30Mosques.com | Day 18: MAS Youth Center

By Aman and Bassam

I was tired and slept my way to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Thankfully the train ride took 70 minutes so I was fresh by the time I got off the train.

There was a certain calmness in the air, something you just don’t get in Manhattan.


There are many mosques in Bay Ridge and it was tough to choose which one to visit. Somehow or another, we decided on the Muslim American Society (MAS) Youth Center.



All I heard as I entered the center was great recitation over the PA system. The sound system of the masjid worked perfectly for the space, but everything else seemed to be under construction. There were no signs to guide me to the men’s area, so I decided to follow my ears. Common sense told me – the louder the recitation gets the closer I am.


I took the stairs down to the basement and greeted a small group of elderly women. I smiled and continued walking. One of them gasped. I looked back and saw her shaking her head. A group of younger girls also saw me and started giggling. That’s when I realized I stepped into sister land. I smiled again and awkwardly walked back up the stairs.

A little boy was sitting outside of an office, and told me to take the elevator to the third floor. There was so much construction happening all around the mosque, the stairs weren’t functioning. One could imagine, what a logistical nightmare it must be if the stairs aren’t cleared for the Friday prayers.

The inside of the elevator reminded me of BioShock.


The prayer area was very large, but – like the rest of the masjid – was still in development.

There were mismatched lines of tape that marked the placement of feet.


The front of the musala was plastered with MAS banners. The top one gave Ramadan greetings, the banner below stated the mission of MAS. The imam ended with a group dua in Arabic. Bay Ridge is known to be a predominantly Arab community. But today at the mosque, we noticed a very large Desi population. It seemed like the Desi’s felt comfortable. I overheard them sharing thoughts on Musharraf and Nawaz Shareef in Punjabi.


Most of the volunteers were young kids, about 12 to 16. They placed cups with dates in them on this random counter inside the musala. I wondered, why would they need a counter in the prayer area?



After we broke our fast and prayed Maghrib, Aman came up to me and said. “Dude, this used to be a banquet hall.”

And that’s when it all started to make sense. Why else would there be random mirrors on the wall? The chandelier? And, of course, the obtrusive counter.

The whole center was in the process of being converted into a full fledged mosque.


We had dinner in the prayer area. They served us rice, meat, beans and a salad in a nice box. The meal was very tasty, or as Aman would say “money!”


We chatted with the director of the mosque, Hesham, as we ate up. I asked him how long this masjid has been around. Turns out the center has been in development since 2002! I was a little hurt to hear that. I thought to myself, thing long and still not done with renovations?

After we finished our dinner, we took the elevator down to the main floor, passed through a couple of more construction areas, and we…err I made a slight detour into another sister’s area. In the lobby of the mosque, Aman stopped and pointed out the photos on the wall. The bulletin board showcased photos from the youth activities that took place in the center. The one photo that struck us the most was this little Muslim girl in a karate suit kicking butt. Finally, we thought, girls being allowed to participate in such activities. What’s more beautiful than a hijabi Chuck Norris?

I looked closely at the photo and noticed construction still taking place in the background. That’s when it hit me – the masjid was going through a massive renovation, but that didn’t stop them from continuing to put on great iftaars, informative classes and, most importantly, youth activities. Amazingly, they aren’t letting the construction get in their way.

Come to think of it, the American Muslim community is still a work in progress. It’ll take us a while to get the wudu areas right, to develop gender parity and create stronger ties with the larger community. But until we get there, please pardon our dust.

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