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Serving as an imam in the U.S. comes with challenges and opportunities.
While in some majority-Muslim nations, a admiral dictates who serves a mosque, U.S. congregations generally accept their own leaders. Imams who accept emigrated from away ability acquisition altered traditions and rituals, as able-bodied as assorted nationalities in their mosques, abnormally in a sprawling, assorted burghal such as Houston.
It can be a lot to navigate, said bounded physician Danish Hasan, who serves on the council board for the afresh launched Houston Imams Association, forth with Salman Ghani and Arsalan Safiullah.
“Houston is big abundant and assorted enough,” he said. “We accept every ethnicity and bodies from every abode — Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Central Asia, as able-bodied as Latinos, African-American and white Muslims.”
An imam charge be able to represent, admonition and accommodate airy admonition for a array of populations. Hasan had been discussing how best to serve anybody in the burghal with accompany Shariq Ghani and Salman Ghani (no relation).
In his career in the medical field, Hasan begin abundant account from a cardinal of able associations. That’s the affectionate of accumulation he capital to body for imams, one that could action abutment and become an barter for best practices. At the aforementioned time, a able affiliation could affiliate the acceptance leaders to accord with important issues and to bear outreach.
“We were aloof blind out, and the abstraction popped up. There are added cities with this blazon of organization,” Hasan said. “We absitively it was article we bare here.”
Hasan was assured alone the imams themselves would apperceive what anatomy would best clothing them.
“If there’s addition able to get a beating for the community, it’s the imam,” he said. “They accept a ample appearance of what’s needed, what’s analytical and what should be addressed. The best affair that we could do is get anybody at the aforementioned table.”
Hasan and Shariq Ghani went to assignment agreeable imams for a aboriginal affair in October. At that time, the accumulation absitively to move advanced and clearly barrage as the Houston Imams Affiliation in February.
“Our antecedent abstraction was aloof to get everybody together,” Hasan said. “I anticipate it will booty on its own acceptation as added imams join.”
Already, added than 30 imams — of altered ages, nationalities and backgrounds — accept become a allotment of the association, analytical added networking models above the country. They are starting conversations and basic friendships.
Imam Ahmad Siddiqi at the Kingwood Islamic Center is one of the founding members. “We were missing this in Houston for a actual continued time,” he said.
He explained that accepting an affiliation can abbreviate the ambit amid mosques. As a adolescent imam, he is abnormally acquisitive to apprentice from Houston’s earlier leaders.
“It will accommodate a able belvedere for the affiliation as a whole,” he said. “It will account the Imams confined the community, adverse altered challenges.”
Imam Daniel Hernandez, from the Pearland Islamic Center, agreed.
“I accept that collaborative accomplishment is the way to move forward,” said Hernandez, who says the affiliation will admonition strengthen acceptance while architecture interfaith relations and borough engagement. “It’s all about award the acumen above our differences to move forward.”
Hernandez added that the affiliation will be invaluable in allowance imams feel beneath isolated, which generally happens as they focus on confined their congregations.
“A lot of times, clergy are out on their own,” he said. “They serve a big congregation, but who supports them? Sometimes, imams can become overwhelmed. This affiliation can admonition us aperture and altercate issues.”
It’s important to him that the affiliation is inclusive. “We’re aggravating to appear together. We accept differences, but we account that. We appear calm for a accepted cause, angle together,” he said. “Imams are about men, but we accept there is allowance for women as leaders.”
Safiya Ravat, changeable religious administrator at Maryam Islamic Center, is the founding affiliate of the women’s group. Growing up, she did not accept a lot of changeable role models.
“As Muslims, the majority of our religious leaders are male,” said Ravat, who is 29.
Ravat is now complex in teaching classes, alms airy admonition and developing amusing programming. “The imam and I assignment calm as a team, to booty affliction of the altered demographics in our mosque,” she said. “It’s aloof been an absurd ride. It’s acutely fulfilling.”
The Houston Muslim affiliation can re-establish ethics and accompany bodies aback to the mosque, Ravat said.
The alignment will additionally focus on advocacy, apprenticeship and able development.
Imam Nisar ul-Haq at ASIA Center, addition founding affiliate of the association, additionally serves as a assistant at the University of Houston, teaching allusive adoration courses. He is decidedly absorbed in means the affiliation can aid in the barter of ability as the accumulation grows.
“It will be benign for everybody,” he said. “Everybody’s acquaintance is different; everybody’s apprenticeship and accomplishments is different. That absolutely makes us all, back we appear calm at the end of the day, added abreast and added able to admonition our community.”
Ul-Haq hopes added imams will booty a bench at the table.
“This is aloof the beginning,” he said. “We imams should abstraction how avant-garde issues can be handled in a way that our adolescence and our abutting ancestors can accumulate and convenance our acceptance — and at the aforementioned time, be the best citizens in the U.S. as possible. This is a acceptable appointment for that. This is how we can all learn.”
Lindsay Peyton is a Houston-based freelance writer.
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