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A History of Boy Scouts of America Unit 357,
Harlem, New York City


B.S.A. Unit 357 was the fourth Islamic Boy Scout unit formed in the Northeastern United States, and it is believed, the 5th or 6th in the nation. Although there are indications of historical Muslim Scouting involvement in America, the earliest organized Muslim Scouting activity appears to have begun in the mid to late 1970s. There were signs that there was at some time Muslims involved in scouting, but our research could not find any existing or records Muslim scouting units here in the United States.

The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc., (founded by Shaykh-‘Allama Al-Hajj Ahmad Tawfiq) is one of the oldest extant Sunni Muslim communities in the country, decided to form a scout unit in 1978. Wali Abdun-Noor was the founder of our Scout Unit 357 at M.I.B and was involved in two other Muslim Scout units within New York Metropolitan area before he joined MIB. He volunteered his time, energy, experience and expertise, and duplicated his efforts. He thus became the first Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Unit 357 at MIB. Shaykh Tawfiq was the founder of the Liwa-Ul-Iman scout patch that was accepted by the Boy Scouts of America.

Scout Unit 357 became one of the few inner-city based organizations that developed youth from the Cub Scout level to Explorer Scouts. It produced an Eagle Scout (first in formal ceremony in 20 years, in Harlem, New York) and 5 Star Scouts from its South Central Harlem headquarters.

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In the picture above, the Boy Scout on the left has the Islamic patch “Liwa-ul-Iman on his right shoulder. The three cub scouts are wearing it on their shirt above their right shirt pocket. We are the first Islamic Boy Scout Unit that had created an Islamic patch within the B.S.A.

The distinctive unit patch of Pack and Troop 357 is known as the Liwa-ul-Iman (Banner of Faith). Utilizing traditional Islamic symbolism, it serves the purpose of reminding Muslim Scouts of the lofty principles of their faith. It is worn on the official uniform of the Boy Scouts of America, beneath the American flag, in order to remind those same scouts of their duty to serve the nation with distinctive dignity. The Muslim Scouts of Unit 357 are educated in these principles.

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Youth from Unit 357 have grown up to become productive adult members of society. Several have served honorably in various branches of the military. Some are currently employed in the Boy Scouts of America in other states, as well as the New York City fire, police and emergency medical technician departments. These men were molded from 1978 through the mid 1990s. During that period, unit 357 conducted productive, year-round training and weekend camping. They regularly attended the famous Ten Mile River Boy Scout Summer Camp. Ten of them became counselors and spent entire summers there.

 



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Pictured right (far left) is the founding Scoutmaster of Troop 357, Wali Abdun-Noor of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc., as he addresses unit Scouts at an awards ceremony at the Mosque. On the far right side is Hannibal Sullivan, who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, and now works as an Executive for the Boys Scouts of America in L. A. California . The boy in the picture third from the left is Hisham Tawfiq, who completed the requirements for Eagle Scout but didn’t complete his paper work prior to his eighteenth birthday. He went on to serve with distinction in the U.S. Marine Corps (top ten achiever in the U.S. Marine Survival Course), and is now a fireman in the NYC fire department. The boy second from the right Faheem Abdur-Razzaq is a computer literacy trainer of youths in a Harlem-based program, “Play-to-Win”. The 3rd boy from the left is fledgling film producer Jamil Touré.

Unit 357 has produced many other success stories. When our boys reached Explorer age, our unit developed a Sea Explorer Scout Group (Ship 357), and moved the youth unto specialized training.

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In 1987, Sea Explorer Ship 357 came into existence. Because of the discipline and precision exhibited by members of the unit, Rear Admiral F.H. Miller USN (Ret), then President of Maritime College, invited Sea Explorer Ship 357 to use the SUNY Maritime Campus at Fort Schyler for meeting and training. Regular Sunday training produced Explorer Scouts proficient in swimming, rowing, seamanship Skills, communication, and overall leadership skills. This all took place under the watchful and caring eyes of Captain James CO. DeSimone, Commandant of Cadet and Captain of the Empire State Training Ship.

During that period Sea Explorer Unit 357's leaders were part of the Explorer President's Association. That particular organization planned and implemented various activities for explorers throughout the region such as:
The Moses M. Falk Rendezvous 22-24, 1987
The Catholic Youth Organization Scout Awards, 1988
Explorer presentation, the Scout Show aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, 1989

Because of the high quality of Ship 357’s training and performance, Paul Pennoyer - the founder of Project Sail East Harlem Maritime School (a Board of Education Specialized School), requested that some of the youth of Sea Explorer Ship 357 become instructors in his program. Project Sail was based on the premise that "In young people there is an instinct for adventure, and satisfying this instinct involves facing challenges and overcoming them. Those challenges come in various forms. They can be found in violence, vandalism and anti-social behavior. But they can also be found in confrontation with the forces of nature, particularly the sea, where they will have to learn how to live and cooperate with their fellow human beings, and how to overcome short term self interest - especially when it clashes with the long term common good”. The East Harlem Maritime School was based at 2351 First Ave, NYC 10035 in Harlem.

Members of Sea Explorer Ship 357 also escorted the youth of Project sail on a historic Sea voyage aboard the Ernestina/Morrissey, a restored two master ocean going sailing vessel. This vessel is over 100 years old, and operates completely by sail power. Training on it epitomizes the saying "learning the ropes". The Ernestina has well over 500 different ropes and lines in order to operate. It is a National Landmark.

Members and instructors of Sea Explorer Ship 357, rowing in the waters off the coast off New York City. The Late Luqman Abdul-Malik was a former paratrooper is one of the key trainers and instructor of Ship 357 is seen at the bow, right hand side.

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Ship leader Hisham Tawfiq (4th from the left) as a youth, with Luqman Abdul-Malik (2nd from right) who was the assistant skipper for ship 357



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Here is a class room setting where Skipper Wali and Assistant Skipper Luqman is giving orientation to parents and new explorer members of Ship 357. Another note about the late Luqman Abdul-Malik is that he was part of a community radio show (WHCR) at City College in the mid eighties. There he had some of the explorers do a show on Saturday that dealt with the issues of the youths within the community. The name of the program was called the Communicators that came on twice a week back then. The show consists of three brothers and Luqman being one of the three. It came on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. The only survivor of the Communicators is Brother Leroy who still hosts the Sunday show.



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Here is a group of youths doing an orientation that is lead by the senior explorers while the skipper sits in to observe the group.

These accomplishments were achieved during a time when the great city of New York was suffering from urban blight, and nowhere was this more evident than in the crack-cocaine ravished streets of Harlem. Yet a group of dedicated adults and young people forged a legacy of cooperation that contributed to the city’s future. Now, Unit 357 has been started once again for the first time in several years, in order to meet the needs of a new generation of youth, in the post-September 11th world. Its dedicated staff now seeks the support of community resources and institutions in a re-vitalized City of New York, in order to accomplish this goal.

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WHERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN ABOVE, TODAY?

This group produced young men who achieved the ranks of Life and Eagle Scouts of the Boy Scouts of America. Some have gone on to be veterans of the American Armed forces, and then policemen, firemen, teachers, administrators, and Emergency Medical Technicians. Amongst them are a Gulf War veteran and 9/11 responders to Ground Zero in New York City. None of them is in prison. None of them are terrorists – domestic or state-sponsored. They have served and continue to serve Allah and man in the best Islamic tradition, in defense of God, religion, self, family, community and nation. They are proud Muslim Americans of African and Latino descent, who adhere to their faith. They are married family men with children We are proud of them, even as we are still producing more as you are reading this. They were raised in Harlem, New York City.

 

The Scout Unit presently conducts its meeting at the Mosque every Sunday.