GETTYSBURG – Interweaving their Islamic faith and scout principals, a growing number of American Muslim boys are joining Scout troops which they see as the best response to growing Islamophobia in the US.
“Muslim Boy Scouts are not common, it’s true,” concedes Abdul Rashid Abdullah, who is in charge of the troop of 35 Scouts, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Sunday, January 17.
“But there are more and more of us. We get lots of support from the Boy Scouts.
“The only difference is how we pray,” the 43-year-old American, who reverted to Islam in 1990, added.
Boy Scout Troop 114 is one of the troops which include Muslim scouts.
The troop was on their way to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, site of the US Civil War’s most famous battle.
“Listen up during the trip! This is a rewarding trip – if you pay attention, it will help you get the merit badge,” booms one of the Scout leaders.
“We are going to Gettysburg!” says one of the 20 teenagers excitedly. “Alhamdulillah!” he cries, Arabic for praise God.
Like all scouts, the members of troop 114 – created in Fairfax, Virginia in 2012 – pledge: “On my honor, I will do my best.”
But these scouts also hope they can “serve the Muslim community and help the kids become better citizens,” says Abdullah.
The Saturday outing to Gettysburg aims to drive home to the scouts the turning point in the American Civil War.
And the goal is not just to underscore the importance of American history – but to hammer home that American history is also their history.
“It’s important to transmit the American values, the values Lincoln fought for,” says Rashid.
“They have to learn the history of this land. You have to get them concerned by American history,” chimes in Jamal Amro, the owner of the bus and a Palestinian who emigrated to the US in 1977.
For members of Troop 114, becoming scouts is a loud declaration of their feelings as true Americans.
Troop 114 had the chance to attend the second inauguration of Barack Obama in 2013, and the Scouts hope to be present again in 2017 when the new president is inaugurated – even if it is Trump.
But Rashid cannot disguise his anger at the provocative billionaire real estate tycoon, who leads in the polls among likely Republican voters.
“Those boys are born here, they are American. They can’t take it away from us. The one who is anti-American is the one who says such things,” he says, referring to Trump’s ban call.
Izzuddin, his 17-year-old son, will vote for the first time this year after turning 18.
“Trump scares a lot of people. But also, he motivates people – you have to do something about it,” he says, defiantly.
Chalinine, an Algerian woman who has lived in the US since 1994, volunteered to accompany the group.
She enrolled her two children, a son and a daughter, in Scout troops “because they do a lot of volunteering.”
“It’s the same values as Islam,” she says.
“I hope my children will feel more American than I do,” she whispers.