50 MOSQUE MAN FALL TOUR 2015: 2. Kansas City Muslims 10/8-10/10
I'll be making 50 presentations of my historic journey beginning in the US this fall. Read about my visit with the Kansas Muslim Community, the second stop on the 50 Mosque Man Tour - 50MM. During my trip, I engaged the media, made a Friday sermon, hung out with the youth, went on a scavenger hunt and gained pearls of wisdom from pioneers in the region. I'll be posting after every visit. Many thanks to my national & international sponsors: Penwak, Guidance Residential, Greed for Ilm and Ilm Feed. Equal thanks to all of the local sponsors who helped bring this presentation to KC. Follow me on all social media platforms: TheMuaddhin and check out all of the pics from my visit on my official facebook page and website: www.jameelsyed.com #50MosqueMan
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE MUSLIM AT KU
MAN MAKING JOURNEY TO SEE EVERY MOSQUE IN THE U.S. MAKES STOP IN LAWRENCE
The first two stops on my 50 mosque man tour were hand-picked because of some of the greatest personalities that I came across during my trek across the states. One of these tremendous giants of the community is Brett Cooper, a 22-year-old revert to Islam, tradition student of knowledge, President of the Muslim Student Association at Kansas University. Brett, produced a vision so deep in its philosophy, that most seasoned key opinion leaders would not be able to execute.
He understood that I have two major tasks ahead of me. First to be able to disseminate and educate knowledge about the 50 communities which I represent, The last sermon of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, insight into my historical journey to all of the different markets within the area. My second task would be to capture the essence of the local community and to share that with the readers, The media and bloggers around the world. What a visit this was! This was a very special place for me. In reference to my historic trip across the states, there was so much that transpired. From meeting the two masters of the Qur’an to consoling a father who lost his son to a hate crime and having that represented in NBC news, this was a place that I was really looking forward to coming back to.
Brett used my appearance to not only expose me to all of the various communities that reside within Kansas City, But he used the event to bring all of those communities together as one.
There wasn't a dull moment from the time I got off of the airplane. Throughout the course of three days, he laid down several mini events saturating the schedule and putting us in a position to achieve maximum benefit. I literally only had time to come back to my hotel to rest, change my clothes and prepare my main presentation. We visited schools, community leadership, student associations, local landmarks and top spots to eat.
One thing was for sure, I was going to walk away understanding exactly what the Muslims in Kansas City were all about and Brett would be my guide throughout all of these excursions.
MEET & GREETS | MINI EVENTS
KC Burger - Muslim owned, one of KC’s most famous urban joints! I was famished after a long trip from Detroit. Arriving on the scene, I was greeted by a group of vibrant kids representing to different factions of the community. University students and LYC/Somali American Youth. I recommend the “Smoke Burger” Check it out on my Instagram. Thanks to some of the sisters, I posted my first snapchat as well.
UMKC MSA Scavenger Hunt - a group of students gathered in the middle of an enclave on campus and before you knew it, they took off in several directions. President Ahmed had them running all over and every which way direction. Campus students having fun. I was assigned to a team, but instead wanted to take the opportunity to stay with the president so I could capture the picture of all teams making their way. The winning team finally bought with them a bunch of letters which yielded the winning name: Al-Alim! Pizza and prayer followed. Typically, Thursday night is college night on campuses, So Muslim Students Associations across the United States have their hands full trying to create meaningful and fun-filled social activities as an alternative to the bar scene, dance clubs and such.
Breakfast with community leaders - originally I had scheduled for time with full time Islamic school students both Friday morning, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, current events across the nation and then in Kansas City as well forced the hands of the community leaders to err on the side of precaution due to a group of potential protesters that would show up to local mosques bearing arms. Luckily, it did not happen during my visit, but they took precautionary measures anyway.
As an alternative, we took the opportunity to have breakfast at IHOP - International House of pancakes and bring several people from the school and representatives from other organizations to learn more about the community. Sr. Mervat, known better as the “Mother” of the Kansas City community was a great source for information. She talked about how the roots of this community were built by a group of women who raised the initial $60,000 necessary to create the foundation of what would be a very vibrant and growing Muslim population in the area. Br. Ejaz, a very sincere man who dedicates his time to the school extended every courtesy and was instrumental in making this breakfast meeting happen. I signed autograph cards while trying to field questions and taking whatever breakfast in that I could. It's the elders that we always learn from. Truly, the time was too short, but we took whatever we could.
Interview with Lara Korte/The University Daily Kansas - I connected with the Lara a few days before I came down to Kansas city. She posted two articles that ran in her paper. The first was a piece about being Muslim on campus and the second one was centered around my visit as the 50 mosque man to the city of Lawrence. We met at the mosque before Friday prayers before I was to deliver the sermon. It was refreshing to sit down and just talk as one human being to another. She expressed that she was raised as a Catholic and I had shared with her how some of my major influencers in life happen to be from the Catholic religion. What we shared was a common interest to see that our community at large in America truly a adopt the concept of building bridges and celebrating the commonalities that we have amongst us. Here are the links to her two articles.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO BE MUSLIM AT KU
MAN MAKING JOURNEY TO SEE EVERY MOSQUE IN THE U.S. MAKES STOP IN LAWRENCE
Friday sermon at Lawrence - Most everyone knows that I do not miss any opportunity to present the final sermon of the Prophet ﷺ. This time I also emphasized that we as travelers who are simply passing through need to take full advantage of every opportunity to make this world a better place. This applies to students that are visiting the University for a finite period of time and generally as human beings that live in this world. The mosque was packed with the people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Lara, the university's local reporter would be there listening to the sermon and taking pictures to include in her article. After prayer, the leadership of the mosque invited me to come down to the basement and enjoy lunch with them. We were very pressed for time as I had a follow-up presentation at the University directly afterwards.
Presentation at Kansas University - The event was publicized in the campus newspaper before hand. This presentation would be a streamlined review of the main walk-through of the 50 states that I would be making Saturday night. An intimate gathering with state-of-the-art technology at my disposal for speaking purposes boasted an environment that was both educational and delightful for engaging the audience. With Muslims and non-Muslims both present, It made for a very fruitful dialogue. I couldn't resist taking a picture with the Jayhawk and making a reference to the basketball game between them and my University of Michigan Wolverines in 2013, where we made our championship run. Trey Burke was legendary!
Presentation at Masjid As-Salam - the highlight of the evening was a talk that I gave to the LYC youth group in Masjid-As-Salam in Missouri. The community had recently acquired a new building and renovated it. It looked absolutely awesome. It reminded me of my childhood. Lincoln logs come to life! Since the crowd was a bit more traditional, I focused on the importance of staying true to the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Making sure that they were not closing themselves towards interaction with the outside community. To emphasize the importance of going out there and engaging people. That the mode of operation cannot be talking about your religion and your values, but rather showing it through actions of good deeds. The elders, the youth and the scholars of the community were very hospitable, down to earth and inviting. Although I was dead tired by the end of the day, I made it a point to hang around after my talk. The environment was that pleasant! Amer Gohar of Guidance Residential, one of my national sponsors had an opportunity to present what his company does for families looking for Halal options to buy homes and put themselves through University.
Interview at Mun Pasand with Inas Younis - originally I was supposed to be at a Saturday school in the morning and a community event in the afternoon, But due to the precautionary measures that were taken to avoid any type of catastrophe regarding the national rallies that were taken place, we were presented with a unique opportunity to have breakfast at the establishment of my sponsors. Inas Younis, a woman in the community that blogs for several platforms had reached out to Brett to see about an interview. We had an opportunity to meet her over breakfast and talk about my historic trip, the 50 Mosque Man tour and current events surrounding the Muslim American community. She's a wonderful asset to her people!
The Michigan game & Presentation Prep - Multitasking seem to be the forte. There was only two hours that I had at my disposal before I had to take off for the main event. During this time, I signed autographs and watched my Wolverines pitch a third shutout for the football season. I made a few adjustments to my slideshow and before you know it, it was time to go. Watching my football team take command the way that they did drove my adrenaline levels through the roof, which I used to bring excitement into my presentation.
Main Presentation on Campus - We had the venue from 5 PM to 9 PM and we used every single minute of it. Two large screens, a podium and a state-of-the-art sound system that held a capacity for 250 people. The most exciting part of the aura was watching the diversity being represented by so many members of the different Kansas city Muslim communities. They all came out to represent and to learn about this historical venture. It was humbling to be presented by awards, listen to master reciter’s of the Qur’an and socialize with so many bright personalities. I used the opportunity to push the idea that people have to engage members of the other communities so that they may learn about one another. I appreciate both the commonalities and the differences, be it Muslim communities or non-Muslim communities. The packed hall showcased moments of silence and tears, while at other times laughter and curiosity. It was a professional presentation, but one that allowed both myself and the audience to connect on an informal level. To me it felt like family!
The Cheesecake Factory - After the main presentation Saturday night, a group of us went out to the Cheesecake Factory at a very famous place called "the Plaza”. The interesting thing about some of the buildings there, are that their architecture is based upon Andalusian style. The Kansas City Royals are in the playoffs and you could feel the energy amongst the local crowd. We even took the picture of a Fountain that they lit up to be Royal blue.
The community of Kansas City is very rich and diverse. There are those that would be classified as the pioneers of the community. A very active Somali American community youth driven. Constant growth and development with the advent of the new ICJC masjid under construction and mix of blue collar and white collar community members. The city has a lot to offer and there are many flavors to where the Muslim American identity that the Kansas City community boasts.
Enter snapchat - the sisters of the UMKC Muslim Students Association initiated my first chat. That's definitely a milestone in my social media history. Check it out: @TheMuaddhin. Unfortunately I haven't added anything since then.
All I want is your friendship - The president of the Lawrence community invited me for lunch directly after I delivered the Friday sermon. He really insisted upon me eating, but I had to rush for my next event. He grabbed me, hugged me and said to me: “ After listening to the words that you delivered in the sermon, all I want from you is your friendship" it was probably the most profound statement and best compliment that I have received in quite some time.
The Mark of a Muaddhin - Brett took me on an impromptu visit to go visit the ICJC masjid. I went in there and read Surah Ar-Rahman and then went into the empty structure of the new construction that would be the future home of the community. I couldn't resist, as I have done so many times before, to make the first call to prayer on site. May the masjid and everything that my voice touched, bear witness on a day when I will need a witness.
The older people don’t let me make the Adhan - during my main presentation we took a break to make the Maghrib prayer. Everyone had already emptied the auditorium except for just a few people. A small little boy by the name of Anees approached me and he said that he wanted to ask me a question. He asked me what he should do in a situation where he wants to make the call to prayer, but gets shut down by all of his elders when he moves to do so. There is nothing that upsets me more then situations like this. When we returned from prayer and I was sure that everyone had filled the auditorium, I stopped my presentation dead in its tracks and asked this boy to raise his voice loud make me the Adhan for all to hear. Then I proceeded to address the adults in the audience deviating from my script to state the importance of giving young people the opportunity and support that they need in order to carry Islam forward. Anees had reminded me that above and beyond being a public figure or speaker, I am first and foremost a Muaddhin.
Two styles of melodic ecstasy - Sheikh Nasir (Egyptian) from ICJC opened with the recitation of the the greatest story every told (Surah Yusuf), per my request and Sheikh Ahmed (Yemeni) from ISGK concluded with beautiful recitation. It's not often that the speaker has an opportunity to sit back, relax and take the benefit from others. I was very fortunate to be in the crowd to sample both of these great people and they're beautiful voices.
My time with Brett - “The Ambassador of the Kansas City Muslim Community”. I was very encouraged to be in the company of this young man. So sincere, organized and ready to serve. Brett had put himself in a position of advantage and that is to serve all of the Muslim communities in the greater Kansas City area. He was the one that set up this entire trip, drove me around, raised the funds, marketed to all of the different communities and brought everyone together. While we drove and when he took me back to my room he would not waste the opportunity to pick my brain and retrieve whatever advice I was able to impart on to him. At such a young age, he is a visionary and a true asset for all that would see him as such. His manners and optimism is what attracted me to the community in the first place and his personality is the last impression which I walked away with as well.
One voice rises above them all - One of my trivia questions was centered around a verse from a very famous poem (Qasidah Al-burdah) that was written on the lock on a door of Fatima (R) in Masjid An-Nabawi in Madinah-Thul-Munawara. When I asked the audience what was written on the lock, Sheikh Nasir raised his voice with a very bright smile and sang the verse out loud for everyone to hear. I knew then that he and I would get along swimmingly!
A proud mother - I was introduced to the parents of Brett Cooper. As I praised the young man for what he had done, he began to tear as did both his maternal mother and the mother of the community - Sister Mervat. How lucky both of them must be to claim ownership over young men and women that spend their time doing good by serving others and bringing people together.
Touched by Tunis - After I made the presentation on Friday at the University. I had the opportunity to meet a young professional who worked at the University of Kansas, who was very happy to have attended the lecture. When I inquired as to who he was and how he found the presentation to be, he stated that he is the coordinator for an organization called “The Global Awareness Program” on campus. He related to me that he spent some time in Tunis and that he got used to hearing the call to prayer on a regular basis. He said that when he left the country, that he was missing something. He said that it had become a part of his life and this presentation was rejuvenating.
From God we come and to God we return - while I was having breakfast with some of the community key opinion leaders Friday morning, I received a text from my wife that one of her friends that she studied with in Syria had just lost her husband who was in critical condition due to a hit-and-run incident involving a drunk driver. I stopped addressing the elders of the community about my trip/venture and switched the topic towards this subject. It puts things in perspective that all the work that we are doing and as busy as we are planning and executing, All things come to a finality and ultimately what good we do here will be the only thing that we will be able to take with us and will count after all is said and done.
You can learn more about my tour and view all of the awesome footage online at: www.jameelsyed.com
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