I have thought about him often since then. To an American like myself, his appearance in Chicago seemed somehow miraculous, representing as it does the continuation of a tradition that has been alive since the days of Muhammad.

But then, Islam's way of thriving in every region of the planet is itself a wonder. Historians have made much of medieval Islam as the first global trading culture. Just the other night, I came upon a website that, at the press of a few keys, delivered a full-screen live broadcast of the evening prayer at the Great Mosque in Mecca, complete with a crisp audio track of the Qu'ran as it was being recited in the oldest mosque on earth. These kinds of interconnections bespeak more than globalized trade and custom; they testify to the transportable nature of the human spirit.

I like to think the young reciter found a job, but I also hope in the process that he saw a good deal of this country: passing through St. Louis, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and coming to rest at last in some safe berth, but not before seeing for himself the extent to which his faith has taken root in a country that at first glance may seem unlikely soil--with its democratic process, with its absence of a king or dictator, and with a constitution that protects religion from the state--yet which, on closer inspection, may in fact prove a place where Islam has a real chance to flourish.

I hope he made it. I'm almost sure he did.


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