Here’s why Cranford, N.J., is becoming a state of prayer

CRANFORD, N.J. – Levent Kreda was the second man to pray this Friday in New Jersey’s Cranford Municipal Building, a modest office building surrounded by shops and apartments.

At this minster’s mosque Friday evening, more than 100 people were heading home after closing prayers, and they didn’t mind trekking across town, either. Some drove as far as D.C. to park in Cranford to practice a prayer as rare and as meaningful as prayer itself: a prayer to protect themselves from lethal viruses, diseases and pox-like diseases – Ebola, for example, which is spreading in the Democratic Republic of Congo and about to be declared a public health emergency.

Before the end of August, so many prayer chants had been delivered at these mosques that the developer of the building managed to lock all three entrances, so that the crowds weren’t spread throughout Cranford, said Gary Breslin, the mayor, who attended Kreda’s prayer.

“We’re not here to discriminate against anybody,” Breslin said. “We’re not here to tell you who to pray to. You’re free to go to any mosque in Cranford, anywhere in New Jersey, and that’s where you can pray, if you want to pray that way. I hope they all pray here and practice their religion.”

But they did.

Outside on Saturday morning, the dozen or so men and women filling the space were not surprised that The Post was there to record their prayer.

They were wearing not their Muslim garb but striped pants, white shirt, headscarf, a baseball cap with the words “Go the Fury!” on it and prayer beads.

Soka’s Eagles basketball team is a boys’ basketball team. But, every Friday, they add a few new players: young men who join the team as a way to improve their proficiency in Arabic, the language their coach and one of the players shares.

“We do this so we can learn the language and we can speak with Americans,” said Ronen Saadeldin, 12, who picked up the team last year. “We will learn new words and we will learn how to communicate. We want to be part of American society.”

He called his coach “Mrs. Bahari.”

“She is really encouraging. If I ever feel overwhelmed or tired or if I feel like I don’t know how to do something, she always comes to talk to me,” he said.

During Kreda’s prayer, the men and women stood together in a row, reciting the Quran in a moderate voice. All prayed in Arabic, then chanted it, as well, in English. Then they broke into cheers – the loudest one of the night. At 6:35, a moment of silence was asked of the Muslim community.

“… Vodkas and soda. And the spark that never sleeps.”

Afterward, the men and women jammed into their cars, taxis and, according to some, just the back of their vehicles, to head home, away from Cranford and their “championship team.”

They would be resting for a few days, though. They would have to practice a week from Sunday, Aug. 30, meaning that they would have to be back at it Saturday night.

Yet another prayer would be to be their most important prayer – theirs.

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