While Islam is a major world religion, in Macon, home to more than 200 Christian churches, Muslims remain a tiny minority.
Muslims are currently in the midst of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, a month of fasting and introspection for the community.
In such an overwhelmingly Christian city such as Macon, not much is known of Islam.
Macon hairstylist Jessica Hutcheson said of Islam, “I’ve heard bits and pieces but honestly a lot of it is from the media so I don’t know what to believe and what not to believe.”
Just north of downtown there is one, of only two, mosques in Macon. Housed in a red-brick neo-classical building, it doesn’t look like a traditional mosque. It was built in 1902 as the Vineville Baptist Church and was purchased by the Islamic Center of Macon in 2009.
Eight-year-old Rida Rahan and her older brother Asfar are members of the mosque.
Asfar says that while the mosque is usually quiet at the beginning of Ramadan, things gets more crowded toward the end of the holy month with congregants having to pray outside or upstairs in the children’s area.
While the mosque may be full of practicing Muslims, the city of Macon itself is not. Asfar says that while he was in middle school other students bullied him after Islamic extremists committed a terror attack.
“People were calling me names,” Asfar said. “I almost got into a fight at school. It was bad.”
Younger children, like sixth-grader Hina Qureshi, have had a different experience being Muslim in school. Qureshi said that outside of discussions about 9/11, Islam doesn’t come up that often.
Asfar and Rida Rehan’s mother, Aqsa Rehan, remembers the days following 9/11. While shopping at the Macon Mall she noticed a man following her. She said he approached her and said, “‘I was following you because I know there is danger for you. I am in the army and […] I was making sure you were protected.”
Recent Macon transplant and mother of two, Bushra Hamadi said that she was impressed to find the people of Macon so friendly and hospitable. She has just joined a woman’s group called “Macon Moms” where she said neither her ethnicity nor her religion has ever been a problem.
The only thing that concerns Hamadi about the city is the lack of jobs. In that, she is no minority.