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Monday, May 30, 2016

DePauw sees "30 Mosques" in one visit

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Banner Graphic/MICHAEL LOGLI Aman Ali describes his visit to the mosque in Mobile, Ala., where Ali, Bassam Tariq and several CNN reporters were kicked out. Ali and Tariq said the trip has been a very rewarding experience spiritually and socially. [Order this photo]
GREENCASTLE -- In 2009, New York residents Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq came up with what some would consider an insane notion. During the season of Ramadan, the Islamic holiday where followers fast for 30 days from sunrise to sunset, the two men would pray at a different mosque for each day. They were encouraged to blog about it, and the two became a viral sensation.

In 2010, they decided to make it into a road trip.

Ali and Tariq visited DePauw University's Watson Forum in the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media Tuesday afternoon to talk about their 13,000-mile road trip across the country to 30 different mosques during the 30 days of Ramadan. Their trip received coverage from CNN, ABC, NBC and other media companies, and their blog chronicled their adventure from coast to coast, beginning at the "Ground Zero" mosque in New York and ending in Dearborn, Mich.

Ali and Tariq joked about their journey together while driving an Enterprise rental car across the nation. Though the two said they were not doing the trip with any particular purpose behind it, the stories they collected on their journey show a much different side of Islam and the people who follow it.

"We weren't really out to fight stereotypes," Ali said. "This wasn't a response to anything. We're trying to tell stories about Muslims everywhere."

Ali, who also performs as a stand-up comic, delivered a lot of the comedy and humorous quips of the trip while Tariq, who said he became the de facto photographer, told his story as the straight man, with photos and videos of the people the two encountered.

The two visited mosques in Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and many other locations and always stayed with friends, families or at the mosque itself, preferring to keep a close family-style connection with those of Muslim faith wherever they went.

Their trip almost never became a reality -- their sponsor backed out of its financial commitment two weeks before Ramadan. Fans helped the duo raise the $6,000 they needed to make the trip. The exciting trip was not devoid of drama. The two met a "stalker" in Las Vegas, a record label president in Jacksonville, Somali Muslims in Santa Ana, Calif. and many other interesting people.

Some of the issues the duo covered were very difficult for those of Islamic faith to touch on. Muslims are prohibited from doing a few things, with the most well known being avoiding pork, but they are also not allowed to gamble, and one man the two talked to who has worked at a casino for over 20 years to support his family.

"We wanted to talk about Muslims in casinos," Ali said of the man who worked at the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas. "This is a touchy subject."

Aman and Tariq are in the middle of a speaking tour about their experience. Their plans for this coming year's Ramadan remain unknown, but they will continue speaking tours at different states and locations until April 8.

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