Where White Manhattanites Become Mystical Muslims
On the tony Upper West Side, a congregation of mostly white New Yorkers find their spiritual calling in a branch of Islam that couldn’t be further from the violent extremism that dominates our newscasts.
Photos by Sarah Mortimer
I’m in a ground-floor apartment with about twenty other people on a Thursday night. The room’s decor is, for the most part, unremarkable, though there is a machine connected to the faucet announcing in the world’s most annoying voice the PH level of each glass of water a person pours. There’s also a small laminated sign in the bathroom documenting how to perform hand washing — or wudu — before prayer — salat. Having attempted the task, the collar of my shirt is wet and my feet are squelchy in their thick wool socks. There is a dog bed on the floor, quite atypical for an Islamic house of worship — the vast majority of Muslims view dogs as unclean. Several people have sworn to me that the dog bed is “the comfiest seat in the house.” I’m not sure why I’m here. I expected to be hidden near the margins of any action, taking notes about ritual and being ignored. Instead, I’m taking part in my first religious service in years.
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