Article Op-Ed

How the Mosque Failed my Friend Muhammad

How the Mosque Failed my Friend Muhammad

Author Anonymous by

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I grew up in the same community with my friend Muhammad.

I remember when we were in Sunday school together. The teacher would hit him with a ruler and yell at him in front of the entire class when he acted up.

I remember when we were in summer camp together. One night he confided in me that he wasn't sure if he really believed in God. Seven-year-old me didn't know what to say.

I remember playing basketball with him. After playing ball, we went to the mosque nearby wearing shorts that covered our knees, but we were yelled at and told to leave, that we shouldn't come to the mosque if we're not dressed appropriately.

I remember he was a part of a very active youth group. Then, due to issues with the mosque leadership, the community was split in two. The youth group was no more. Disillusioned with the Muslim community both at home and abroad (through the lens of an increasingly hostile media in a post-9/11 world), he started making friends at school and left his Muslim friends behind. I saw him start partying, drinking, smoking weed, and hooking up with girls.

I remember the one time we went to Friday Prayer together and the entire sermon was on plucking eyebrows in Islamic law and all the different rulings pertaining to it. In another one, the speaker was talking about the Illuminati, the Freemasons, and other conspiracy theories. In the second instance, the accent of the preacher was so heavy and unintelligible that (thankfully?) my friend fell asleep during the talk.

I remember years later working on a school project with him. I needed to pray, and I asked him to just come in the mosque with me before I dropped him off at home. I knew he hadn't been to the mosque in so long. He reluctantly came in and prayed with me. After the prayer, when I asked him to get his shoes and meet me outside, I remember how ten minutes went by without any sign of him. I went back in only to find someone, whom he had never met before, yelling at him for wearing a necklace.

I remember he later told me his mother wanted to go to the mosque for Friday Prayers, so I brought them to the mosque that I thought had the best sermon in town. After the sermon and prayers, his mother was disturbed that the women's side was small and very crowded; it was stuffy, and there was no air conditioning; the bathroom was filthy; and the speaker system went out during the prayer, leaving all the women in the middle of their bowing for over two minutes. She said she never wanted to go to that mosque again, and my friend was furious.

I remember a story he once told me. He met a non-Muslim girl in college who was studying architecture. He recommended her to visit a nicely designed mosque near campus. She went on her own and found the mosque to be very beautiful and peaceful. She went there a few times afterward to meditate and enjoy the quiet environment, until one day someone found her inside without a headscarf, and the person yelled at her and chased her out of the mosque. She came back and told him 'they' were right about the Muslims.

I remember when he got into an accident. The entire community prayed for his recovery, as the doctors said his chances of being able to walk again were very small. By the grace of God, my friend was able to walk again. But by now, it was already too late. He didn't praise God for his recovery. His close friends knew that he had left the faith, but he still identified as a Muslim in front of his family members and the community. I asked him why he no longer believes. He told me he thinks Islam is no different from all the other man-made religions and myths.

My friend Muhammad is not one person, he is many, and unfortunately, his stories are all true. I have witnessed them first-hand. They are not isolated incidents, and they somehow continue to happen. As someone who was born and raised here in Atlanta, it pains me that I'm aware of far more stories and issues than just these in our community, affecting more people than I can count.

The question I have for you is this: what are we going to do about it?

-- This article was written by a community member in the greater Atlanta area to highlight the importance of the upcoming Unmosqued event on April 26, 2014. Unmosqued is a documentary that showcases the struggles of many American Muslims who still want to believe and practice their faith but no longer visit any mosque on a regular basis, a seemingly growing trend. The film premier will be followed by an open dialogue and Q&A session with the producer, Atif Mahmud and our own Atlanta-resident Imam Muhammad Mendes to understand how we can get our community to #BeMosqued in a healthy and positive way, God willing.

For more information about the event, please visit our Facebook event page.

You can purchase tickets at Eventbrite.

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