A 13,000-mile road trip visiting mosques across the U.S. didn’t tire Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq.
The two Muslims delivered an energetic and candid presentation of their journey Tuesday in Watson Forum. During last year’s Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, the two men ended their daily fast at a mosque in a different state.
Junior Muska Fahim, president of the Muslim Student Association, helped organize Tuesday’s event along with the International Student Association, The Compton Center for Peace and Justice, the Brown Cultural Resource Center and the conflict studies department.
“I hope we understand a different view of Islam through their experience,” Fahim said as she introduced Ali and Tariq.
Junior Kiran Wadia, secretary of MSA, said she felt the effect of the men’s story, just as Fahim hoped attendees would.
“The presentation was really informative, the speakers were funny and they made it fun,” Wadia said. “It exceeded my expectations.”
After visiting 30 mosques in New York during Ramadan 2009, Ali and Tariq decided to pursue a second tour. During Ramadan 2010, they visited 30 mosques in 30 different states.
The goal the project was to share Ramadan with a different Muslim community every day and to tell stories about Muslims through their online blog, 30mosques.com.
Ali and Tariq reached out to family, friends and complete strangers through social media. They announced their 2010 plans on Twitter and raised $6,000 through Facebook toward their trip.
“It’s other people who made this project as big and beautiful as it is,” Ali said.
The men began their month-long journey at the site controversial “Ground Zero mosque” in New York City and spent the rest of their trip staying with Muslim community members in diverse places such as Jacksonville, Fla., Mobile, Ala., and Las Vegas.
The trip became meaningful for Tariq when the pair arrived in Ross, N.D.
“When we finally got to a community that nobody really knew, I think it was sort of the point I felt like we were on to something, like this was more important than two dudes on a road trip,” Tariq said.
While on the road, Ali and Tariq followed a fast-paced schedule. They awoke before sunrise to drive to their next destination, usually four to six hours away. At each visit, they spent a lot of time talking to other Muslims and blogging about their experiences.
Upon completing the 30-day road trip, Ali and Tariq decided to share their story by visiting college campuses, including Harvard University, Duke University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Given that they are in their 20s, they believe that they can relate to college students.
“We want to just continue the dialogue,” Ali said. “Even though this happened at Ramadan, we don’t really feel this is a novel holiday kind of thing. This is something that’s really meant throughout the year.”
Ali said that speaking at colleges has helped him navigate his feelings about the trip.
“The physical road trip is over, but the mental and spiritual one has just begun for me as I’m getting time to reflect,” he said.
But the end of the physical road trip is only temporary. Ali and Tariq are already planning their next ambitious journey — 30 mosques in 30 countries.