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.

Ramadan far less mysterious these days

A little secret shared by journalists who cover religion is that we don’t love holidays.

I don’t mean in our private lives, of course.

But when you write about religion, religious holidays present an ongoing challenge. You often feel that you have to write about them (or your editors want you to), but more often than not there is no news. No angle. Nothing to say.

So we write about, say, the overlooked history behind a holiday, some new trend for observing the holiday, whatever we can come up with.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has not presented such a problem.

In the years before 2001 — and certainly in the years immediately after 2001 — there was plenty to write about Islam in general and Ramadan in particular. People wanted to know how Muslims practice their faith in America, as well as what they think about life in America and what was happening around the world.

I’ve written numerous articles about Ramadan and the two main Muslim feast days.

Well, Ramadan started yesterday and I don’t have much to say. Non-Muslims who are interested in Islam have probably figured out the basics by now — that Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, that Muslims believe Ramadan is when God first revealed the Quran to the prophet Muhammad, that Muslims seek to do charity during Ramadan, etc.

If you do want to know more, check out the Ramadan Awareness Campaign website.

The bottom line, I guess, is that Ramadan, like Islam itself, is not so foreign anymore.

So Happy Ramadan.