phenomenon, 30 Mosques in 30 Days, a project that not only took him and his fellow buddy, Bassam Tariq all across the U.S. but earned them much of their popularity in the media.
Last year during Ramadan, the young men embarked on a road trip across the U.S. in a mission to unearth authentic and compelling stories about Muslims in America. The unique and admirable quality about the 30 Mosques in 30 Days project is that it is helping to develop a new kind of narrative for the American Muslim population. Aman was very forthright about the fact that this venture was not initiated as a response to the perceptions held about Muslims held today in American society. It is only a means to explore how the history of Islam in the U.S has evolved over time and the extent of the diversity that exists within the Muslim population. One of his stories that fascinated all of us was his stopover in Montana, a random event that led him to discover one of the oldest settlements of Lebanese Muslims. He found grave sites that dated back as far as the 1800s; revealing the long standing presence of Muslims in the U.S.
One of the things that I personally took away from Aman Ali’s session was the increasing importance of telling our own story. While we remain true to our faith and individual beliefs, we must remember to keep engaging with those outside our faith and make sure that are interactions and experiences with are positive and fruitful. Thus, American Muslims need to continue excelling in their respective fields and focus on ways they can change the community's image in the media and the public sector.