Muslim bikers take to the streets
DEARBORN — From tattoos to a menacing nickname, MOB has everything you'd expect from a rough and tough biker gang.
But look a little closer and you'll see that the group has little in common with the stereotypical above-the-law biker gangs you see on TV or in movies. The name MOB stands for "Muslims on Bikes," and the group strives to represent the ideals of its religion with its Thursday night rides that meet at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.
"The name makes it sound like we're tough guys," said group founder Hussein Abdallah. "We're not weak but at the same time, we're gentlemen."
What began with six members when it was founded in June of this year has now grown to 44 as MOB rides from Dearborn to other cities around Michigan an average of twice per week.
The group was founded as a way to unite bikers in the Arab community and to give them guidance on how to ride safely. Abdallah saw injuries and even a death in the community and thought it was time to educate local riders.
He met with some friends and organized rides, but the group faced strong resistance from the mosque because they feared that they would be a negative representation of Islam.
But after some convincing and plenty of peaceful rides, MOB is now viewed as a positive representation of the religion and is allowed to use the mosque as its meeting place. They're so popular in Dearborn neighborhoods that young kids follow them up and down the streets while waving and smiling.
"It's almost like we're the ice cream man or something," said Abdallah.
MOB cruises from city to city, usually stopping into a restaurant at the end of each ride. They make sure to make reservations before each stop so they don’t roll in and inconvenience the restaurant staff, and because they usually bring 25-30 people, they contribute a great deal to the local economy.
Citizens of other cities often welcome MOB and are intrigued by the concept of the group.
"A lot of people outside of the area are surprised to see us," said Abdallah. "They've never heard of Arabic people on motorcycles before."
Most of them are courteous and friendly to the group and some of them even want to pose for pictures with them.
The goodwill from other towns helps keep MOB going as they continue to spread their message of peace and brotherhood. The group is in talks discussing how best to serve the local community through volunteer work in the near future.
It's this mentality that keeps the group in perfect harmony with each other and the community. Many of the members went to Fordson High School and hadn't seen each other in years. Now many of them and their families are friends with each other.
While anyone is allowed to join MOB, the group makes sure its strong Islamic ethics are not compromised.
"A representative from out of house might start drinking or want to go to a bar or something like that" said Abdallah about some members perhaps straying from the group's ideals.
MOB often pulls over to the side of the road to pray and Abdallah knows sometimes that certain prospective members might not expect that from a group of bikers.
"We let them know up front what (the group) is all about so they know what they're getting into."
While safety is the main focus of the group, a recent incident reminded MOB just how important riding safe can be while also strengthening the group's bond.
A woman rear-ended members of the group on Warren Avenue in Detroit. Following the accident, the group got together and prayed.
"That minute I said that I knew we were all into it," said Abdallah. "Here a lady hits us at 45 miles per hour and we can still come together and talk about it."
MOB has taken their religious message to heart and now wears t-shirts with religious words on them in Arabic so that passers-by can read them and identify their positive message.
The group continues to grow, and MOB has even received calls from prospective members from California who want to move out to Michigan to be a part of the group.
All different types of bikes are welcome in MOB, and Hussein encourages people to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org if they're interested in joining. Those who do will become part of a group unlike any Dearborn has seen and a group that others of their kind can learn a thing or two from.