I am attending the ISMRM conference in Honolulu this week, which is why I’ve been understandably distracted these past few days
I was rather curious about the muslim presence here in paradise, and it turns out that Hawai’i has a very vibrant muslim community. In hindsight this should have been obvious, given that Hawai’i is culturally and georaphically as connected to Southeast Asia as it is to the mainland United States. Due to its crossroads status, there is a tremendous diversity here, even more so than muslim communities in large cities on the mainland, because of the infusion of culture from east as west. In fact, this diversity has actually been a source of conflict, a microcosm of the cultural and religious dfferences of the global Ummah itself. An intriguing article by Mona Darwich-Gatto (PDF*) for the ISIM discusses these conflicts in detail:
Hawaii’s Muslim community offers the perfect human lab to test the
belief that the Muslim community (ummah) must be united regardless
of individual ethnic background. Yet, based on the case of the single
mosque in Hawaii, Muslims appear to have been unable to build a local
umma within the larger Hawaiian social community. Many members
of Hawaii’s Muslim community identify multiple conflicting cultures in
the Islamic Center as one of the reasons they do not communicate effectively.
Language serves as the principle initial barrier, as many Hawaiian
Muslims choose to speak their native language, rather than the
common language of English. Secondly, some fear that by interchanging
cultural traditions and customs they risk jeopardizing their closely
held ethnic identity. While mosque members meet for social events
such as potlucks, the unspoken norm is to stick to one’s own ethnic
group; and there is generally a sense of individual members competing
to maintain their own ethnic roots by refusing, or lacking the will, to
learn the customs and traditions of others.
It’s quite an interesting read. In a sense, the community is a victim of its own success, which saw a huge jump in converts after 9-11, especially women and military personnel. There’s an active muslim association here, though their website seems to be broken. However, an interview with the president of the association shows Hawaiian muslims, like their mainland counterparts, to be normal and patriotic citizens. I suspect that the diversity of the community is a bulwark against extremism, in contrast to european communities.
*I have saved a copy of the article here since ISIM has lost its funding as of Jan 1st and it is uncertain whether their content will remain online indefinitely: conflict_Hawaii_muslims_ISIM.pdf
Unrelated – my photos at Flickr from this trip thus far. Enjoy the colors