TEXAS – For the members of Troop 647, the time-honored Girl Scout Promise is usually followed by another invocation in Arabic, it is Al-Fatihah, or the sacred first chapter of the Qur’an, Dallas News reported.
The scout troop is part of the growing number of mosque-based troops sprouting across the USA.
“Mosques are a good location for America’s Scouting tradition. Every city has a mosque, so it’s practical as this is where the community meets and feels comfortable,” expressed Sharmina Zaidi of Plano, leader of Troop 647’s nearly 100 Scouts including Daisies, Brownies, Cadettes and Seniors.
Although there are less than 500 girls in all-Muslim troops in Northeast Texas, many more are among the 25,000 Scouts in integrated troops throughout the region’s 32 counties.
“Many incorrectly believe scouting is based in Christianity. It’s actually a secular organization, which encourages the girls to take spiritual journeys through their own faith traditions, and as Muslims we feel very much at home,” she said.
Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of the Northeast Texas chapter, believes that “scouting offers girls a safe place to build their confidence, develop their sense of self and celebrate who they are. Within Girl Scouts, we offer a number of ways for girls to foster their faith in alignment with the Girl Scout Law.”
Last week, Zaidi’s troop visited one of the Dallas area’s oldest mosques, Islamic Association of North Texas in Richardson, to meet the non-Muslim visiting sister Troop 882 and earn a badge called ‘Finding Common Ground’.
Troop leader Kristen Holland Shear was delighted with the combined project.
“It’s about getting to know each other, to become friends and reduce barriers. Most of the girls have never been to a mosque, so I sent a message to their parents asking that girls don’t wear short skirts and are properly covered. We really wanted to be respectful to our sister troop,” Holland Shear said.
The Muslim girls and their parents in this troop agree that being a Girl Scout is compatible with their faith and makes them feel more American.
To underscore this, Zaidi points out that three survival skills of archery, horseback riding and swimming also happen to be core scouting activities and they were encouraged by the renowned prophetic companion sahabi, Omar ibn Al-Khattab.
Starting in 1907, the Scout movement was popular in the Arab world and out of the 40 million Scouts worldwide, 28 million are Muslim.