Local Media Cannot Keep Ignoring the Muslim Vote

February 11, 2007

Author: Syeda Abbas

Source: The Student Operated Press


The word was out in mosques, community parties and Islamic schools, Ramadan feasts all over Pittsburgh: get the vote out. Why would a normally sleepy Muslim community thrust itself into the forefront of the most crucial election in recent history? Would it matter? Apparently it did.

The Muslim community of Pittsburgh, estimated at about 10,000, worships in eight or nine mosques. The community is ethnically diverse. South Asians are the biggest group, followed by African- Americans, and then Arabs. The largest mosques are in Monroeville and in Oakland. The former is called MCCGP Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and the latter is named Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. South Asians and East Europeans frequent the Monroeville mosque. This part of the community is remarkably wealthy, its core support coming from professionals, particularly physicians employed by the mammoth University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the smaller Allegheny General health system. Lexuses, BMWs are parked in rows outside the Monroeville mosque that houses the Sunday school. Many children attend private schools, and dinner conversations frequently turn to investment options.

Arab families, African -Americans and students from neighboring colleges frequent the Oakland mosque. Oakland offers summer camps, Arabic lessons, free meals and group activities. Another mosque is planned in Warrendale on the north side, and there are smaller mosques all over the city. Zainabia, run by the Imamia Organization of Pittsburgh in Plum, is the only minority Shia mosque for miles and offers lectures commemorating the martyrdom of the seventh century Imam Hussain. These mosques have forged an Islamic Council of Greater Pittsburgh that calculates Eid days and meets when there are public relations crises, frequent occurrences in the Muslim world. This broad community fuses Islamic ideals with classic Americana: potluck fund-raiser dinners, mosque sleepovers, Arabic summer camps and lecture series mark its calendar. Women hold positions in mosque administration, and many activities are geared around families with children. Two years ago, a stand-up Muslim comic regaled the community with different accents heard in the mosque.