Based out of the Dar Al-Dawah Mosque on 23rd Street in Astoria, the fledgling Boy Scout group is the only all-Muslim troop in Western Queens.
It’s the brainchild of Badr Zahzouhi, an Air Canada employee and Moroccan immigrant who caught the Boy Scout bug before moving to Queens in the mid-1980’s.
“As a kid I had so much fun being a boy scout in Morocco,” said Zahzouhi.
He came up with the idea to start a troop for Astoria’s Muslim community last summer. Since it launched in January the troop, which is open to everyone, has attracted nearly 30 children from the families of immigrants from Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and elsewhere.
Zahzouhi said the scouts, aged five to 17 years old, share a love for community service and the outdoors – the hallmarks of the American Boy Scout tradition – as well as an interest in their cultural and religious heritage, elements of which are built into the pack’s curriculum.
“They want to be part of the American dream,” Zahzouhi said. “We want these kids to think they’re as special as any other kids in America.”
The pack meets at the mosque on Saturdays, where members learn Arabic, survival and woodworking skills, and plan for volunteer opportunities, field trips and an upcoming summer camp.
“I enjoy crafts and just making things,” said Daniel Zahzouhi, 11, a member of the troop his father helped found. He plans to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, who recently graduated to Eagle Scout and was accepted into the Naval Academy.
Being a boy scout is also “helping me for high school and college,” he said.
Ahmed Taha, the mosque’s director, said the Boy Scout ethos has provided members with invaluable lessons. “They like it because they are learning something new,” Taha said.
Zahzouhi said the next step is finding enough volunteers to keep pace with the pack’s’ rapid growth. “There’s not a week where we don’t get a new application,” he said. Pack 777’s members “can’t wait for the next meeting,” he added. “They’re looking forward to the summer.”