In every place I find myself, I have been blessed to have an accepting Muslim community around me ( Thrice Displaced). The problem is I don’t have much to be judged for. I am male, Arab, and well-achieving academically. I thank God for those things, but I sometimes desire to empathize with those born or made less fortunate. Their struggles are a large part of what defines them and makes them stronger. These struggles may, however, also alienate them.

In Fayetteville today, I did not want to judge the community by the fact that the only two mosques we found were closed nor by my impression that there was a general lack of Islamic unity in the city. So we went exploring the town. Since there was not much to find on a Columbus Day, we decided to explore the county library to find out more about the Muslim slave Omar ibn Said. After an hour or so we decided to pray on the grass beside the building. Finishing, an African American man standing on the steps leading into the building said “Assalamu Alaikum” (Peace be Upon You) to our group. Thrilled to find a fellow Muslim in the city, we approached him to try to learn about Islam in Fayetteville. Having moved to the city only in February, Kareem did not know much. He converted in prison in 2008. He clarified to us that he had been Muslim his whole life, but he made the “shahada” (testifying to belief in Allah and his messenger) in prison. After getting out Kareem tried to go back to his family home, but he and his mom “did not see eye to eye” and he was kicked out of his home. He became homeless.

Kareem lives on the streets of Fayetteville, and he has not found much help from the Muslim community. He tried to go to Jumu’ah (Friday prayer) a few times, but did not like some of the mosque’s actions. He once asked for some help in relation to his situation, but the mosque only gave him a box of food. “What am I going to do carrying around a box of food?” Kareem also noted that the mosque collected $3500 in donations for a simple $500 air conditioning renovation, yet they would not accommodate him in any way. I must admit, I understand the mosque’s position in not being able to help everyone. Kareem, however, told us he did not go to prayer for three weeks after that, and he felt more comfortable going to a church. He did not feel a sense of community and was alienated from it because of his background and current situation. Kareem was educated, discussing with me the difference between being Muslim and Mu’min (believer). His situation did not reflect on the persevering and sincere character of a man placed in terrible circumstances. We left Kareem on the library steps as we scratched the surface of his thoughts and feelings.

If his Muslim community isn’t going to accept him, who will?