Thursday, September 09, 2010

Local newspapers report on Muslim communities

Muslims across rural America are navigating the waters of a tide of issues: where to build a mosque, how to observe Muslim holidays, reaction to burning the Qur'an. These are topics new to some rural places, and local media have an important role to play in helping readers understand Islam and its adherents. A variety of approaches are being taken to cover Muslims in local communities:

The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., pop. 28,327, explains the holy month of Ramadan to its readers by visiting the mosque in Salisbury and speaking with Dawood Ahmad, president of the Islamic Society of Delmarva (the peninsula with parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia). The period from Aug. 11 to today is observed by prayer and daytime fasting. Ahmad, the local imam, explained the prayers to the Daily Times: "You remember God. You bless God. You say, 'God is good.' You ask for forgiveness. You praise God."

In Evansville, Ind., the Courier & Press interviewed soldiers who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan about the minister in Florida who planned to burn the Qur'an. "This spawns more terrorists because it creates more fodder to feed recruits," Ernie Griffin, who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a member of the Indiana National Guard, told the newspaper. "It creates a backlash you can't really measure. I personally agree with Gen. (David) Petraeus that it puts Americans at risk overseas."

The evening meals of Ramadan were a topic for the Columbia, Mo., Daily Tribune. The international mix of people at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri reflects the diverse community surrounding the University of Missouri. Roxana Rahman Nizam told the newspaper. The story also includes recipes and a description of the celebration with food after the fasting time ends.

In Garden City, Kan., the local meatpacking plant has attracted an immigrant community, including many Muslims. The Garden City Telegram reports area cemeteries have a shortage of space that can accommodate Muslim burial practices. "This is very important to us. As long as we work here and we live here, we need a place to bury our people," Abdulkadir Mohamed, who has been a Garden City resident for nearly six years, told the Telegram.

The Silver City Sun-News in New Mexico advanced a local church's interdenominational service held to counter the planned Qur'an burning. "It's like that saying, 'It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness,'" Rev. Dr. Wallace Ryan Kuroiwa, interim pastor of Valley Community Church, told the paper. "In the big picture, this service might not make that big of a difference. But if enough people in enough places light enough candles, it won't be as dark."

The Bowling Green Daily News in Kentucky reported on how area teens are observing Ramadan. “Muslim kids start to observe the Muslim tradition of Ramadan around 11 or 12, and I have been observing since,” high school soccer player Emina Husic told the paper. She plays soccer during Ramadan and gets very thirsty during practice: "Sometimes I want to quit, but when I think of the reason I am not eating or drinking, I don’t want to quit anymore."

Several media outlets took the same approach as the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, by getting local reaction to a variety of issues from area Muslims. Mohamed Salih, who lives in Cheyenne, told the paper that buring the Qur'an was highly offensive to Muslims everywhere, but that freedom of religion was one of America's "most beautiful" values.  In Wilmington, N.C., Muslims told the Morning Star that they are celebrating the end of Ramadan, not the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "We’re American citizens," Musa Agil, who is chairman of the board of the Islamic Center of Wilmington, said. "We’re very patriotic. Nineteen deranged people are not typical of the vast majority of Muslims."

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