...I came out of the office to find a flyer under my windshield wipers inviting me to a special informational presentation on God and family values, and how to bring them back to the forefront in America.
I'm a parent so the flyer caught my interest...The session was being held at a nearby mosque.
I checked the mosque schedule on the Web, and discovered there was going to be an Arabic language session an hour before. So I showed up an hour early. The imam met me at the door, and told me that the presentation didn't start for an hour, and suggested I come back in an hour. Fortunately, I had anticipated this. I explained that since I had quite a bit of reading to do for a class I was taking. "Can I just sit here and read?"
He hesitated a moment, then agreed. I sat in the back of the room, with my book open, and made a mental note to remember to turn the pages every so often, as I listened to the speakers in Arabic.
At that point, another student took the podium. His name was Khaled, and he began to recount his recent trip to New York City. Khaled and three of his companions had gone to New York for several days in January. He told of how uncomfortable his trip up to NYC had been. He felt like he was being watched, and thought he was the victim of racial profiling.
Khaled and his friends were pretty unhappy about it, and while in New York, they came up with a plan to "teach a lesson" to the passengers and crew. You can imagine the story Khaled told. He described how he and his friends whispered to each other on the flight, made simultaneous visits to the restroom, and generally tried to "spook" the other passengers. He laughed when he described how several women were in tears, and one man sitting near him was praying.
The others in the room thought the story was quite amusing, judging from the laughter. The imam stood up and told the group that this was a kind of peaceful civil disobedience that should be encouraged, and commended Khaled and his friends for their efforts.
One of the other men, Ahmed from Kuwait, gave a brief account of his friend Eyad, who had finally gone to Iraq. Ahmed was in e-mail contact with Eyad, and hoped by the following week to be able to bring them more information about the state of the "mujahideen" in Iraq.
As the meeting drew to a close, the imam gave a brief speech calling for the protection of Allah on the mujahideen fighting for Islam throughout the world, and reminded everyone that it was their duty as Muslims to continue in the path of jihad, whether it was simple efforts like those of Khaled and his friends, or the actual physical fighting of men like Eyad.
As the meeting broke up, several women in hijabs came in the room, and two of them sat with me. They were very warm and friendly and welcoming, and appeared to be clearly thrilled that I was there. They asked me questions about who I was, and why I was interested in the session.
By the time the session began, there were half a dozen American women, four of them African-American. Where the previous session had definite anti-American tones, this session was all American and Apple Pie. The earlier session had been in Arabic – this one was in English.
The woman leading the session, Nafisa, told of the concerns she had regarding her daughters in the public-school system. She complained about the influence of the MTV culture, and seemed concerned about the rampant sexuality that pervaded all facets of American life, from television to movies and on into the school system.
She explained her personal solution – the local Islamic school, beginning with kindergarten...
She then began to discuss Islam, focusing on the commonalities it has with Christianity. The sales pitch had clearly begun. While in the previous section, the men had quoted over and over again sura from the Quran calling for violent jihad, the women's session focused on the "gentler" side of Islam.
The same imam who demanded that the men continue in the path of jihad did a complete 180-degree turn in this session, stressing instead the suras that promoted the "brotherhood" between Muslims, Christians and Jews. "After all, we worship the same God, and follow the teachings in the books he gave each of us. We are all the same, we are all People of the Book," he stressed.
It shows clearly that as much as we'd like to pretend it hasn't, jihad has reached Small-Town, USA. This mosque isn't in Washington, D.C., or New York City. This is a small mosque in a small town in the deep South.
And if it's in this tiny little quiet southern town, it's probably in your hometown, too.