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.

An honorary doctorate for Catholic blogger

I just came across a story about Rocco Palmo, the guy behind the incredibly popular all-things-Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia.

I had to mention that Rocco is in St. Louis today to receive an honorary doctorate from the Aquinas Institute of Theology. He’ll also be commencement speaker.

That’s quite a feat for a 27-year-old blogger/journalist who started Whispers in 2004 not expecting it to go anywhere.

It shows how influential Rocco has become — not only to the religion journalists who are fascinated by him but in the Catholic world that he writes about so well.

Rocco is a whole new breed in that he tries to be a honest, semi-traditional journalist while at the same time proudly displaying his Roman Catholicism and his love for the church.

As he tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tim Townsend: “I want the church to succeed. But I won’t say something brilliant happened when it hasn’t. I’m not a spokesperson for the church.”

Of course, some Catholics appreciate and value that perspective. Others feel that Rocco is insufficiently obedient.

He refers to his readers as his “Gang.” Here’s his post from Wednesday:

*****

Strange days, gang… strange, and then some. But all in good fun nonetheless.

Your narrator’s got some fish to fry on the road, and will plug away as time allows. In the meanwhile, though, your prayers, please; three weeks to LA — or, as some have already taken to calling it, “Dancing with the Cards”… and along the way, as ever, no shortage of horribly belated thank-yous and backlogged mail to dig out from under.

Whatta ride, gang. God love you lot forever — hope everything’s great on your end.

*****

If you read Whispers, you know that Rocco works out of his parents’ home and that he is always struggling to make a go of it financially. He doesn’t take advertising or subscriptions but counts on donations, many of which come from priests.

“The hardest part is trying to make a full-time living off it,” Rocco tells Townsend. “I have a girlfriend, and I’d like to give her a ring someday, but at this point, I’m waiting until I can clear out of my parents’ house.”

Here’s an interview with the young fella:

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