Yaseen Najeeb for the Wisconsin Muslim Journal
A sleek, black V10 convertible Audi R8 is parked in front of Masjid Al-Noor mosque in Brookfield, license number QN. The Audi belongs to Shaykh Noman Hussain, commonly known as “Qari” Noman. Qari is a title given to a person who has memorized and recites the Holy Quran in a beautiful voice. Over the course of the morning, the Imam’s four-month old ride will be joined by a red Ferrari 488 Spider, a Porsche Carrera, and even a McLaren 720S.
Adam Alasmar, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and baseball cap, shakes hands with the Imam, who greets him warmly. Adam, besides being a car guy, is a Southsider who attends the 13th Street mosque. He says, “I feel like being a car guy is separate from everything else,” meaning religion, “but when the two intersect, might as well.”
The Sunday morning gathering for Coffee and Cars at ISM (Islamic Society of Milwaukee) West was attended by car guys and people who just like to hang out with car guys. “It was an idea that I’ve had for some time now,” says Shaykh Noman. “I’m a car enthusiast. There’s a sense of brotherhood when it comes to the car community.” The event, says the Imam was a way to “bring . . . Muslims together, [and] we saw a lot of new faces.”
But events like yesterday, and car shows in general, are also an opportunity to reach out beyond the ISM community. “When I go to a car show, nobody really looks at how I look. Yeah you have a beard,” but it’s about the cars. Car people, as Saturday’s event demonstrates, like talking with other car people. “If someone who looks like me attends these car shows, it also shows that Muslims and Imams and leaders all have similar passions and hobbies, [that] there’s a lot of commonalities that we have that can bring us closer together as a community.”
Terry Blazei of Brookfield strolls up with a basket of cookies and other treats. Terry is a friend of Bushra Zaibak, who organized the food and the raffle of car-themed accessories. Bushra’s daughter Jenna and Jenna’s friend Rayyana acted as helpers. Terry Blazei calls the Imam “Norman.”
The Blazeis are a family of car people, and each drove up in a separate vehicle: Greg Blazei drove a red, 700-horsepowerMustang. Greg and Terry’s son Ben drove his gray Subaru WRX with the Stage 2 power package (a turbo-charged Impreza). And Terry drove the family’s cerulean-blue Ford F-150 Raptor truck.
Car people speak a private language. Adam talks with Ben and Greg Blazei, telling them, “My other car is an X5 diesel. I just picked it up last month. Somebody took it to the drag strip at 1200 torque. That’s what broke the axels.”
Greg, commenting on a similar vehicle, says, “the entire car was totally murdered out,” which means, he later explains, “everything in the car is black” including the windows and the wheels.
“I’ve got a lift at my dad’s shop,” Adam says. Greg seems envious.
Adam’s car is the “really loud white BMW that just pulled up.” A 1990s vintage convertible, it sports a die-cut Palestinian flag decal on the front bumper.
A red Ferrari 488 Spider owned by Waqar Hussain creates some excitement. Waqar bought the car in San Jose, California in the Silicon Valley. He was looking for that particular model, and “found it only . . . from there,” he says.
Another highlight was Bobby Wu’s McLaren 720S. McLaren Automotive is a British company known for Formula 1 race cars. Since 2011, it rolls out 10,000 high-end sports cars every year for commercial sale.
The McLaren has butterfly doors that open upward. Dr. Wu demonstrates how the door closes – you shut it with a click, and then the car sucks the door in until it seals.
Dr. Wu, a surgeon at Elmbrook Ascension, is a friend of Dr. Mushir Hassan, who directs the parking this morning and jokes, “I do security for the mosque.”
While there are Ferraris and Porsches and at least one Mustang among the approximately thirty performance cars at the mosque this morning, Audis, like the Audi convertible TT 3.2 Quatro and the Audi RS Twin Turbo V6, seem to predominate.
Shaykh Noman previously owned a Nissan GTR, a BMW M3, and a BMW M4. “I have this bad habit of getting rid of a car after two years,” he laughs. Noman, who is a father of five, says his other car is a minivan.
He admits that people find an Imam who drives sports cars somewhat unusual. While he still had the GTR, the Imam spoke after a Friday prayer service at a large mosque in Chicago. When he came back out to the parking lot, somebody had put a “Do Not Park Here” sign on the Nissan. “They thought it was probably just some random dude’s car in the Imam’s spot.”
The Imam explains that “part of what I do is show people that an Imam is human, they have hobbies and passions . . .” just like anybody else.
At 11:30, about fifteen gorgeous cars drove out of the mosque parking lot for a cruise. Baker Al-Qudsi, who drives a black Porsche Carrera 4S, planned the route along scenic roads through the Kettle Moraine. “It is a spectacle,” he says.
“We had maybe 15 cars that cruised together” Shaykh Noman later said, “Then we drove back to my house, and I had some burgers on the grill and we had lunch together.” It was, said the Imam, “a good opportunity to build relationships.”