Portraits of Belief: A Utica Mosque Discusses the Religious Education of Youth


At the corner of Court Street in Utica, New York, stands the Bosnian Mosque, where the notion of a secularizing nation is hardly conceivable upon stepping into the recently converted church building. Forty-five minutes away from Colgate’s campus, the city of Utica, which can best be de­scribed as a microcosm of the vast religious diversity that exists in today’s world, paints a detailed image of how religion has come to operate in the wake of September 11. The message that emanates from the open doors of the religious edifices that can be found on virtually every street corner is thus of profound importance.

In a recent visit to the Bosnian Mosque, which opened its doors in 2010, Mustafa Andelija, a mild-mannered and gracious man with a thick Bosnian ac­cent, offered a very candid interview on the role of youth in the Muslim com­munity. Mustafa, who serves as the Sec­retary of the Bosnian Islamic Association of Utica, discussed plans to build a youth center on the second floor of the mosque, a move that he believes will encourage younger generations to bridge the gaps of religious difference while retaining pride for his or her own religious background.

In discussing the meaningful role that religion plays during childhood, Mustafa wants the children to understand that, no matter what religion, “One child will go to his prayer room and the other will go to hers. We pray [separately], but then we come back together again.”

Contact Simone Schenkel at [email protected]