The lights in a Jersey City mosque flickered at dawn and more than a dozen West Point cadets stirred in sleeping bags scattered across the prayer room. As Imam Hussein Wahdan began the melodious call to prayer in Arabic, bearded men filed past the cadets, kneeled and then bowed to the floor to begin their morning worship.

The cadets -who normally wake up to the sounds of freshmen barking out the time remaining until the troop formation – had traveled 60 miles from their leafy campus. They might as well have been a world away.

“The timing of the wake-up was about right,” said Cadet Brian Hughes, a senior who will be commanding a tank platoon, perhaps in Iraq or Afghanistan, within a few months. “Everything that happened after that was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.”

That was the point. Hughes and his classmates came here for three days to be immersed in the religious and cultural life of one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America, the highlight of a semester-long course called Winning the Peace.

The cadets met imams and observed prayers at mosques, a Hindu temple and an African-American church. They met leaders and young people from the city’s Indian, Pakistani and Egyptian Coptic Christian communities. They heard from Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who talked about the challenges of governing a city where 50 languages are spoken.


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