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AMERICAN MOSAIC - December 6, 2002: Muslims in America / A Question from Nigeria: What Does the 'D.C.' Stand for in Washington, D.C.? / Afro-Rumba-Flamenco-Worldbeat-Jazz-Pop Music by Jesse Cook - 2002-12-05


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today:

We play some music by Jesse Cook ...

Answer a listener’s question about Washington, D.C. ...

And report about Muslims in America.



Muslims around the world are completing their observance of Ramadan this week. Studies say that about six-million Muslims live in the United States. Shep O’Neal tells us how some of them observed the Muslim holy month.


Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States. Yet American Muslims know they are a religious minority. This is especially true during Ramadan. In some countries where Muslims are the majority, businesses reduce their hours of operation during Ramadan. That does not happen in the United States.

For many American Muslims, Ramadan has been taking place during a difficult period. The United States has threatened to use military force to disarm Iraq. One year ago, Ramadan took place after the terrorist attacks against the United States.

Imam Elahi is a clergyman with the House of Wisdom, an Islamic center in Dearborn, Michigan. He says it has been a difficult year for Muslims since the terrorist attacks.

He criticizes accusations made against Islam. He says most were made for political purposes or by people who do not understand the religion.

Imam Elahi says he believes that Muslims need to find ways to communicate better with non-Muslims. He says the communications will fail if one side or both overestimate their own importance. Some Muslims say they are reaching out to other Americans and educating them about Islam. Others say they feel like they have to defend their religion and prove they are real Americans.

This year, the American holiday of Thanksgiving was celebrated during Ramadan. Thanksgiving is a time when Americans gather with family and friends and have a special meal. During Ramadan, however, healthy Muslim adults are not permitted to eat or drink during the day.

American Muslims say there is no reason why Thanksgiving should have been any different this year. They say Islam did not prevent anyone from cooking during the day. They note that having a meal at sundown always is an important part of Ramadan. A Muslim writer once said it is not always easy to live a truly Muslim life in America. However, she said it is worth the effort.

Washington, D.C.


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Nigeria. Augustine Alumonah asks about the meaning of the letters D and C in the name of the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C.

To answer the question, we must go back about two-hundred years, to the beginning of the United States. The states approved a Constitution for the country in seventeen-eighty-eight. But they could not decide where to build the permanent capital. Northern states did not want the capital in the south because of slavery. The Southern states did not want it in the north. Several places were proposed, but Congress could not agree on one.

Then Thomas Jefferson of Virginia invited Alexander Hamilton of New York to dinner to discuss the dispute. Two congressmen from Virginia were also there. The four men talked politics.

Southern votes had defeated a bill in Congress that Mister Hamilton wanted very much to be approved. It would have required the federal government to pay the money owed by the states for fighting the war to gain independence from Britain.

The two Virginia congressmen agreed to change their votes against the bill. And Mister Hamilton agreed to find northern votes to support a proposal to build the capital along the Potomac River between the states of Virginia and Maryland. That is how Congress agreed to build the capital in a federal area on land provided by the two states.

A year later, officials announced that the city would be called Washington, in honor of the country’s first president, George Washington. The larger federal area would be named the District of Columbia. Columbia had become another name for the United States, one that was used by poets and other writers. The name came from Christopher Columbus, the explorer who sailed from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean to the Western Hemisphere.

Today, Washington, D.C. is known to those who live in the area as the District. But if you want to write to us, our address is Washington, D.C.

Jesse Cook


Jesse Cook is a songwriter who produces his own records. But first and always he is a guitar player. His music is an unusual mix of Afro-rumba-flamenco-worldbeat-jazz-pop. Mary Tillotson tells us more.


Jesse Cook was born in Paris, France to Canadian parents. He spent his early years in southern France and Spain. He began learning to play guitar when he was only three.

He expanded his musical education in Canada and the United States before returning to Europe. He studied with great Spanish guitar masters in Andalusia, Cordoba, Granada and Madrid.

There is little he can not do with a guitar. Listen to his recording of “Breathing Below Surface” from his album, “Vertigo.”


Critics call Jesse Cook’s music “World Music.” That is because he uses the sounds of many different places and music from many different lands.

Listen to this mix of sounds in a recording called “Rattle and Burn.”


Jesse Cook recorded this next song at the Canadian Governor General’s Awards Ceremony in Ottawa. We leave you now with Jesse Cook playing a very fast Samba. The song is called “Mario Takes a Walk!”



This is Doug Johonson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC -- VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by George Grow, Nancy Steinbach and Paul Thompson. Our studio engineer was Glen Matlock. And our producer was Paul Thompson.