"Equipment Malfunction" is not a very pleasing thing to hear when you are on a flight that is about to land. But that's what the ICNA Regional team heard when they were about to land in Seattle at almost midnight last month. The pilots needed the equipment to decide whether to land or not in poor weather conditions. Since the Rainy City had heavy fog, the flight was diverted to Portland, Oregon south of Seattle. The landing was tried once again with a different plane but since its equipment reported that it was dangerous, this flight also returned back to Portland. After a few hours at the airport, the passengers were put on the next flight to Seattle where the team was welcomed by a gentleman who had spent the night in his car happily waiting in the below freezing temperature.
The first program began almost an hour late at 11 am at the local Islamic Center called MAPS or Muslim Association of Puget Sound. Seattleites started trickling in until there was a sizable crowd of men and women who had braved the cold Saturday morning to attend the Dawah 101 workshop. After a lot of interactive sessions, group discussions, and mock dialogues it was time to present the WhyIslam Project. There was hardly a hand that wasn't raised when the Regional President asked who wanted to join this project. The presentation team included Amir Mertaban, President of MSA West, Shahid Ali, Coordinator of WhyIslam Southern California and his wife Alia Dada, program facilitator. The local project was presented by Dr. Muhammad Ayub, President ICNA Puget Sound Unit.
Leaving a few volunteers to do follow up, the team had to rush to another presentation at the Islamic Center in Bellevue. The entire workshop was repeated again to a well attended audience almost all of who signed up to be volunteers for the project. After the second workshop it was time again to rush to the first ICNA organizational meeting. Although it was only for members, many other people attended just because they wanted to get involved in the WhyIslam project. ICNA's objectives, history and activities were presented and the election process for a Unit President was explained by the Regional President.
Immediately after the elections there was another meeting with the ICNA Microsoft NeighborNet over delicious Arabic food in downtown Seattle. This group of young employees of Microsoft meets weekly. Several questions about ICNA and the study syllabus were discussed. It was finally time to head back to get a couple of hours sleep before the next workshop.
The next event was at the "Islamic House", a recently renovated spacious facility run by the MSA at the University of Washington, Seattle. With most of the attendees from the MSA, this was the most youthful crowd who again all volunteered to be part of WhyIslam at the end of the presentation. They were invited to the first WhyIslam meeting 2 days later. On the side lines of this presentation the Election results of the first ICNA Puget Sound Unit were announced after the Ameer's approval and the Presidents oath was taken. Secretaries for the Unit, treasury, WhyIslam and PR were appointed by the Unit President after consulting the Regional President. As soon as the program ended there were a few minutes for socializing after which the entire team headed back to the airport. Although over 150 people attended these workshops, several times more people became aware of the WhyIslam project due to the extensive publicity during the past eight weeks. Thus ended the whirlwind and successful visit, which will be a watershed in not only ICNA's but the local community's history.
Puget Sound is the name given to the populated area around the arm of the Pacific Ocean in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It was named by George Vancouver for Lieutenant Peter Puget, who explored it in 1792. It became U.S. territory in 1846. It includes the major cities of Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma. Home to several large companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks the area has been attracting people at a dizzying pace.
Islam in the Puget Sound
There are an estimated 40,000 Muslims in the Puget Sound region. There are seven mosques in the area with two more planned. Local Muslims have a show on cable access TV. They opened a Muslim slaughterhouse recently and formed a preschool. Several Muslim restaurants have opened in the area. Their numbers are growing quickly, fueled by high conversion rates, rising employment at the local large companies and immigration from India, Pakistan, Somalia, among others. Puget Sound area also became a prime destination for so-called "boat people" many of them Muslims, from Cambodia in the 1980s.