Native Muslim Leaders Emerge

November 6, 2002

Source: Los Angeles Times,0,4407742.story

On November 6, 2002 the Los Angeles Times reported that "each evening for a month, a handful of teenage boys across Southern California will recite from memory a chapter of the Koran -- Islam's holy book -- to crowds gathered at mosques. Just one of these evening prayers can take up to 90 minutes. By the end of the 30 days of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began at sundown Tuesday, the boys will have chanted in ancient Arabic all 6,391 verses of the Koran. This doesn't just mark an impressive feat of mental agility, local Muslim leaders say. It also signals the emergence of the next generation of Islamic leadership in America: native-born Muslims who are devout enough to spend years committing the Koran to memory but who are also able to blend in easily with the local culture. There are no statistics on how many Muslim teenagers in the United States have memorized the Koran in recent years, an achievement Islamic experts say is accomplished by only about 1% of the followers of Islam. But local officials estimate about two dozen Southern California teenagers can recite the holy book by heart, making them eligible to say the extended prayers of Ramadan."