Muslim Like Me

One night nearly a month ago, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq had what Ali calls  “an insanely random idea: What if we prayed at a different mosque every single day for the month of Ramadan?” [And took snapshots and blogged about it.] The result, chronicled at 30 Mosques in 30 Days, holds some raw gems.

As Elizabeth Kolbert pointed out in the New Yorker, stunts can backfire. (Ali and Tariq have garnered their share of publicity.) But 30 Mosques doesn’t seem to have any intention behind it, except as a naive love letter to a shadowy idea of community. It’s as much about food (dates, lemon chicken) and makeshift architecture as it is about longing and faith.

As the project goes on, though, the religio-stunt begins to turn on its hungry authors.  Last night, at the Islamic Unity and Cultural Center, on Day 25, the pair are again confronted by a persistent question they get at each of the mosques they visit: “What masjid are you from?” Tariq writes:

It’s a hard one to answer. I’d love to say that Masjid XYZ is where you’ll find me there, but that’s just not the case. Maybe that’s the curse of living in Manhattan as a new implant within the larger Muslim community. We’re stuck in this transient dimension where it’s hard to figure out your place. Unfortunately, many Muslim communities in New York have the luxury to stay in their bubbles and I can’t/don’t want to pinpoint where I fall in it.

Clearly, in the search for something bigger, 30 days is hardly enough. Wouldn’t you say, Buddha Killers?