Muslims in America
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In Dearborn, during the holiday Eid al-Adha, which celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and the pilgrimage to Mecca, it was a challenge to find a sheep sacrifice to photograph. Fewer families still practice this tradition and they have to drive far to find farms belonging to Christians—who have hired a Muslim to perform the ritual slaughter. A third of the meat from the sacrifice is donated to the poor, another third to neighbors and friends, and the rest eaten as a holiday meal by the family.
After 9/11, tension could be felt in Dearborn at the Arab International Festival, where the FBI had a table to recruit locals. Nobody approached, except for a few who argued with the women posted there. At the Dix mosque, while I waited for permission to photograph Friday prayers, a man came out of the mosque and videotaped me, wouldn’t speak to me, then went back inside. At that time, many of the Iraqi Shiite expatriates and refugees who worshipped at Dearborn’s Karbala Mosque supported a possible war in Iraq, while many other Arabs in Dearborn were critical of it.
In Los Angeles, on the last Wednesday before No Ruz, the Persian New Year, I photographed celebrants jumping over fires, to bring good luck. Iranian officials have often tried to ban the practice in their country, considering it un-Islamic.
Many Iranian exiles living in Los Angeles call the city “Tehrangeles.” Most of them are secular, but deeply attached to their Iranian heritage. This crowd is renowned for its wealth and high-society lifestyle, more reminiscent of Shah-era northern Tehran than the southern Tehran of the Islamic revolution.
Although my grandfather came from Iran, I never knew this community when I lived just a few miles away in Malibu as a teenager in the 1970s. Looking out at that same ocean where I once swam often, I realized both the length and the circularity of my own journey.