STERLING, Virginia – Interweaving the teachings of Islam and everyday scouting activities, US Muslim children are increasingly joining Boy Scouts of America, seeing it a golden opportunity to practice their basic religious beliefs while following the scout law.
"The Islamic ideals and the scouting ideals are the same. They're compatible," Abdul Rashid Abdullah, scoutmaster of Troop 786, told CNN.
"I can easily talk about the scout law and talk about Qur’anic verses that co-relate to those scout laws, so it makes it really easy."
Joining scout troops since childhood, Abdullah, who was raised as a Roman Catholic, was introduced to the ethics of scouts including serving God and the country.
He reverted to Islam while attending University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.
"I met a lot of students from Malaysia and they gave me the opportunity to ask questions,” said Abdullah, who now serves as a regional chair of the National Islamic Council on Scouting.
“When I asked the questions I was like, 'That's spot on to what my beliefs already are.' So I just embraced it," he said.
Now, Abdullah seizes the opportunity to interweave the fundamental beliefs of Islam with everyday scouting activities.
"I often tell parents, 'You're going to take your kids to Sunday school or whatever to learn the Qur'an and to learn Islam," said Abdullah.
"'When I take them out camping, we're going to put that into practice."
Almost all big Islamic centers or mosques in the United States organize scouting troops for their local communities.
In All Dulles Area Muslim Society Scout (ADAMS), one of the largest American Muslim organizations in US, there are more than 200 scouts; boys and girls.
According to the Boy Scouts of America, Muslim scout troops have been increasing over the past two years.
It says about 2,000 scouts are enrolled in some 112 troops through Islamic schools and mosques.
For Muslim girl scouts, their exact number is unknown especially that many of them join predominantly non-Muslim troops.
The unwritten connection between scouting and faith is also acknowledged by scout experts.
"The Boy Scouts of America believes in a higher being. We're not sectarian, we do not identify one higher being over the next," said Brian Kale, a veteran of Boy Scouts of America and serves as the Goosecreek District Roundtable Commissioner.
“However for a boy to earn Eagle Scout he has to have a reverence toward a higher purpose and a higher being.”
Either a Muslim, a Christian or a Jewish, a boy scout sees a seamless interweaving of possessing a higher faith and meeting the requirements to become an Eagle Scout.
"The fact that their faith may be different than the boy next to them is immaterial. It's about learning proper skills, character development and a good moral compass."
Kale emphasized one of the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law that reflects a spirit of tolerance and spirituality.
"A Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion," the law reads.
Aspiring to get Eagle Scout badge, Mohammad Adarf Ullah, 17, of Herndon, Virginia, has been observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan since he was a young boy.
Learning patience and reverence, Ullah believes it would help him to meet the requirements for his Eagle Scout badge, which he's set to earn in the coming months.
"Patience is one of the biggest things I've learned" said Ullah, who participated in the annual Iftar hosted by ADAMS program last Saturday night."It reminds me how great God is, and you really have to be grateful to him for everything he gave you."
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