Muslim children are finding a cultural bridge with American kids by becoming Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Many Muslims find scouting has similar values to their faith. Amy Katz narrates this report.
The girls recite the Scout Oath: "I will try to serve God and my country, to help people all the time, and to live by the Girl Scout law."
Every Friday evening, Amina, her friend Thuraya, and several other girls gather in this classroom at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society or ADAMS in Sterling, Virginia. They belong to a Brownie troop, a Girl Scout group for six to eight year olds.
Amina says she likes being a Girl Scout. Another scout, Thuraya, says she knows why. "Because you help your community and you earn things. You have a fun time. You help your nation."
Sarah Hasan, an Indian descendant raised in Kuwait, is the leader of the Brownie troop. "We want to teach the basic values of the Girl Scout promise: kindness, helpfulness, being honest, integrity, and working together as a group."
Thuraya's father, Arash Hazer, from Iran, finds those characteristics are compatible with Islamic values. So he sends his two home-schooled daughters to the Girl Scout program. "They need to be involved in life here. So Girl Scout service to the country, service to the community certainly is a big value in our (Islamic) belief system."
The Boy Scouts of America says U.S. Muslim scout troops have been increasing in the past two decades. It reports 112 troops with almost 2,000 members chartered through Islamic schools or mosques.
Rizwan Jaka is the president of ADAMS and a Boy Scout leader. He says scout activities are also helpful to building bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims.
"After the tragedy of 9/11 it is important for Muslims to get to know other people and other people get to know Muslims. So we actually encourage our children and our scouts to get to know their fellow scouts."
For many Muslim children, living in the U.S. means constantly balancing between being an observant Muslim and an American kid.
Thuraya says she feels a little bit different from other American girls. "Because I don't do the things like they do. I don't wear things like they wear, like belly shirts. I cover myself completely. But I don't feel angry that I can't be like them. Everybody has their own way."
At the year-end graduation ceremony, Thuraya says she is proud of herself for earning more patches for what she has done. And she will remain in the Girl Scout program as long as she can ... having fun with friends, learning cultures, and helping communities.