30 Mosques, 30 days, 12,000 miles

A colleague of mine here at LoHud/Journal News, Aman Ali, is becoming something of a star outside the newsroom.

He and a friend, both 20-something Muslims, are driving to 30 mosques in 30 different states during the month of Ramadan.

They’re blogging about it.

And they’re getting a lot of media attention, especially from CNN.

CNN did a nice report at the start of the trip. When Aman (that’s him) and his buddy, Bassam Tariq, got to Georgia, a CNN reporter and cameraman joined the roadtrip for a few days.

Their lengthy report, by Wayne Drash, is up on CNN.com. It’s quite good and you should check it out.

Aman, only 25 and already a good reporter, is a real interesting guy. He’s a stand-up comedian and seems to know everything about pop culture and what’s in the news.

He was born in Columbus, Ohio, and would break just about every Muslim stereotype.

He’s a funny dude.

Of course, this is quite a time to be making his trip — when the whole country is squabbling over the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero and a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment is coming to the surface.

After a cold reception from a mosque in Mobile, Ala., Aman says: “I feel Muslims in this country are making a lot of progress. And things like that, as we make 10 steps forward, that just knocks us back 20 steps.”

Today is day 18 of their trip. Yesterday, they were in Santa Ana, Calif. I’m not sure where they are today. Yet.

By the way, they expect to travel about 12,000 miles by the end of Ramadan.

Reporting on (your own) religion

Until not long ago, journalists kept their views — and their personal lives — to themselves.

Today, of course, the blogosphere has helped form a whole new kind of journalist — people who report the news and comment on the news and mix in their own life stories.

In the world of religion journalism, Rod Dreher is one such person.

2861604522_9fb1426db8_o.jpgHe writes the Crunchy Con blog for Beliefnet and is an editorial writer and blogger for the Dallas Morning News.

He used to write quite a bit about being a (rather orthodox) Roman Catholic. Then, after he covered the sex-abuse crisis, he wrote about leaving Rome to become an Orthodox Christian.

Andrea Useem, who writes the ReligionWriter.com blog, recently interviewed Dreher about what it’s like to be a journalist who pours it out in first person.

Here’s one snippet:

Andrea Useem: “Orthodoxy and Me,” your 5,700-word posting on how and why you converted from Catholicism to Eastern Orthodoxy, has been your most highly trafficked and most-commented-on post to date. Why did you decide to make that personal choice public on your blog almost two years ago now?

Rod Dreher: I felt that I owed it to my readers. I converted to Catholicism back in 1993, and since then I had made my Catholicism a central part of my journalism. When the sex-abuse scandal broke in 2002, I took a role front-and-center writing about it, advocating for reform and castigating the bishops. That role as a Catholic reformer came to define who I was for a lot of my readers. So when I lost my Catholic faith, and ended up moving to Eastern Orthodoxy, I felt I had a professional obligation to my readers to explain why. But I also wanted it to be a confession and a warning to others. I had been very prideful about my Catholic faith and had really thought that, as a Catholic, I was on the intellectual A-Team of Christianity in America. I depended on intellectuality, if that’s a word, to sustain me. Well, I was wrong about that. And I wanted to own up in public to my own responsibility for what happened to me, and not just blame the bishops and the bad priests. There were things that I did or failed to do that resulted in me losing my Catholic faith. If I had been a different kind of Catholic, I might have been able to withstand the time of testing and done what I believe is my duty as a journalist and as a Christian to defend the defenseless and speak out against injustice without blowing up my own faith.