15 days exploring Muslim America

Aman Ali and I have been on the road for the past 15 days exploring Muslim America. We started our trip in Alaska, somehow ended up in Hawaii and are now on our way to Mississippi. Our challenge is to visit a different mosque in a different State everyday during the Islamic month of Ramadan and then blog about it on our site by the end of the day. We are fasting on the trip and will be driving close to 13,000 miles. Here are some of the people we have encountered the past 15 days.

Day 1: Anchorage, Alaska. Mohammad Obeidi came to Alaska on a whim in the 1960's and worked as a cab driver. He would also sell prints of famous paintings on street corners. Soon enough, he made enough money to open a small gallery. Now, Obeidi is one of the leading art collectors in Anchorage.

Day 2: Seattle, Washington. Ann Holmes was an Episcopalian priest who was ousted from the church when she declared that she was both Muslim and Christian.

Day 3: Corvallis, Oregon. As the night prayer begins, Ali Godil sits off to the side and writes a note to MoMo, a friend who is now in prison after attempting to bomb a christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon.

Day 6: Las Vegas, Nevada. We covered Amanullah last year on our blog when he was going through an inner conflict of being the board member of the mosque and also being the manager of slot machines at MGM Grand Casino. Amanullah is still working the same job and impatiently waiting for retirement.

Day 8: Sioux Falls, South Dakota. David (left) stands with his wife, Nor. They met and married through the Islamic Pink Pages, a matrimonial newsletter, when Nor was in Singapore teaching at a school and David was in a South Dakota prison.

Day 8: Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Basheer Butcher is a full-blooded Native American that converted to Islam in 2001. He hails from the Sioux tribe and grew up on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. He now lives in Sioux Falls and is active in the Muslim community here of about 3,000 people.

Day 10: Omaha, Nebraska. Marshall Taylor sits on the concrete that once was Malcolm X's birth home. Marshall and a close group of his friends have created a foundation that is working to create a cultural center in Omaha in his honor.

Day 10: Omaha, Nebraska. Lutfullah Wali embraced Islam in the early 1950s and built the first mosque in Nebraska with his hands. He is now above the age of 100 and reclusive. He spends his entire day at home swimming in his mess.

Day 10: Omaha, Nebraska. The entire upstairs of Lutfullah's house is covered in vulgar scribbles and cryptic drawings that he has been making for the past five years.

Day 13: Little Rock, Arkansas. A lady pours Rooh Afza, a red sherbet, drink into cups in preparation of the break fast meal.

Day 14: Houston, Texas. Aman Ali, co-creator of 30 Mosques, takes a break from the road and stands in the middle of a blooming cotton field.

More: 30mosques.com


  1. If you spent 15 days on the ROAD and went from Alaska to Hawaii, I am EXTREMELY impressed.

    Seriously though, thank you for doing this.  America is getting so caught up in this anti-Muslim nonsense that we’re forgetting that being Muslim and being American are not mutually exclusive.  Oh, and also that we’re supposedly not at war with Islam.

  2. Impressive! Why haven’t you covered any of the many Caucasian Muslims across the country though?  

    1. Looks like some of the people in the background of the Corvallis mosque picture might be of Caucasian decent. Surely some of the members of the thirty mosques they visited were Caucasian. Honestly, though, does it matter?

    2. Most of the people covered appear to be of caucasian decent. Do you perhaps mean to refer to people of european decent, in other words, “white” people?

  3. Good photographs. Two thoughts:

    1) Rev. Holmes’s situation reminded me of the scene in Stranger in a Strange Land when Michael concludes that if one religion is true, maybe they all have to be true.

    2) Much envy for Mr. Taylor and the bloggers for getting to visit a very cool historical site.


    1. I’ve been to Omaha many times and it never occurred to me to visit any Malcom X sights. Think I need to take a roadtrip up to the Big O soon!

  4. I’d be interested in more details about Rev. Holmes. I’ve never heard of anyone declaring themselves both Muslim and Christian, though I see in theory that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    1. I guess it depends on how one approach Jesus as a entity. If one consider him a prophet or in other ways enlightened, then he could be seen as a forerunner to Muhammad. But if one is all hung up on the “son of god” or holy trinity thinking then it becomes more troublesome.

      1. But if you consider him a forerunner and in other ways enlightened, you ARE seeing him as most Muslims do.

    2. See, that confuses the hell (wockawocka) out of me. By declaring yourself a Muslim, aren’t you declaring that you believe Mohamed to be the last Major Prophet… and to say that there  is anyone else with anything interesting or true and different  to say afterwards is to say that Mohammed doesn’t have the last word? I mean there are groups that consider themselves sorta Muslim, like the Draizes, right? But don’t most Muslims sort of consider them heretics?
      Now, I can see how you could be both a Christian and a follower of Santeria, as while the adherents of the former may not be accepting of such an idea (theologically speaking), those of Santeria would be. But to be a Christian ( at least a Christian in a Denomination that the Majority of actual Christians would agree is Christianity, even if they passionately disagree about the details) is to say that JHC had the final word, and to be a Muslim is to say that, “No! No he Diddddnn”ttt!”, because Mohammed did. 

      1. As I’ve understood it through my readings, Islam views itself as a complete and true revealing of God’s word and the nature of the relationship of God to humanity (and vice versa). Jesus figures prominently in the Quran, but the Islamic view seems to be that people twisted and distorted both Jesus’ teachings and the nature of who Jesus was. Because of that corruption, another, more direct revelation – in the form of the Quran – was required.

        Jesus, as a Jewish man, probably would not have conflated himself with God… at least, not directly. So goes the reasoning. The Gospel of John, frequently quoted to prove Jesus’ divinity, was written around 150-200 CE and is best understood as a response against some of the Gnostic gospels popular around that time. At that point, Christianity was already well down the path to becoming a Gentile religion.

        The early Christian groups, however, were Jewish. As such, the likelihood that they believed Jesus was actually _God_, rather than some sort of spiritual messiah, is minimal. They didn’t abandon their Jewishness, nor did they conceive of such notions as Incarnation or the Trinity. This sort of Christian understanding (found among the Ebionites, for example), would not be completely incompatible with Islam.

        That doesn’t make it less odd in Western culture to call oneself Christian and Islamic, though. Usually, if one religion supposedly supersedes the other, you align yourself with that “more complete” tradition. (You don’t find many people claiming to be both Jewish and Christian, after all… although there are _some_.) 

        Now… in China, it’s not uncommon to claim you are a Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian, all at once! But that’s a story for another time.

        1. Aye, but Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism grew out of very different cultures than the Western monotheistic tradition. While the religions that trace roots back to the Indus valley may have had some tangential effect on the early Mediterranean (and, by proxy, Persian) religious beliefs that eventually led to Zoroastrianism, they are generally much more concerned with ancestor worship/honor than prophecy. Of course, if you want to follow the real O.G., you could always pray to Anu ;-)

          1. True, but I was simply pointing out that in _some_ religious mindsets, it is entirely possible to align yourself with more than one tradition simultaneously. (Popular expression of religion in Japan and Nepal follow similar syncretic patterns, for example, but for different reasons.)

            That type of syncretism is not generally found in the Abrahamic religions (the claims of those who are Jews for Jesus notwithstanding). It is atypical — and, per the creeds of the Episcopalian tradition, heretical — to claim one is at once a Christian and a Muslim. 

            Now, _why_ those Eastern religions are more amenable to the idea of co-adherents is itself a different topic of discussion… which is the point I was making. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

          2. Not your fault; I didn’t make my point too clearly.

            I was just speculating that it could be easier for a religious person or group to say “we can worship/honor both these ancestors/gods and those ancestors/gods” than to say “this prophecy is right, but this other different prophecy is also right” – but I was only speculating.

    3. I’m an atheist so I have nothing at stake but generally, from what I know, Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God (or son of god, however you prefer), with an immaculate birth. Muslims definitely do not believe that at all. For them, Jesus was just another prophet, like Moses. Big difference. But then again, Holmes is of course free to call herself whatever she wants, even if it is illogical (but then again, so’s religion in general rather illogical).

  5. If you had a friend who tried to blow up a public event, would you still be friends and would you write to him or her in church? Irregardless of the flavor of religion involved, that was a bizarre picture.

    1. Take a look back at a previous story about exactly why he was writing to his ‘friend’, and all will be explained.

    2. The man was a disturbed individual who was pushed into his attempted act of terrorism by an undercover FBI agent attempting to meet the agency’s quota of foiled “terrorist plots.”

  6. I love America. Ann Holmes declares she’s both Christian and Muslim; gets booted from the Church. In several other predominantly Muslim countries, that’s called apostasy and is subject to much harsher punishment, like, uh, usually, they’ll kill ya: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostasy#Countries

  7. On a side not I started fasting too! Of course mine is a juice fast, a little more tasty version of fasting, but fasting none the less! What kind of fast are yall doing?

  8. I see it was removed, but thanks to the guy who hooked up the Juicer info. Of course, if it was on a diff thread, I really need to get my head examined!

    1. np, after I finished and posted and looked at it I thought “yup, thats getting deleted”
      Oh well, it served its purpose. I’m on day3 now and it’s looking good!

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