By Bassam Tariq

This past November, Mohamed Osman Mohamud planned to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. His plans were foiled by the FBI who had set him up in the first place. The thwarted bomb plot made headlines across the country declaring Mohamed a terrorist, a young radical. He was a student at Oregon State University and frequented the local mosque in Corvallis. There, Mohamed was known as MoMo, and he made many friends that challenged his sometimes extreme opinions, but still loved him for who he was.

Though his Muslim friends knew about Mohamad’s unorthodox views, they didn’t have the slightest clue on all the scheming that he was doing in the background. The last they heard of him was when he moved out of his dorm and into a new apartment.

The story of MoMo has disappeared from the headlines and is out of the sight of the American public. But the remnants of his poor decisions and betrayal of trust still linger on with his friends and the community that he has left behind in Corvallis, Oregon.

MoMo is not allowed visitation rights yet. The only way anyone communicates with him is through his defense lawyer. We asked some of his close friends from the Corvallis Islamic Center to share what they would say to MoMo if they finally had the opportunity.

Raait writes his note to MoMo sitting in Le Cafe D’el Jebal . A lady friend sits off to the side and asks what he is writing. He tells her it’s a note to MoMo. Her eyes widen. “MoMo? You mean the ..” she spreads her hand dramatizing a big explosion, “that one?”

“Yeah,” Raait responds, “that one.”

Abe (name changed) was the most frustrated by MoMo’s actions. He knew about his crazy views and would argue with him day and night. but he never thought that he would go as far he did. “We all know that one crazy guy in the mosque, but we don’t think he’d ever do anything.” Abe was the most hesitant in sharing his words to MoMo. He instead decided to write something a little more indirect.

Ismail Warsame is a Somali American like MoMo. After the bomb plot was thwarted, many people in Corvallis thought Ismail was the attacker. He was also put in a unique position being one of the few Somali in Corvallis, he ended up becoming an ambassador and PR head for the makeshift Somali community.

Ali Godil has known MoMo since high school in Portland. It was during MoMo’s first year at Oregon State University that he began slipping away.

Parkdale. A last minute change in plans to make an iftar, any iftar on time within quick biking distance meant the storefront masjid in Parkdale was my best option. All day, I had intended to bike over to the masjid on Rhodes Avenue south of Gerrard Indian Bazaar in the east end. That’s now on the to-Iftar list.

Parkdale is one of my childhood neighbourhoods. It’s always been a crazy mix of wealthy homeowners, outpatients from the Queen Street Mental Health Centre (literally on the other side of the tracks), small business people trying all sorts of things to make a buck, and a weigh station for immigrants before they migrated to other neighbourhoods. Some decide Parkdale is good enough and they never leave. More recently, hipsters, and the cool factor have somehow invaded and become part of the mix.

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By Bassam Tariq

By Aman Ali

I spent well over an hour talking to Rev. Ann Holmes Redding about how she was kicked out of the Episcopalian church for believing in both Christianity and Islam. After an enlightening chat where we even sang a few Islamic and Christian songs together, I saved the most burning question I had for last.

“Be honest,” I said. “Did you decide to be Christian too so you can get around that whole ‘Muslim No-Pork’ thing?”

Yes, Ann Holmes Redding is an Episcopal priest and a devout Muslim. She prays five times a day and is fasting during Ramadan. On Sundays, she attends church and takes communion.

I’m sure everyone wants to know how on earth does her belief system work. When it comes to Jesus, Christians believe in the trinity and Muslim’s don’t. It’s one of the fundamental differences between Muslims and Christians so how does she reconcile that?

She gets that question A LOT and I didn’t want to do the same kind of interview just about every reporter does with her. But you can read about her specific views here. I wasn’t interested in debating her let alone do I ever feel like that’s what my role should be. Instead of me asking her what she believes, I was more interested in why she believes in it. What is the spiritual journey she’s taken on to get to this point and how have people responded to her?

Ann is just as interesting on the outside as she is on the inside. She tucks her shiny silver dreadlocks underneath her black headwrap. Underneath her matching dress is a necklace holding Christian and Muslim pendants. She laughs in a set of short spurts to shrug off any tough question thrown at her. I sat next to her in St. Andrew’s Church in Seattle, talking about her life and even sharing a few songs together.

Ann was raised Episcopalian in Pennsylvania. She grew up in a fairly liberal town where she regularly met people of different faiths. She explored other religions at a young age and said there were times in her childhood where considered being Jewish, Greek Orthodox and even Quaker.

“I remember I’d tell my mother I found this really great new religion and she would sigh and say ‘Wait a month,’” she said with a bursted chuckle. “She got the clue there was something up with me and religion because I just seemed to be wired this way. I was always fascinated with God and liked anything that made me feel in touch with mystery.”

It was a natural journey, she said, for her to become a priest in the Episcopalian church. Islam didn’t play a major role in her life until 9/11. She was active in Seattle’s interfaith community and following the terrorist attacks, she started organizing Islam 101 classes to her congregation.

For the next few years, the classes became a regular thing at the church. Then in early 2006, she was thrust into a journey that would change her life forever. It began with her mother dying and a few weeks later she was sitting with a local Muslim leader who taught her a Sufi Islamic song. She said it wasn’t necessarily the song that did it for her, but she soon realized Islam was something that she was longing for.

“I knew that I needed to surrender before God,” she said. “The word Islam means surrender. I knew I had to become someone who is defined by surrender and whose posture in the world is surrender.”

She embraced Islam on March 25, 2006. Shortly after, she attended an interfaith event when she told someone what she had done.

“I saw this Muslim woman in one of those meetings and I said “I’m an Episcopal priest and I’m now a Muslim.” She remarkably enough told me “I didn’t have to choose.”

Word got around fast in the Seattle community that Ann was both a practicing Christian and Muslim, much to the dismay to the senior leaders of the clergy. In 2009, the church decided to “defrock” her, which formally removed her rights to be an ordained minister.

“It was heartbreaking,” she said as she paused between enduring several tears. “It still is.”

She said she became a priest because she felt God was calling her to do so. Now, all of a sudden, that role was taken away from her. I asked her if that ever made her question her calling in the first place.

“When I was ordained, I came from a parish at the time that was opposed to the ordination of women,” she said. “So I had dealt with opposition before. In a way I felt having come from that part of the church, that was one of the ways that got me prepared for what happened when I was defrocked.”

Many people in the church gave a sentimental scrap book she saved to this day. She says the gift is heartfelt, but given the circumstances she was given it, sometimes turning through the pages is difficult.

Today, she delivers guest sermons and lectures around the country. Ann spends most of her time these days talking about herself and what she believes. Since faith is extremely private in nature and focuses on a personal relationship with God, I asked her how she deals with being so public with her beliefs. Does she struggle with being humble when it seems like all she does for a living is talk about herself?

“I have no choice but to stay really close to my prayer rug,” she said. “My prayer is that I be of use. I want to be of use, as arrogant as it sounds, but I wanted to be of use to God. I figure if I keep my intentions straight and pray a lot, that’s all I can do. I don’t go out seeking this publicity.”

Since she’s both Christian and Muslim, I asked Ann which one she sees herself more as. There has to be moments where she feels like her beliefs clash with one another, right?

“It seems to me as I get older, my understanding of that unity (between Islam and Christianity) gets deeper,” she said. “The unity for God is the basis of unity of everything. If there is only one God, we are all so intimately connected with that God, no matter how human history, culture, politics and entertainment will portray that otherwise.”

Ann and I ended our conversation with one another by singing a few Christian and Muslim songs together. If anyone has seen me do karaoke knows I make Rebecca Black look like Aretha Franklin. But there was something about being in Ann’s presence that gave me no hesitation to sing along with her. Our brains might think differently when it comes to worshiping God, but for that short moment, we were on the same page sharing a moment singing God’s praise.

Jami Mosque. This Islamic Centre of Toronto.

The Mother Mosque (Ommul-Masajid) in the Greater Toronto Area. Located at 56 Boustead Avenue between Roncesvalles Village and High Park in Toronto’s west end.

Throughout the 70s, 80s, and even for a time into the 90s, this was the first and largest masjid Muslims would encounter when visiting or living in Toronto.

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By Bassam Tariq

Beyonce plays in our car as we make our way out of Denali National Park. Aman is driving and controlling the playlist. “We ain’t got nothing but love. Darling you got enough for the both of us.”

Note: This post was written prior to the start of Ramadan

There is silence in our car as we look for a place to enjoy one of our last meals before Ramadan begins. Signal on my phone is fading in and out.

A guitar solo comes in.

“Sounds like the 80’s.” I say to Aman.

Aman stays quiet and concentrates on the narrow, winding roads. We may not be in the Chevy Cobalt this time, but even an SUV has to tread carefully through the winding roads of Alaska.

Another song from Beyonce plays. This one again is about love. “The best thing I had. You are the best thing I’ve ever had.”

Different beat, same schtick.

The music doesn’t fit the scenery. In my mind, it would be a melancholic indie track without any vocals. Or something pretentious and Icelandic. But instead, while we pass by the beautiful transcendent landscapes of Alaska we drown in a middle school dance playlist.

I would change the track, but Aman and I have a strict policy: whoever drives, controls the radio. Aman must feel the same pain in his ears when I am driving. He is just better at keeping the rants to himself more than I am.

We are different. From the way we drive a car to the comedy we find funny, there is nothing similar. Every TV and radio interviewer notices it within the first two minutes of talking to us. They ask us how it works and we just shrug it off by making a joke or two.

Aman reminds me of the Muslim Student’s Association I had in college. His interests mirror those in my MSA – from music to movies to sports. And the MSA for me was a safe haven from the rest of my college experience. It was our self-righteous playground, a home away from home. But it was a place that I never really felt like I had a deep connection with anyone. Other than praying with people and working to put on events, our friendships had limits because of our different interests. After moving to New York and meeting people that fall into a similar mold as me, Aman reminds me of the college days and all the anxieties with not fitting in.

Before the trip began, Aman and I sat together in a coffee shop and I asked him why he wanted to do this trip.

He spoke about it here in his last post, but when he asked me why I was doing it – I stumbled and talked about taking great photos of different communities and changed the subject. It didn’t really hit me until I reached Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage that I have no idea why I am here. The gimmick of visiting 30 Mosques in 30 days in 30 States was fun last year, but something tells me we need to dig deeper.

Anchorage has only 3,000 Muslims and the majority of them are from abroad. They have been painstakingly working for the past six years to build a real mosque for the community but have had no luck. Most of the congregants are cab drivers, plumbers and teachers. So it becomes very difficult for them to raise the needed funds.

“We feel a little homeless.” Said one of the brothers I met when I probed him on why they actually needed a mosque. The two rooms they occupied right now seemed more than plenty for the community. But the ability to claim a space and call it their own gives a small and disenfranchised population the respect and dignity they are yearning for.

The night before, I was hanging out with a local Pakistani guy about my age. He was anxiety-ridden and didn’t really enjoy being in Anchorage. He had been here for 12 years. He graduated from high school here and also went to college in the neighborhood. A part of him wanted to leave Anchorage but there were too many responsibilities that he had to look after. While we drove across town he told me about finding love in this small town and how it was difficult for his parents to accept it.

He stops in the middle of his thought and asks me, “How do you do it? Why do you believe?”

I paused, not sure what to say. I understand where his question comes from, we both met each other at the mosque only a couple of hours ago. He doesn’t owe me anything about his life. As far as we both know about each other – we are Muslim enough that we identify with a community and show some semblance of worship in the public. That pretense is enough to halt a deep conversation about love and emotions associated with breakup.

It’s hard not to see mosque as theater. There are costumes, grand performances, and a role that everyone seems to play. Not to say that the experience isn’t authentic, but it would be tragic to undermine the entire Muslim experience in Alaska or in any State just by basing it on the mosque in town. So when meeting someone there, there is a quiet handshake that assumes that the context of our friendship begins and ends with Islam. Which can be quite dangerous in a small community where it’s easy to feel left out when there are very few people that look or believe in something similar to you.

I now sit in a supermarket in Wasilla, Alaska. I am barefoot and my pants are rolled up. We went fishing in Talkeetna and caught nothing. There is a blog post that I need to put up, so I begin writing and uploading video like a mad man. A group of boys sit around the corner from me and stare. In any given space in Alaska, I will probably be the darkest person there. It was obvious that I wasn’t a local from Wasilla.

It took only a minute or two to strike up a conversation with the guys. They were all close to 18 years old and fit the classic mold of small town misfits. One guy named Lance, a lanky, long haired boy with strands of blue in his hair, began to speak to me about a social networking site called MyYearbook.

“It’s kind of like facebook, but a better way to meet random people.”

He was posting photos of himself shirtless with his hair covering his eyes.

“You can be anyone on the internet, eh?” I joke with him.

Lance smiles and goes back to playing an online role playing game.

Sitting next to him were these identical twins. They began asking me about my thoughts on French cinema and music. They shared Youtube videos of what they considered to be the next Jim Morrison and started to speak to me about artificial intelligence. The curly haired twins were named Arthur and Oliver.

Oliver is an artist. He pulls out his portfolio and begins to go from picture to picture to explain the mathematical reasoning behind them. His rant goes over my head, but I continue nodding.

“You guys are just too excited about meeting this guy.” A lady friend of the twins says. She has four piercings in her nose and two in her eyes.

They ignore her and continue talking.

Oliver is working to implant metal into his nails so that he can better understand his brainwaves.

“Are you kidding?” I ask.

“No, I am a Transhumanist. We are a group of people working to become better than human.”

Oliver continued on the ideas of Transhumanism and how it can save lives and help us reach our true potential. His brother stood around, quiet and collected.

“Arthur, what about you?” I ask, “Are you a Transhumanist?”

“Yeah, there are some cool parts of it, but I kind of have bigger things to worry about.”

I look over at the pockets of his skinny jeans and notice a large knife sticking out.

“I have to be careful walking the streets of Wasilla, not many people get me here. I was just chased by skinheads yesterday.”

Arthur is a crossdresser. He jokes that I caught him on an off day.

“So you’re the only cross-dresser in Wasilla?”
“Well, there is another guy, but he is usually too doped up on crack for people to take him seriously.”

Everyone at the table laughs.

All the kids go to a special education High School in Wasilla. Lance brags that no one there can tell him what to do.

“This town is so f**king white.” He snarks playing his online game.

I ask Oliver and Arthur if they go to the same school as everyone else.

“We kind of went from being home-schooled to un-schooled.” Oliver says.

“We’ve had to teach ourselves everything we know about this stuff. Our parents don’t like it, but they don’t have much say in our lives.”

I look at the clock and see that it is time for me to get out of here, I begin to head out and the kids follow behind me.

“Where do you all live?”

“In a tent.”


“Yeah, in a tent in our sister’s yard with our mom and dad.” Arthur says, “we got kicked out of our house last Christmas and have been homeless since.”

The twins walk me to my car.

“Have you all ever thought of leaving Alaska? Maybe Portland or Seattle would be more accepting of your ideas?”

The twins shrug.

“This is home.”

I drive out in the car and see the small group of misfits sitting around the on-clearance plastic patio chairs. They kick the chairs and laugh at bad math jokes.

By Bassam Tariq

By Aman Ali

David Abuobaid is an active leader in Anchorage’s Muslim community. He said that Alaska is the most accepting state in this country of Muslims.

“People are independent thinkers here,” he said in between some bites of food he took to break his fast. “The same feel for this place is like the pioneering spirit of the 1800s, everybody comes here with a story. There’s no tribal mentality here because everyone can appreciate where you’re coming from.”

No Mosque?

My journey to Anchorage began in early July. I attended the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention in Chicago, where I met Lamin Jobarteh, another stalwart of the community. I told him about the 30 Mosques roadtrip and stayed in touch with him since then to facilitate the visit. He told me there’s not a single mosque in the entire state and I was eager to learn what life is like without one.

Lamin has lived in Anchorage for about 17 years. He runs a halal meat shop in the city and described what life was like back then as he prepares a gyro sandwich for a customer.

“In the Muslim community, you could count each other,” he said . “There had to be less than 100 people.”

Now the community is rapidly growing. New opportunities in fishing and the oil industries have rapidly grown the Muslim community in recent years from 100 to around 3,000 today. The community rents out a storefront for prayer space as they try to build a mosque. It’s been a struggle though.Why? The desire is there but apparently there aren’t many wealthy Muslim doctors/lawyers/engineers (basically the major three stereotypes for most Muslim) to finance the project, Lamin said. I had to do a double take when he told me that, not many Muslim doctors, lawyers and engineers?

Can’t Fight the Moonlight

Lamin hails from the African nation of Gambia. Beneath his mustache is his subtle smile that oozes comfort when you’re in his presence.

I picked his brain with more questions I was dying to find the answers to. Muslims determine their prayer and fasting schedules based on the positions of the sun and moon. Since it seems like the sun is shining constantly during the summertime in Alaska, how on Earth do they figure out how to fast?

The answer isn’t so simple because there are two answers to this that are both right. During Ramadan, there are some Muslims in this community that fast according to Alaska’s local time, meaning a fast from sunrise to sunset could be anywhere from 19-22 hours. But most Muslims here follow Saudi Arabia’s schedule, which has prayer and fast times that are reasonably spaced apart like the rest of the U.S. I was curious to see what it was like to do a 20-21 hour fast so I decided to pray and fast according to local time. So as everyone was breaking their fast at the mosque Monday at around 7 p.m., I sat in the corner staring at the clock knowing I had at least 4-5 hours to go before it was time for me to do the same.

But going without food is no big deal for me. What was tougher was how alone I felt in such a welcoming gathering. Not only could I not enjoy the food prepared by the people here, I sat in the back of the room as everyone prayed shortly after because technically it wasn’t time locally for me.

I kicked back with a man named Reggie, an African American man who embraced Islam recently while stationed at a military base here.

Last year was his first time fasting and decided to follow local time.”It was brutal,” he said as he shook his head with a chuckle.

I told Reggie going the extra hours without food wasn’t the tough part for me. It was sitting there and not being able to pray alongside my fellow brothers and sisters. I felt like a little kid at a birthday party that was sitting at the table by himself while everyone else was having a blast beating up a pinata.

“Man, I feel you,” he said. “Last year I had to do the same thing. I’d sit back and just wait as I watched everyone eat their food and pray. I ended up just going home each time to do my prayers. It just didn’t feel like I was getting the whole Ramadan experience.”

Lamin said the whole local vs. Saudi time could have potentially been a divisive issue in the community but he and several other leaders were careful not to let that be the case.

“We are not stopping anybody that comes to the mosque to do (prayer),” he said. “The door is always open, no matter what time you want to do the prayer or the fast.”

I don’t want to dwell on this whole prayer/fasting time thing too much, but it is something that I haven’t really seen before in any community. It gets better though. To determine the beginning and end of Ramadan, it is required to spot the moon, whether it be spotted in the local community or on a broader geographical area done by ISNA or Saudi Arabia. What’s interesting to me is the people who pray and fast according to local time, have no problem determining the start/end of Ramadan by having ISNA or Saudi Arabia spot the moon.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Lamin is one of the major leaders in this community and what’s fascinating to me is his sense of level headedness. He’s got so much on his plate but no matter what kind of challenge is thrown at him, there’s a sense of “It’s ok, I’ve got this.” that even shines in his smile. It’s not cockiness, but rather a sense of preparedness he has that makes him ready to tackle any challenge. He left a cushy finance job at Wells Fargo to open the halal meat shop. It’s a pretty big risk in this economic climate especially since he’s married with children so I asked him what that decision was like for him.

“People would tell me ‘Brother Lamin, you can’t leave banking for this,’” he said. “But I have a professional background and I’ve mentally prepared myself for this. It comes from being raised with family discipline. Obviously in life you face challenges and obstacles, but you always have motivation to succeed.

The Muslim community now is trying to build the first mosque in all of Alaska. That’s hard for me to grasp and I keep repeating it because I live in New York City, where we have over 150 mosques within a 10-15 mile radius.

But what Alaska has that I don’t think any community I’ve met are visionaries like David, Lamin and a countless list of other people I’ve met. You can have all the money you want to build mosques, but it’s visionaries like them that bring will bring that building to life.

I got to spend a lot of time driving through Alaska’s breathtaking backdrop of mountains, pristine waters and free-roaming wildlife. Seeing all these sights is second nature for me to drop my mouth wide open and utter words praising God for what he’s created here.

But those words of praise didn’t tremble with meaning in my heart until I was spending my last few moments with the people here.

This is 3047 Dundas Street West as it is today, the first of Ramadan 1432 also the first day of August 2011.

This is also the little known historic location of Toronto’s first masjid, The Dundas Street Mosque. Most recently it was a picture frame shop, however this afternoon it was found worse for wear having been closed for some time.

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Sunday was not the first day of fasting in Ramadan. However, Sunday at sunset is when Ramadan began. Uniquely then, tonight was prayers without an Iftar ( break fast ) meal.

I decided to pray Maghrib, the after sunset prayer, at my neighbourhood masjid, the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre International. It’s only one very short subway stop away, but I always either bike or walk over. Tonight I biked over and made it in time. They had just started.

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By Bassam Tariq

Our feet spend more time on the floor mats of our cars than it does on the States we visit.

This year we will be celebrating the view from the windshield as we criss cross through America.

Here is a small collection of what I’ve been seeing the last two days.

Ramadan begins at sunset the night before the first day of fasting.

This year, according to, the first day of fasting would most likely be Monday August 1, 2011, making it easy as the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan would correspond to the month of August. Consequently, Ramadan itself began at sunset on Sunday evening, July 31, 2011.

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By Bassam Tariq

Aman sporting his athleticism (or lack therof)


AsalamAlayKum, Peace and e-Greetings be upon you.

My name is HiMY SYeD. I live in downtown Toronto. Two years ago I was inspired by Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq‘s Ramadan journey around New York City.

Each day in Ramadan in 2009, Aman and Bassam visited a different New York City area Muslim place of prayer and opened their fast. They blogged their adventures.

This year, the brothers are for the second time, visiting 30 States in 30 Days!

In Toronto, I’m less ambitious…at least this year 😉

InshAllah, God-Alone-Willing, I’ll blog about opening my fast at 30 different Masjids in the Greater Toronto Area.

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By Aman and Bassam

Dear friends,

We are excited to announce the 30 Mosques, 30 Days speaking tour! Starting next week, Aman and I will be visiting universities, community centers, book shops, conferences, etc. all across the country sharing stories from our Ramadan adventure. There are tons of anecdotes, videos, and pictures that just didn’t fit in our blog, but have found a happy home in the presentation we’ve put together. We’re highlighting our favorite moments on the road, sharing stories from more communities that you might might not have heard of, sharing videos of people singing/laughing/yelling, and much more!

So if you are interested in having us speak in your neck of the woods, please drop a line at Also, check out our Speaking Series tab at the top of the website for our scheduled dates. Contact us as soon as you can, the dates of availability are limited.