Over the course of 30 days, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq traveled 13,000 miles, visited 30 states, and prayed at 30 mosques—all the while fasting from sunrise to sunset and maintaining a blog about their experiences.
In a talk hosted yesterday by the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program at Harvard, the pair discussed their month-long roadtrip across the nation to explore the cultural and spiritual lives of Muslims in light of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.
Ali, a writer and stand-up comedian, and Tariq, a filmmaker and advertising copywriter, said that they conceived of the idea for the project after visiting 30 mosques in New York City for Ramadan last year.
With the financial help and encouragement from fans on Twitter and Facebook, the duo decided to expand their travels from New York City to the entire nation to learn more about contemporary Muslim experience in the United States.
The pair’s journey began on Aug. 11 in New York City—where they prayed at the controversial Park 51 mosque—and ended on Sept. 11 in Dearborn, Mich., home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of Muslims.
Throughout their travels, Ali and Tariq stayed and broke fast with Muslim families at each location. Tariq said that the pair did not want to stay in hotels, given the importance of sharing the experience of breaking fast with others.
Ali said that they found the United States to be generally accepting of Muslims: “To experience it at just about every stop along the way was truly amazing,” he added.
The project serves to humanize mosques during a time when these places of worship are growing increasingly controversial, particularly with the development of the Park 51 mosque, according to Ali S. Asani ‘77, professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic religion and cultures.
Mosques are places of social gathering that represent real communities of people, said Asani, who moderated the discussion.
Members of the audience said that they appreciated the new insights gained from Ali and Tariq’s experiences.
“I think America is one of the most culturally and religiously diverse places in the world,” said Rayhnuma Ahmed ’14, who attended the discussion. “Their experiences definitely show that.”
“There are many different ways of celebrating Ramadan that I didn’t know about coming from a very conservative background,” said attendee Asmaa Rimawi ’14.