A Ramadan Road Trip: 30 Mosques In 30 Days

American Muslims Bassam Tariq and Aman Ali are hitting the road for the Ramadan holiday, visiting 30 mosques in 30 days in 30 states. Last year they visited 30 mosques in New York City alone. It's the beginning of their trip, but already they've prayed at the so-called Ground Zero mosque, and at a mosque in Maine. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Ali on the side of a highway just outside Boston.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

On Friday night, President Barack Obama was the host of a White House dinner to celebrate Ramadan, which began this past week. During his remarks, the president defended a proposed Muslim community center and mosque, which is planned just blocks away from the site of the September 11th attack.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan means 30 days of fasting and prayer for Muslims across the world. Bassam Tariq and Aman Ali are taking a road trip this Ramadan. The two American Muslims plan to visit 30 mosques in 30 days in 30 states. Last year, they visited 30 mosques in New York City alone. They've visited three mosques so far.

And we reached Aman Ali just outside of Boston. Hello, Amman.

Mr. AMAN ALI (30Mosques.com): Hi, how are you doing?

HANSEN: I am well, thank you. Tell us why it's so important for both you and Bassam to be doing this during Ramadan.

Mr. ALI: Well, we did the project last year, just focusing on New York City. So we went to a different mosque in New York City each day for Ramadan. And the response was amazing. To this day, we are still taken back by the response. And so this year, we decided to hit the road. We're actually doing that right now, as we speak - driving across the country exploring and meeting Muslims along the way, and letting our readers know, you know, what it's like to observe Ramadan in their specific communities.

And Muslims come from all different walks of life, so this is a way to show them how, you know, they're all, you know, not only embracing in sum, but is embracing the American culture and trying to, you know, be Muslim and be American. They're not oxymorons; they can work together, hand in hand.

HANSEN: You mentioned that - you say that you do have a blog. And you also mentioned the variety, the different communities of Muslims. What have you seen?

Mr. ALI: We've just left Maine, where there was an Indian-Pakistani community. And some of the people in that community had married American Muslim women. And some of the American men that were Muslim had married Moroccan women. So it was a cool melting pot of all these different cultures.

And also, while we were in Maine, we met an Iraqi refugee who had just come to America recently, to make a better life for his kids. And then we met a group specifically focusing on Sudanese refugees that were here and trying to transition to this country.

You know, when you think of Muslims, people might think, okay, it's just Arabs or just African-Americans or just Indians or Pakistanis. But there's people that we're coming across - are coming from all different walks of life.

HANSEN: On your blog, you wrote that you prayed at Park 51, which is the site of what they're calling the Ground Zero mosque. What was that like?

Mr. ALI: In going into that mosque, you know, I was expecting to feel some kind of special transformation. I dont know exactly what I was supposed to feel, but I thought to myself, well, this is the place that's, you know, the lightning rod of all this controversy, and everyones talking about it.

But I walked inside and when I was praying with my Muslim brothers and sisters, I just felt like I was praying in a mosque. You know, all that stuff about what was happening kind of - I almost forgot about it. You know, I was in a mosque. I was deep inside my prayer and so, and I was expecting something special because I knew people, like my friends would ask, hey, what was it like to be in there? Im like, dude, it was just like being in any kind of mosque.

HANSEN: Hmm. So ultimately, what is it you're trying to accomplish?

Mr. ALI: A way to just, you know, tell people what it's like around the country. You know, a lot of Muslims that live in small communities across the country - whether it be the Midwest, down South or even on the West Coast -they might feel: Im the only one going through this struggle; Im the only kid in school that has a funny name. Or I wear a headscarf - Im a Muslim woman -and I get dirty looks and, you know, people make me feel uncomfortable.

So this is a way to show that we're not the only ones going through our struggles ourselves, you know. Ramadan is a month to bring people together. So we're doing that through, you know, social networking and through online to show people, hey, it's okay to be who you are and it's okay, you know, to come from where you come from, and believe in what you believe in.

HANSEN: Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq are traveling across the country during Ramadan, to visit 30 mosques in 30 days in 30 states. Aman Ali joined us from just outside Boston. Thank you, and good luck.

Mr. ALI: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News.

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