WASHINGTON – The oldest surviving mosque in America celebrated its 110th anniversary this week, reflecting a deep-rooted Muslim community that blossomed centuries ago in the American continent.
Here are four historic American mosques that reveal the story of American Muslims:
* THE BROOKLYN MOSLEM MOSQUE, NEW YORK CITY
America’s oldest surviving mosque sits on a quiet road in Washington Heights, Brooklyn, New York City. The two-storey late-19th-century building is covered in vertical, white wooden slats.
The mosque society was founded in 1907 by white Muslims from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. The community of ethnic Tatars came together to purchase the former church in 1927 before making it look like the mosques they had left behind in the Baltic: small wooden buildings with ornate little turrets on the top.
“This mosque was such an important place for the migrating Tatars when they came to New York. It was like a touchstone and a place they knew they could come to, where familiar faces would help them get on their feet,” Alyssa Ratkewitch, the mosque’s Vice President, told My Salaam on Tuesday, October 24.
* NORTH DAKOTA MOSQUE, ROSS, NORTH DAKOTA
The North Dakota mosque is located in a remote spot in the northwestern corner of the state close to the Canadian border. The nearest town has a population of around 50 people.
The mosque was rebuilt in 2005 as a monument to the original Lebanese and Syrian community that erected a mosque here in 1929. The modern structure is a simple, square brick building with four thin faux minarets and a small central copper dome. It looks nothing like the original mosque, which was torn down in 1979.
* MOTHER MOSQUE, CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA
Known as America’s Mother Mosque, this is another monument to early American Muslims who migrated from Greater Syria. Built in 1934, the mosque has been known as the Rose of Fraternity Lodge and the Moslem Temple.
Today, the local community worships at the nearby Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, built in 1971 to serve the growing community. The Mother Mosque is primarily used for heritage education, hosting visits from schools and dignitaries across the US.
* MASJID MUHAMMAD, WASHINGTON DC
The first mosque to be built in the capital by descendants of enslaved African Americans and African Muslims, the Masjid Muhammad’s origins date back to the 1930s. The current building, which started life as a Nation of Islam (NOI) temple, opened in 1960 through the support of key fundraiser and global Muslim icon Malcolm X.
In 1975, Masjid Muhammad embraced mainstream Sunni Islam under the guidance of the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, one of the sons of early NOI leader Elijah Muhammad, who opened the mosque as “Temple 4”.
Imam Mohammed appointed a Sunni imam and changed the temple’s name to the “Washington Masjid”. He removed the pews from the main hall so conventional salah could take place and also changed the direction of prayer to the correct qibla orientation.
Source: The BBC